It has always made sense to run your home as efficiently as possible, energy wise. But the stakes are higher these days. Gas and electricity prices are on the rise. Will they go higher? Oh, you bet!
Buying energy efficient appliances, sealing up your windows and doors, getting better windows and doors, insulating your roof and basement, upgrading your furnace, turning down your water heater, getting a tankless water heater: all these household changes mean dollar savings every month when you get your energy bills.
These savings add up fast. Replace five of your most commonly used light fixtures or bulbs with Energy Star rated versions and save $70 a year. A new Energy Star window will save you $20 to $95 dollars a year in wasted heat and cooling. Install a programmable thermostat (and program it to work around when you work and sleep) and save as much as $180 a year. Switching to Energy Star appliances will save you between $300 and $600 a year (the fridge is the big one: you save $100 or more a year by replacing an old one and even more if you chuck the basement beer fridge).
For more specifics on what you would save, check out Natural Resources Canada’s Energy Star calculator.
But turning your home into an energy smart zone has benefits beyond saving on gas and electricity. Here are a few benefits you might not have considered:
Energy efficient mortgages (EEMs) give you financial incentives to either buy an energy efficient home, or upgrade your existing or newly bought home to make it greener.
The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has a great plan for first time homebuyers. CMHC is most famous for offering mortgage insurance for people with too-small down payments for their first home. Under the organization’s green mortgage program, you can get a 10 per cent refund on your mortgage insurance if you buy a green home or make energy efficient renovations. You can also extend your amortization up to 30 years under the program (why you’d want to do that we don’t know, longer amortizations cost you money in the long run!).
Meanwhile, private lenders have programs too. RBC’s Energy Saver Mortgage for instance, offers $300 back when you get a home energy audit. (An audit involves a trained expert going through your home to identify where your home is inefficient and suggest where you can make changes to save money and energy loss.) TD Canada Trust runs a Green Mortgage that offers you 1 per cent off the posted rate of a five year fixed mortgage, gives you up to 1 per cent cash back on your mortgage and donates $100 to the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation when you buy Energy Star products for your home or install solar panels.
Kitting up your house with green changes big and small will one day impact your home’s attractiveness on the market. (Case in point: a recent build in my neighbourhood went for a startling price because the house was going to cost just $500 a year to heat.) Buyers are keen to walk into a house that’s been fully insulated has the most energy efficient appliances installed and has an appealing energy bill to back it up. There’s a growing trend among real estate agents themselves to think green and these types of professionals will be drawn to buying or selling your home.
If you do it right, you can get hundreds or even thousands of dollars back from your eco-friendly home changes. The biggest deal in rebates right now is the newly relaunched federal EcoEnergy Retrofit Program. It requires a home audit but gives you as much as $5,000 back for making home improvements such as insulation and new windows or furnace. It runs just until next March, and you need to make the upgrades before that time to get the money back.
As well, most provinces have a wide range of rebate programs for doing things like taking away old fridges, giving you money back for new Energy Star appliances, offering rebates on windows and giving you money for switching to a tankless water heater. Natural Resources Canada has a pretty up-to-date list on the current programs available, but look to your province’s office of energy efficiency and hydro corporation for more information to be sure you catch all the deals.
When you spruce up your home to not just look good but run more efficiently, you can save a lot of money. Some of it right away, more over time. And it’s also just simply the right thing to do if you can afford it.
Writer for RateSupermarket.ca