Why you might have to wait to take advantage of home energy grants

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Lineups are already starting with energy consultants as homeowners jump on a new federal program that will pay them up to $5,600 to make their homes more energy efficient

Bahar Reza, the only such advisor listed on the Canadian Home Builders Association of B.C. website for Kelowna, is already feeling the pressure.

“There’s a lot of interest,” Reza said about the program that was just announced last week. “I’ve got so many calls and emails every day. The problem is, most of the people don’t know what it takes.”

What it can take is a substantial financial investment in order to get some money back.

First up, the Canada Greener Homes Grant requires that a “pre-retrofit EnerGuide evaluation” be done by a qualified advisor who is registered with Natural Resources Canada. The program will pay up to $600 of that cost if at least one retrofit is done.

But, such an evaluation can cost $1,200 for a first rating of the home and another $1,200 after the retrofit is done to determine that the changes actually make the home more energy efficient.

“It’s not just a simple inspection,” Reza said. “It’s testing, auditing and energy analysis, before and after.”

Homes have to be checked to see how much air leaks out of windows and doors, what kind of insulation may be in place along with heating and ventilation systems.

The report has to be submitted to government before the work is approved then a final report submitted before payment is made.

And it’s not a straightforward grant to a maximum of $5,000.

It only pays, for example, $250 for each window replacement so it would take 20 new windows to get the maximum grant.

It only pays up to $1,000 for air-sealing and up to $50 for a smart thermostat.

It will pay $5,000 for insulation upgrades but only if 20 per cent of the existing insulation is replaced.

It will pay a full $5,000 for conversion to solar panels.

The good news is that the program is in addition to a number of other federal and provincial energy saving incentives along with programs offered through FortisBC and B.C. Hydro.

In some cases, like a townhouse project Reva is working on, a project can get about 70 per cent of its retrofit costs covered by various programs.

There are also interest free loans available for major retrofits that cost more than $40,000.

People like Reza can help guide people through the maze of regulations and financial options.

The best way to save energy costs is often to simply replace windows, she said.

But, she and her kind are in short supply in the Interior.

She’s a third party consultant working in-house for ROV Consulting in Kelowna.

While she’s the only such specialist listed on the home builder’s website, she and two others are listed on the CleanBC Better Homes website.

There are only two listed in Kamloops.

The federal program does have a training component included so more energy advisors can qualify but, Reza said, the homebuilders association has no training program available.

Even if it did, she estimated it can take two years for training.

That means there could be a long wait to get the energy evaluation done.

The good news is the grant program is designed to continue for seven years and be available to 700,000 Canadians.

Get more details on the Canada Greener Homes Grant program here.

Find energy advisors on the Canadian Home Builders’ Association of B.C. web site here or CleanBC Better Homes, here.

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