Whistler 2020 on the ground 

Cashing in on home energy efficiency

click to enlarge Draft Dodging Try the fan test to see how drafty your living room is
  • Draft Dodging Try the fan test to see how drafty your living room is

While a light dusting of snow on the Wedge peak last week made me think of the changing seasons, it’s actually a fellow with a large vacuum-like device coming to visit who is really making me think about the coming Whistler winter.

High heating and energy bills suck. They suck money out of your pocket, heat out of your home and energy out of both the grid and the ground. As we continue to talk about the new low-carbon economy and act together to become leaner, more efficient citizens, there are proactive actions which can be taken to be part of the solution. The first step starts at home.

Whistler Green, our community’s own green building guidelines, is currently supporting a local Home Energy Grants program. By combining the Home Assessment services of City Green Solutions (or other certified energy assessment providers), the federal ecoENERGY retrofit program, and the province's new LiveSmartBC initiative, Whistler homeowners now have access to more than $5,000 in home energy efficiency grants. By getting involved in the program, Whistler citizens find out the best strategies to make their particular home more efficient and save money doing so.

To help folks get involved in the simple, three step program the provincial government is subsidizing the first step, a baseline home energy assessment. What used to cost $400 has, as a result of provincial support, dropped to $150. This amount will be rebated back to you through the LiveSmartBC program when you complete the follow up assessment. Use the summary report compiled by the assessment provider as a tool to identify the most cost-effective retrofits for your particular home.

With the support of the other four owners in my own five-unit townhouse complex, we booked an assessment for the entire building. City Green will visit Monday, Aug. 25 and carry out a two-hour per unit detailed analysis of our property using all sorts of technical gadgetry.

In one of the tests, a large fan and pressure sensor is attached to a main door of your home, all the windows and fireplaces are closed tight and the hardware basically sucks the air out of your house revealing a myriad of air coming in from outside that will cost you money come winter. They then run the data they collect through a computer and produce a personalized report packed with practical information about things that could be done to the property, some of them at very little cost or inconvenience, to save energy and money.

Because the report is completed independent of any construction firm or contractor, the homeowner is left with practical, expert advice designed to allow minimal investment for maximum energy and cash savings. Many folks consider replacing windows as an expensive retrofit, but without the support of an assessment you could throw thousands of dollars out the new windows when the best return on investment was a couple hundred bucks worth of new weather stripping, basement insulation or some well-placed caulking.

It will take about a week to get the report back to complete step one of the process. Step two begins with understanding the report and acting on the energy saving recommendations contained within it. Homeowners then have 18 months to complete any of the renovations or retrofits that qualify for grants. After upgrades are completed, the third step is a follow-up assessment (including another blower door) to demonstrate the level of improvement achieved. You will get a new report which will show the effectiveness of your eco-energy investments, City Green will give you a certified EnerGuide Rating for your home and on your behalf will even apply to the appropriate government agencies to access the grant money that you have earned.

For example, if you add R23 insulation to 100 per cent of your crawlspace, you would receive $800 from the feds, and an additional $520 from the province; or go big and add a ground source heat pump to your place and receive $3,500 from the feds, and another $1,250 from the province. Big or small, any efficiency investment pays dividends over time.

So, my neighbours and I have taken the first step toward increased energy efficiency for our complex. Hopefully we will save money, increase the efficiency and comfort of our homes and collectively decrease the greenhouse gas emissions our drafty building is now contributing to the atmosphere.

Watch for future Whistler2020 On the Ground columns over the next couple weeks. Once we have our assessment reports I will share the results, let you know what work we’re choosing to do, as well as summarize the up-front cost, the total amount of grants available to us, and finally the net cash and carbon benefit over the longer term.

For more information on the Whistler Green Home Energy Grants program go to www.whistler.ca/energygrants.htm .

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