Home Energy Retrofit Economics

in Home Energy

adding rigid foam to exterior wall It ain’t rocket science. “It’s the economy, stupid".

Energy efficient home retrofits involve a lot of labour – and that means JOBS!

And right now that’s the number one problem facing the US and much of the rest of the world today.

In the US, and here in Canada, there are millions of homes, schools, public buildings and commercial facilities that are uncomfortable to live or work in, and waste a mind boggling amount of energy and water. And who pays?
 
We all do. Repeatedly. In increased electricity, oil and gas bills and water bills.

So what’s a Retrofit?

Retrofitting existing structures means replacing or improving a variety of different systems and components of the building envelope that affect overall energy use, from more efficient windows, insulation and air sealing, to reducing water consumption and water heating costs.

In North America, many of our structures were built decades before energy prices and efficiency were much of a concern. Today, new structures have higher energy efficiency standards than those built even 20 years ago.

So why should your tax dollars go towards my retrofit costs?

r-28 ceiling insulation installed The cheapest energy is the energy that’s never produced. Conservation is step one to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. Less demand reduces prices, and means we can gain more benefits from renewable energy sources and rely less on fossil fuels and nuclear plants.

About 56% of current household energy used is for space heating, air conditioning and water heating. Keeping energy costs down will also be an increasingly important incentive to rebuilding a North American industrial base, particularly as we become ever more dependent on electricity-hungry technology.

These government incentive programs directly invigorate local economies. Carpenters, roofers, plumbers, window installers, and crack fillers live in your community and will get some much-needed work. The local building centres will sell more products and the “real” economy could start to turn the corner.

Benefits to Homeowners

Several years ago we took advantage of a Federal Government retrofit program (Canada) to do some upgrades on our 105-year-old farmhouse. Yes, we had to pay out a lot of money to have work done, but we also did some of the work ourselves and reduced the cost. In the end, we received a rebate which amounted to roughly the equivalent of the tax paid (about 13%) on the overall cost.

I haven’t calculated the payback time, but I do know that we’ve reduced our fuel oil consumption (in litres) by 30% and our home is much more comfortable both in the summer (without air conditioning) and winter.

Would we have done all this work without the government program? I’m not sure we would have done everything we did, and likely would have spread it out over a longer period of time. Would we do it again? Absolutely!

Eco Energy Retrofit Program (Canada)

insulating basement with spray foam The Conservative government recently announced the return of this popular program.

Unfortunately, they’re only offering it for a very limited time (expires March 31, 2012) so anyone considering it had better apply soon. The program offers rebates up to $5000.00 and requires the homeowner to register and have an energy audit done prior to undertaking the work, and a follow up audit after the work is completed.

The grant program covers:

Heating systems, Cooling systems, Ventilation systems, Domestic hot water equipment, Insulation, Air sealing, Windows/doors/skylights, Water conservation

Canadian homeowners who have taken advantage of this program in the past are now saving an average of 20% on their energy bills every year.

Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program (US)

US DOE Screen shotThe US Department of Energy website lists information that suggests they are working towards something comparable to the Canadian program under the Recovery Act, which aims to be ready sometime in fall of 2012.

Some local or State Utilities already offer incentives to homeowners to make energy efficient upgrades to their homes.

Increasingly severe winters and 2011’s unprecedented heat and drought are warning signs that we need to prepare now to cope with a changing climate. Energy efficient housing and workplaces are going to be more important than ever in the coming decades.

It would be travesty if the US retrofit programs fall victim to short-sighted budget cuts. It’s one of the key infrastructure initiatives that the government can effectively use to prime the pump and get people back to work and stabilize the economy.

 

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