When you buy a home, the most significant monthly expense you’ll pay is your mortgage payment, but it isn’t the only expense. You’ll also pay property taxes, insurance, and utilities. These extra bills can add up to a significant portion of your overall housing costs, especially if your home is older and isn’t very energy efficient – which can lead to high heating bills.
Costly utilities can be a result of over a dozen energy inefficiencies throughout your home, including poor insulation levels, old windows, worn-out weatherstripping, and faulty heating systems. If you’re considering upgrading your home’s efficiency to reduce your heating bills, it might seem overwhelming to know where to start.
Fortunately, there is an easy first step for anyone considering upgrading their home’s energy efficiency, and that’s to have a home energy audit (also known as a home energy assessment) performed on your home. Let’s look at everything you need to know about home energy audits and whether the process is worthwhile for your home.
What is a home energy audit?
A home energy audit requires a professional energy advisor to come to your home to assess the overall energy efficiency of the property. The energy advisor starts by measuring the square footage of your home and noting the condition of the windows and doors. Next, they’ll evaluate the levels of insulation in the walls, ceiling, and basement. Finally, the energy advisor will perform a blower-door test, which assesses how much air leakage is happening around your windows and doors, letting warm air escape into the outdoors.
The energy assessment takes between three and five hours to complete. Afterward, your home energy advisor will provide you with a report recommending possible improvements and home renovations you could perform on your home to make it more energy-efficient. The upgrades will be sorted by most effective to least effective, should include an estimated cost for each, and whether they are eligible for government rebates.
Finally, your energy advisor will prepare an EnerGuide rating for your home, which is an energy efficiency rating developed by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and is used to compare the energy performance of similar-sized homes.
Who offers home energy audits?
Not just anyone offers home energy audits. Home energy advisors must be certified by NRCan to perform home energy assessments. Most of the time, you’ll find home energy advisors working as part of green renovation companies. To find a home energy advisor near you, use the NRCan search tool.
How much does a home energy audit cost?
Home energy audit costs vary widely from province to province, primarily because some provinces subsidize the cost as part of their green energy rebate programs. For example, a home energy audit is just $99 in Atlantic Canada due to partnerships with provincial organizations, and the same energy assessment will cost you between $300 and $500 in Ontario. If you’re considering a home energy audit, use the NRCan tool to find contractors near you. Call and ask for quotes from at least three contractors to ensure you are paying a fair price.
Can I be reimbursed for a home energy audit?
As we mentioned above, several efficiency organizations and utilities in various provinces have partnered with NRCan approved contractors to supplement the cost of a home energy audit, allowing you to access the service for far less than you’d typically pay.
Beyond the cost of the energy assessment itself, the upgrades that are recommended may be eligible for rebates or low-interest financing. For example, the Enbridge Home Efficiency Rebate in Ontario makes up to $5,000 in rebates available to homeowners who complete at least two energy efficiency upgrades, and they’ll even cover the cost of your home energy audit.
How much do the recommended home upgrades cost?
If you have a home energy audit done on your home, you aren’t instantly going to save money on your home heating costs. The energy assessment itself does not change your home’s energy consumption. What will save you money is performing the upgrades and changes recommended in the report provided by your home energy advisor. These upgrades will range dramatically in cost and intensity. Here are some of the items that may appear on the list:
- Install smart thermostat
- Install weather stripping on exterior doors
- Air seal around windows, doors, and outlets
- Install LED lighting
- Upgrade appliances to ENERGY STAR compliance
- Install new windows
- Add insulation
- Upgrade your HVAC system
Some of the items on this list, for example, installing weather stripping, will only cost you a few dollars and can be done yourself. Others, such as installing a new HVAC system, could cost thousands of dollars and require professionals to complete. Most provinces offer some rebates for these types of upgrades. For example, in British Columbia, you can claim up to $10,000 from BC Hydro for the enhancements listed above.
How much can I expect to save after I perform the upgrades?
If you complete all of the listed upgrades, NRCan estimates you could save up to 60% on your home energy costs. For some Canadians with high energy costs, this can amount to thousands of dollars per year in savings. If you don’t complete all the upgrades on your list, you can still save. For example, installing a smart thermostat is a relatively inexpensive DIY, but can save you up to 23% on your home heating costs.
Do I need to do anything after I receive my home energy audit?
If you have a home energy advisor visit your home and you perform some of the recommended upgrades, you can often have them return for a follow-up visit to assess how the updates impacted the energy efficiency of your home. This follow-up visit may or may not be included in the initial cost, but this visit gives your home energy advisor a chance to update your home’s EnerGuide rating. A higher score may make it easier to sell your home in the future, as many Canadians are looking for homes with energy-efficient upgrades already completed.
A home energy audit is an excellent first step towards reducing your home heating costs and making your monthly housing costs more affordable. Since a home energy assessment is often a requirement to access thousands of dollars in rebates for energy-efficient upgrades, it is absolutely worthwhile if you are planning to tackle any green home renovation projects soon.