Want to make your home more energy-efficient or even just less drafty? Are you planning to redo your bathroom or kitchen? Want to get that $5,600 federal grant for green renovations?
In all these cases, getting an energy efficiency evaluation is a good first step, according to those in the industry.
Here’s a closer look at what that involves — and how to get the most out of it.
What is a home energy efficiency evaluation?
A home energy efficiency evaluation, inspection or audit is a standardized method for measuring your home’s energy efficiency and airtightness. This can help you decide what renovations you might need to improve those things.
Why would you want an evaluation like this?
For new homes, it’s needed to get eco-labelling certifications such as Energy Star or Built Green.
For existing homes, it’s required to get incentives that can help offset energy efficiency and climate change resilience upgrades to your home, such as the Greener Homes Grant, worth up to $5,600 per household toward things such as insulation, new windows and doors, heat pumps, solar panels and foundation waterproofing.
When should you get an evaluation?
It’s worthwhile any time you’re planning to do a renovation, whether it’s replacing windows or redoing your kitchen and bathroom, said Kai Millyard, service organization manager for Green Communities Canada, a non-profit umbrella group for community-based environmental organizations that provide energy evaluations.
Even if the goal of the reno isn’t energy efficiency, you may open walls and that may make it easy to add things like extra insulation at minimal extra cost if it’s flagged in your evaluation.
What does an energy evaluation involve and how long does it take?
The process typically takes two to three hours, depending on the size of your home.
An energy adviser will walk outside and inside your home, recording things like insulation levels, window types and sizes and types of heating and cooling systems in your home.
They will also do a “blower door test” to measure your home’s airtightness. A fan blows the air out of your home, and the test measures how long it takes for the air to come back in through cracks and holes.
While that’s happening, the energy adviser will walk around your home to check where the air seeps back in, locating the gaps. “We might use a feather or a little smoke generator,” said Millyard.
Luke Dolan, principal of Capital Home Energy in Vancouver, said his company uses little handheld fog machines and also has infrared cameras that can zero in on cooler spots.
What can you expect to get out of it?
All the data is inputted into Natural Resources Canada’s modelling software to calculate the home’s energy efficiency and give it a rating.
The energy adviser can suggest how to improve — which renos to prioritize and any problems they may have uncovered.
Both Dolan and Millyard say energy advisers are happy to craft advice to meet your needs, whether that’s focused on quick fixes to reduce your heating and cooling bill or a 10-year plan that involves a small reno every other year.
“Tell your adviser what you care about and what your concerns and your motivation are, what your budget is for the work you’re going to do,” Millyard said.
“They’ll be in a much better position to … produce a more useful set of recommendations to you if they understand where you’re coming from.”
How much does it cost?
New Brunswick, Quebec and Nova Scotia have provincial programs that include energy evaluations, with prices ranging from $99 in New Brunswick to $199 in Nova Scotia for a single home.
The pricing is typically higher in other provinces, depending on the provider and the size of your home. Millyard said it’s usually about $400 for a pre-renovation audit. A second audit after the renovation is often required to get grants and incentives.