Federal Grants for Energy Efficient Upgrades

Canadians have until March 31, 2012 to qualify for up to $5,000 in grants for energy efficient home renovations through the ecoENERGY Retrofit – Homes program.   The federal government announced they were renewing the program on July 13, 2011 giving homeowners several months to upgrade their heating, cooling and/or ventilation systems, hot water heaters, insulation, air sealing, windows, doors, skylights and/or water conservation.  The federal government expects that the program will allow thousands of Canadians to make their homes more energy-efficient and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions while generating up to $4 billion in economic activity across the country.

The slogan “Save NOW with a home retrofit grant – Save later on your energy bills” sums up the program’s benefits for homeowners.  Grants in addition to long-term energy cost savings can be substantial.  For example, for the first time, the federal government is offering grants of up to $4,375 for the installation of a geothermal system.  This system transfers indoor heat to the cooler earth on hot days and draws heat from the earth inside on cool days.  (Some geothermal systems use water although soil temperatures are usually more predictable.)  Considered one of the most efficient ways to heat and cool a home, such ground source heat pumps pay for themselves very quickly and last 25 years or more.  If a homeowner replaces a heating oil system with a geothermal system, it pays for itself within approximately three years!  If a homeowner is replacing an electrical system, the payback period can be as short as six years.  

From insulating ceilings to replacing old windows, this program has home improvement options for every budget.  The simplest project involves replacing regular toilets with approved low-flow models.  The grant for each new toilet installation is $65 up to a maximum of four per home.

Any homeowners considering renovations to improve their home’s energy efficiency should first register with Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) either by calling 1 800 O-Canada (1-800-622-6232) or online: http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/residential/personal/registration.cfm.  Once successfully registered, homeowners will receive a registration number.  

The next step is to complete a “pre-retrofit evaluation”.  Homeowners are required hire a local, certified energy advisor licensed by NRCan.  This advisor will perform a pre-retrofit energy evaluation from the attic to the foundation.  If a home has already been evaluated under this program since April 2007, a new pre-retrofit evaluation is not required.

Once an advisor determines the best energy efficiency upgrades for a home, the owner can choose to purchase and install eligible upgrades as described in the ecoENERGY Retrofit grant table: http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/residential/personal/retrofit-homes/retrofit-qualify-grant.cfm?attr=4.   This table provides details about which upgrades and materials, appliances and systems are acceptable and the associated grant amount.  Homeowners must keep copies of all receipts for merchandise and labour.  Receipts are required for the final step in the process and the taxation branch may request proof of renovations at some point in the future.  

The last step in the process is a “post- retrofit evaluation”.  Once renovations are complete, and prior to March 31, 2012, a homeowner must obtain a post-retrofit.  An energy advisor will conduct a final evaluation and will also need to see all receipts.  Tip: Since appointments for these evaluations are likely to book up quickly as the March 31, 2012 deadline approaches, homeowners should book appointments as early as possible.  The government has stated that no extensions or exceptions to the deadline will be provided.

The sooner the process is complete; the sooner homeowners receive their grants.  According to the ecoENERGY Retrofit – Homes program website, most will receive a grant cheque from the Government of Canada within 90 days after their post-retrofit evaluation.  NRCan will also transfer data to complementary incentive programs in certain provinces and territories that issue cheques according to their own criteria and deadlines.


This program also offers an unexpected benefit: the value of expertise.  How many gigajoules of energy production is considered adequate for a solar hot water system?  What types of heat-recovery ventilators are the most efficient?  The grant table provides details about the products and systems that are the most efficient.  This takes the guesswork out of achieving the most beneficial home renovations.

A variety of options are available to suit different budgets.  Consider hot water heating, which is a major expense for most families.  In the southernmost latitudes, solar water heating can be very efficient and, as an added incentive, the grant is as much as $1,250.  Among the other water heater options is an ENERGY STAR and “ecoENERGY” qualified instantaneous, condensing gas-fired water heater that will earn a grant of $375.  For each type, there is a check list of approved models.

As with all home renovations, it is wise to obtain two or three detailed quotes for projects including the cost of all materials and labour along with a time estimate.  Now is the best time to go green!