Retrofitting older homes for energy efficiency is about to heat up

Article content

Eric Hyndman has been busy bringing the 1960s-era two-storey home he purchased in 2011 into the 21st century.


Article content

He added insulation and new siding, upgraded the windows and blew a hurricane of cellulose insulation into the attic. A high efficiency furnace hums along in the basement and once the water heater tanks out, he’ll consider an on-demand system. Solar panels were added in 2017 thanks to a short-lived provincial government incentive program, and he monitors his 18-panel system with an app.

“There, it just told me that I’ve planted the equivalent of 99 trees and saved 3,330 kilograms of CO2 emissions,” he says with satisfaction, looking at his smart phone.

Betty Borque also lives in an inner-city ring community. She’s replaced windows, zapped R50 insulation into the attic and added solar to the south-facing roof of her 1958 bungalow.


Article content

“The carbon tax and other costs that may be coming makes the economics of installing those upgrades more compelling,” Borque says.

As part of the Paris Climate Accord, Canada has made a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050, with a 40 per cent reduction by 2030. Housing is only responsible for 20 per cent of Canada’s total carbon emissions, but with that interim target just nine years away, homeowners should make some plans.

Energy efficiency in new home construction is building momentum, but retrofitting older homes is of utmost importance, says Steve Mennill, chief climate officer for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. in Ottawa.

“We only add about 1.5 per cent to our housing stock every year, so to reach a carbon neutrality goal only through new housing is not sufficient. We have to upgrade our existing housing,” he says.


Article content

Mennill says a professional energy audit will chart the most impactful actions. Those include insulating the attic, exterior walls and basement, identifying and sealing air leaks, replacing the furnace and adding solar.

Tyler Hermanson, director of sustainable building consulting firm 4 Elements Integrated Design in Calgary, says deep energy retrofits in older homes can be done from the outside to minimize the impact. He urges owners of older homes to “renovate smart.”

“If homeowners are replacing siding and are going to add only an inch of insulation, you can’t go back and add more. The cost to go from one inch to three inches isn’t that much. Don’t miss these opportunities,” says Hermanson.

Much work is being done behind the scenes to push builders and renovators to work toward net zero standards. But who’s pushing Joe Homeowner?


Article content

Regulation is not enough, says Mennill.

“We have to provide other economic incentives. Part of my mandate at CMHC is going to be looking at new financial incentives, new products, changes to our mortgage insurance products and new housing programs,” he says.

“The most recent throne speech promised incentives for Canadians, but until those are realized, most help is going to come from the provincial level.”

Hermanson says the Alberta government recently changed the rules to allow Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs. There are a handful of pilot projects underway in Edmonton, where homeowners have access to borrowing funds, which are then paid back by adding them to their property tax bill. The funds can be paid back over time, and the transaction is transferrable to a future owner.

He also sits on several environmental committees in the province and believes all homes should be given an EnerGuide label, just like a microwave oven.

“We’re pushing for mandatory labelling on new and existing homes. Let’s make sure consumers know what they’re buying. Our best builders are labelling houses now but that’s a very small fraction. Very few resale houses are assessed.”

Could it be that buyers won’t get approved for financing unless their home meets a certain standard?

“It’s coming,” he predicts.



Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Source link

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *