With rising energy costs eating into family budgets, many Canadians are looking at eco-friendly home renovations to make their home more comfortable, help lower their utility bills and reduce their carbon footprint.
Even small energy-efficient home fixes can make a huge difference in your environmental impact over time, especially when you consider that almost 30% of greenhouse gas emissions globally come from the energy we use to heat, cool and light buildings.1
But there's another reason why the time may be right for a remodel focusing on sustainability: the federal government just launched the Canada Greener Homes initiative, which gives eligible Canadian homeowners up to $5,000 in rebates for making eco-friendly home improvements like replacing windows and doors, installing solar panels and improving insulation.
Not sure where to start? Here are some of the best eco-friendly ways to renovate your home so you can save money on energy while lowering your environmental impact.
Although pricey, eco-friendly roof renovations can bring huge cost- and energy-savings down the line. A few considerations for improving your home's efficiency, starting from the top:
- Go metal. While asphalt shingles need to be replaced every 15 to 20 years and usually end up in landfills, a metal roof is made mostly from recycled materials and should last at least 50 years,2 so it's the green building material of choice when it comes to sustainability. Plus, a metal roof provides good insulation and can reduce your energy bills by up to 40%.3
- Install solar panels. Many areas of the country, including the Prairies, Ontario and Maritimes, get large amounts of sunlight. These can be ideal locations for solar rooftops with PV panels that produce renewable, no-emissions energy and lower your electricity costs.4
- Add skylights or sun tunnels. Another way to capitalize on the sun's rays is to capture more (free!) natural light in your home instead of relying solely on electrical light fixtures. Skylights offer twice the natural light as windows,5 and a smaller more affordable sun tunnel can even fit in narrow hallways or tiny powder rooms that won't accommodate a full-size skylight.
Eco-friendly homes use less energy to maintain a comfortable temperature year-round by making sure warm air stays inside in winter and outside in summer. As an added incentive, all of the home improvement projects below are eligible for rebates under the Canada Greener Homes initiative program.
- Enhance insulation. Beefing up your home's insulation can reduce heat loss and save you money. Look for insulating materials with a high R- or RSI-value,6 which indicates how resistant the insulation is to heat loss.
- Improve air tightness.7 According to Natural Resources Canada, the most significant way to improve your home's energy efficiency is to reduce draftiness.8 Dealing with potential air leaks around doors, windows, outlets and vents can keep hot air in during winter and out during summer.
- Replace doors, windows and sliding glass doors. Go for Energy Star-certified models, including a full frame replacement,9 and be sure to install quality blinds to keep the sun's heat out in summer.
- Switch to a heat pump.10 This can be a greener way to heat your home, especially compared to furnaces, boilers and electric baseboards. Heat pumps work by extracting heat from the air outside and transferring it to the inside in winter. Conversely, in summer they transfer indoor heat outdoors, using about half the energy of a standard air conditioner.
Upgrading old appliances to new efficient models won't just lower your carbon footprint, it'll potentially also save you money on your utility bills. To get a sense of how much it costs to operate a specific appliance over its lifetime, check out an energy savings calculator for new appliances.
- Consult EnerGuide labels. You may have seen the black-and-white EnerGuide labels on refrigerators, freezers, stoves, washer/dryers, dishwashers, hot water heaters, furnaces, air conditioners and other HVAC equipment. They compare an appliance's energy usage to other similar products to help you make an eco-friendly choice.11
- Look for the Energy Star logo. The EnerGuide label will display this certification logo only on the most-energy-efficient appliance models in their product class.11
- Install a smart thermostat.12 This programmable tool leverages technology so you can set your home's temperature for different times of day (depending on whether you're active, asleep or away), track your consumption and even use a computer, smartphone or other mobile device to manage the heating and cooling systems.
About 12% of the solid waste in Canada comes from materials discarded during construction, renovations and demolitions, and may contain chemicals or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are bad for the environment and human health.13 Not only can you recycle or reuse many building materials, but recovered items are also becoming an increasingly popular choice for stylish interior design.
- Deconstruct rather than demolish.14 While it takes more time than going full “Hulk smash" during your renovations, carefully removing old windows, doors, cabinets, lumber, flooring, mouldings, lighting, plumbing fixtures and faucets may keep them in good enough condition for reuse. Local builders, stores that sell used construction materials or charitable organizations may be interested in taking these items off your hands. In the latter case, an appraiser can help you estimate the value of your donation so you can claim a tax credit.
- Check out local programs and facilities. Many Canadian cities are drafting legislation or launching programs to encourage Canadians to reuse and recycle construction, renovation and demolition materials that would otherwise go to landfills. 15 Contact your municipality or the recycling depots in your area to find out what materials they might accept.
- Use salvaged wood. Incorporating reclaimed lumber into your home is a great way to be eco-conscious without compromising on design or functionality.16 And there are lots of options for how to use it: kitchen countertops and cabinetry, living room shelving, wall panelling, ceiling beams, flooring or even seating and other furniture.
To take advantage of the Canada Greener Homes Grant, you need to first arrange an energy audit. Keep in mind that you'll have to pay out of pocket for the audit and any applicable eco-friendly home improvement products and services, and then apply for the grant so you can get reimbursed later.
There may also be other provincial and municipal supports available to you; Edmonton and Toronto, for example, have their own green home retrofit assistance programs called Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE for short.
While you may be able to handle some DIY and affordable eco-friendly home renovations without much advanced financial planning, there are many financing options available for those looking at a larger scale green-home remodel. For example, the Scotia Total Equity® Plan (STEP) allows you to combine a number of secured Scotiabank borrowing products to unlock available equity in your home, and a ScotiaLine® Personal Line of Credit can help you access just the amount of cash you need as your renovations progress.*
Once you're ready to get moving on these or other eco-friendly — and potentially money-saving — renovations, start by putting together an initial budget to approximate costs. This will help you determine whether you have enough cash on hand to begin your desired home improvements, or if you need to pursue other forms of financing.
In the latter case, speak with a Scotiabank Home Financing Advisor to discuss the various financing options available to help you make your eco-friendly home renovation dreams a reality.
10 https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy-efficiency/energy-star-canada/about/energy-star-announcements/publications/heating-and-cooling-heat-pump/6817#d1 and https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/bc-heat-pumps-1.6424070
* Subject to approval. Conditions apply