We chatted to Registered Energy Advisor Violet Kopperson from Windfall Ecology Centre in Aurora, ON. Violet has been an energy advisor for several years and has seen it all when it comes to home efficiency, so she’s the perfect person to answer all of our burning questions about how and why a home energy audit is right for you.
What is a home energy audit, and what are the benefits?
Also known as a Home Energy Assessment, an energy audit is basically when an auditor comes to look at your house or building to see how energy efficient it is, and to look for opportunities for upgrades to help you save energy – and money on your energy bills.
The typical homeowner doesn’t know how efficient their windows are, for example, or their walls, or why one room is colder than another. An energy audit can tell you whether your bills are high because of your own habits or because of energy inefficiencies in your home, so you find the best ways to reduce them.
What kind of things do you look for when you’re doing an audit?
When we go to a house we look at a whole range of different things. How the house is built, what kind of insulation and windows it has. We look at the type of heating it has and its efficiency, as well as the type of hot water heater and how efficient that is.
Lastly we would do a blower door test. A blower door is essentially a big fan that’s fitted into the front doorway which sucks air from inside the house to the outside. This causes air to come rushing back into the house from the outside through all the little nooks and crannies the home.
We use readings from the test to help estimate the size of a hole in the house that’s letting the energy out, so we can tell whether the house is considered drafty. After the test we’ll be able to walk around with the homeowner and see where air is coming in from and if the home requires draft-proofing. A lot of it can be done yourself! A bit of caulking here and there… it’s very easy to do. Depending on how drafty the house is, caulking can make a big difference. We find that most homes, particularly older homes, lose a lot of their energy just by being drafty.
With all this information we calculate how much energy the home is using at the moment, and send a report to the homeowner with recommended upgrades to the house to make it more energy efficient. We also prioritise what order upgrades to the house can be done in, so the homeowner can take this report and say “Oh OK so my home uses this much energy, and if I do this I can save this much.”
What kind of energy savings, and financial savings, can i expect from undertaking some energy retrofitting?
It varies depending on the age of the house and its existing fittings. For example, if you have an original low efficiency furnace to heat your home, switching to a high efficiency furnace could net you savings ranging from 24%-30%. I see a lot of inefficient furnaces when I’m out and about, where savings could be made by switching to a high efficiency model.
How do I arrange an audit? Is it expensive?
It’s pretty easy to do, you just call up the service organisation (you can find your local organisation listed on Green Communities Canada) and say “I need an energy assessment,” then you make an appointment with them. It varies a bit by company, but they’re usually around $400.
However, there are several incentive programs available in Ontario to help you, depending on where you live. For areas serviced by Enbridge Gas then there’s the Enbridge Home Energy Conservation Program, for areas that are serviced by Union Gas, there’s the Home Renovation Rebate, and then there’s GreenOn funded by the province.
There are also programs based on income run by both Enbridge and Union, which are free and offer insulation for low-income homeowners. You apply for a free audit with the service organisation, which then assesses your home to see if you qualify for free insulation.
Lastly, what can renters or people who live in condos or apartments do?
People who rent can still get an audit, they just need the landlord’s permission. Since any work on the house will be paid for by the landlord, they are the one who applies for and will receive the incentives or rebates.
As far as condos are concerned, it’s a very different setup. I don’t work on big condo buildings myself, but it is worth doing some research and looking for resources online. For example, if you have a water tank in your apartment you might look at switching instead to a tankless heater. That might save you some money and energy not having a big tank of hot water sat there.
Interested in learning more about new incentives for reducing your carbon footprint? Sign up to become a climate defender now!