You may have heard the term “green retrofits” brought up recently in the news or at the dinner table. But what does ‘green retrofit’ mean, and why are they important? Unlike renovations or refurbishments, retrofits are features or systems that are added to a building. When a retrofit is installed to make a building more energy-efficient, it is commonly coined as a ‘green’ retrofit. While retrofits do come with upfront costs, there are plenty of reasons why the benefits are worth the expense (in fact, they end up saving you money in the long run!). Here are the most significant:
In 2018, leading climate scientists declared that irreversible damage will be caused by our current rates of greenhouse house gas (GHG) emissions if action is not taken (1). While carbon and other gases have existed within the earth’s atmosphere long before the existence of modern humans, their current rates of concentration are far greater than those at any other point in history, largely due to human activities. This is both alarming and reassuring: climate change is a problem we created, but it is also a problem we can fix.
Energy production and energy use are by far the largest contributors to our GHG emissions in Canada, at 82% of our total (2). Our geography and climate partially explain why: Canadians use more energy on heating and air conditioning due to our extreme temperatures, as well as on transportation due to our vast lands and dispersed populations (2). However, these are only partial explanations because Canadian energy use does not have to be as high as it currently is. Consider the following statistics provided by Natural Resources Canada:
- 81% of residential energy consumption is used for space and water heating.
- 48% of space-heating energy use is from the burning of natural gas.
- Residential energy use increased 5.8% since 1990, but would have increased by 57% without improvements in energy efficiency (2).
Energy efficiency improvements do make a difference. While we significantly increased our national residential energy use, energy efficiency improvements have helped reduce the harmful effects that this trend would have had on our earth. Rethinking your energy use is one crucial step to lowering your carbon footprint, but avoiding all forms of energy consumption in the household is not exactly feasible. This is where energy-efficient retrofitting can help.
Energy retrofits are not only good for the earth, but for your pockets as well. When your home is more energy-efficient, heating and cooling costs decrease. Large-scale retrofits such as the installation of renewable energy systems or energy-efficient heating equipment can save you around 20% – and up to 60% – on energy costs (3). Energy-efficient building upgrades can also make your home resilient against extreme weather. For example, replacing the windows in your home can ensure better insulation and prevent flooding from rainwater (3). With a simple look around your home, you may discover potential costs in the form of decaying equipment or areas where the risk of property damage is high.
Whether you just landed your first home or have lived in your nest for decades, securing consistent in-home comfort is a common goal amongst all homeowners. A temperature control system that allows you to choose which areas of your home can be cooled or heated can make your overall living experience more comfortable while reducing energy wastage in unoccupied areas (3). Smaller-scale changes such as duct cleaning and filter replacement can work wonders for your home’s air quality through the prevention of mold growth (3).
When installing retrofits, you also increase the value of your home with a “green premium” (4). According to the Journal of European Real Estate Research, a green premium is the additional cost that house buyers are willing to pay upfront in order to reap the long-term benefits of an eco-friendly technology. Building upgrades such as installations of multi-paned windows or solar panels can make your home visually appealing by giving it a modern look. Having your home stand out on your block as “ahead of its time” would add immediate value in the eyes of potential buyers.
In 2019, the Hamilton City Council declared a climate change emergency and the start up of several projects focused on reducing the GHG emissions of the city, including the Hamilton Corporate Climate Change Task Force and the Hamilton Community Energy Plan. The City has already established a target of 50% reduction in emissions by 2030 and an ultimate target of carbon neutrality by 2050 (5). This graph of the city’s recent trends in GHG emissions makes it clear that to meet these targets, the city must make substantial and innovative changes to their industrial, commercial and residential practices.
The Hamilton Corporate Climate Change Task Force action plan made “improvement in the energy efficiency of their buildings” their first goal in addressing GHG emissions (5). This decision shows the crucial role that energy-efficient retrofits play in addressing the causes of climate change. The city task force also notes that if industry isn’t accounted for, “residential and commercial buildings represent 44% of Hamilton’s GHG emissions” (5).
In light of these facts, the launch of the Canada Greener Homes Grant Program is an exciting and long-awaited development for the environmentalist community. The federal government is now supporting reductions in GHG emissions by offering homeowners up to $5,000 to make energy efficient retrofits to their homes, and up to $600 for Energuide evaluations that guide the retrofit implementation process (6). The reduction of energy usage in Canada is a pressing task, and the Canada Greener Homes Grant Program empowers Canadian homeowners to take action in the process.
If green retrofitting is something you are considering but you feel intimidated by the cost or the process, Green Venture can help you through our energy programs. Our Green Venture EnerGuide evaluation team can help you through two possible retrofit rebate programs: The Canada Greener Homes Grant Program and the Enbridge Home Efficiency Rebate Program.
In both, our Natural Resources Canada Registered Energy Advisors offer independent, unbiased expert advice. As a non-profit organization, our focus is on homeowner education and energy efficiency, not on trying to sell you related services. In our energy audits, we evaluate your home in order to calculate its total energy consumption. Our expert auditors then provide advice that can help you reduce your home emissions and increase your savings on energy costs. As an organization, Green Venture has been conducting Home Energy Audits across Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville, Halton Hills, Erin, Brant County, and the Niagara Region for over 20 years.
The environmental and financial outcomes of our work are noteworthy. In the last five years, we have audited 419 homes, and 343 homes have been renovated and received rebates. On average, energy use was reduced by 20%. In homes built before 1950, energy use was reduced by an average of 45%. In 2021 thus far, our energy programs have reduced a total of approximately 24 tonnes of GHG emissions, awarded close to $16,000 in rebates and saved nearly $13,000 in natural gas costs across 61 participating homes.
It is important to note that both are different programs with their own requirements and procedures. We advise you to look at our separate web pages for both programs and to contact us with your interest and questions:
Green Venture can also guide you through the Enbridge Home Winterproofing Program which provides improved insulation and draft-proofing to low income residents at no cost. The Program provides eligible customers with the following home improvements installed by experienced professionals: new insulation, draft proofing and smart thermostats. We also advise you to look at our Winterproofing webpage to see if you can benefit from this program:
Whether “green retrofitting” was a completely new concept to you, or an idea that you have been considering for a while, Green Venture aims to make this important process as simple and cost-efficient as possible for you and other Canadians.
1 – Only 11 Years Left to Prevent Irreversible Damage from Climate Change, Speakers Warn during General Assembly High-Level Meeting
2 – Energy use and greenhouse gas emissions
3 – Energy Efficency 101: Why do an energy retrofit?
4 -The value effects of green retrofits
5 – Hamilton Corporate Climate Change Task Force – https://pub-hamilton.escribemeetings.com/filestream.ashx?DocumentId=212373
6 – Here’s What You Need to Know About Canada’s New Home Retrofit Program
7 – TAF 2019 Energy Emissions Report – https://taf.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/A-Clearer-View-on-Ontarios-Emissions-June-2019.pdf