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Making the decision for an eco-renovation

For a complete homeowner's guide to green renovation please CLICK HERE

Some of you may be considering your home renovation ideas with your extended families and friends. While you're imagining your new and improved lifestyle in that dream kitchen, en-suite, basement or addition, I encourage you to think about greening your renovation as well.

If you are going to have your house turned into a construction zone anyway, why not take advantage of the opportunity to incorporate some green upgrades that will pay you back over time while increasing the energy and environmental performance of your house and reducing your carbon footprint.

As it happens, both the federal and provincial governments are offering healthy financial incentives -- up to $5,000 each - if you undertake certain recommended retrofits. The minor wrinkle, and this is why I mention it now, is that you have to have an energy audit done in advance so that you know which retrofits will qualify for funding.

Since the provincial program piggy-backs on the federal program, I'll describe the latter, but keep in mind that the program designs are virtually, if not identical.

Most importantly, you need to contract with a licensed energy advisor who will conduct a detailed on-site assessment of your home's energy use including a "blower door" test to find air leaks. The advisor will provide you with the actual energy efficiency rating of your home along with a report and list of recommended retrofits.

After you have completed your energy upgrades, the advisor will conduct a second evaluation and calculate a new energy efficiency rating that indicates the improved energy use in your home.  From there, the advisor will determine exactly how much you can expect to receive, prepare the paperwork for you to sign, and submit the grant application(s).

Just to give you some examples, you can recover $500 if you install an ENERGY STAR gas furnace, $300 for installation of a heat recovery ventilator, and $200 for an energy-efficient hot water heater. Insulation grants for exterior walls can range up to $1,500 depending upon the area insulated and the R-value, with additional grants available for attic, basement and crawl space insulation. Replacement windows and doors are funded at $30 each.

While the cost of the energy audit is not covered through the federal program, the Ontario government will fund up to $150 and some local municipalities or financial institutions may chip-in as well, so be sure to check.

It's natural and understandable to get caught up in all the fun stuff that comes with renovating - the design, the specifications, the finishes, the colours - but greening your renovation can be just as rewarding, particularly when both levels of government are chipping-in.

The key to a green reno is advance planning and the same thing goes for finding a contractor because the best ones are booked well ahead and you don't necessarily want the ones who can start tomorrow or who are knocking on your door today.

BILD maintains a roster of professional renovation contractors who are committed to our Association's Code of Ethics and our renovation-specific Code of Conduct under the auspices of our RenoMark™ program. For more information on the RenoMark™ program and for links to the green renovation programs described above, visit www.renomark.ca.

To locate an energy advisor or to get more general information on the ecoENERGY Retrofit program, you can visit www.ecoaction.gc.ca or call 1-800-622-6232.

To obtain the latest Transfer Station Information Package, published September 1, 2009 by the City of Toronto Solid Waste Management Services, please CLICK HERE.