Shawna HendersonFebruary 18, 2024

This month, the federal government abruptly shut down its Greener Home grant program, leaving homeowners without critical support for undertaking the efficiency upgrades they’ve been urged to make. Housing is in a crisis in more ways than one – Canada needs to double the number of new homes being built, but at the same time, there are millions of homes that need upgrading for comfort, health and energy savings. People across Canada recognize the importance of energy-efficient and sustainable homes. The Greener Homes Initiative, with its $5000 grant for energy retrofits, was a beacon of hope for homeowners looking to make these upgrades.

Grant Axed For Working Too Well

Home retrofit projects have increased four-fold, and over 165,000 homeowners have received their $5000 grants. Their efforts have had a massive impact - to match these results, we would have to pull about 60,000 cars off the road.

However, this overwhelming success led to the premature end of the grant program, leaving homeowners without the support they were relying on to improve their homes, and destabilizing an industry that is instrumental to solving Canada's housing crisis.

A Loan Program Isn’t Enough

With the sudden shut down, homeowners are wondering whether the promise of a replacement grant is trustworthy in the long term.

While the grant program is paused, the federally funded interest-free Greener Home Loan program through CMHC is still open. Since June 2022, over 53,000 loan applications have been approved out of a total of 62,000. While the maximum loan is $40,000, the average loan is about $24,000.

The challenge lies in losing the grant that so many have been able to include in their retrofit budgets. Cash-strapped homeowners have to pay back 100% of that money. "I want to do my share to reduce our emissions but I can't afford to do it all on my own," says Kelly Slade, a teacher from Windsor Junction, Nova Scotia.

Industry Jobs Feeling the Hit

The closure of the initial grant program, part of a 7-year initiative, has sent ripples across the home renovation industry.

Homeowners across Canada have already lost. In some regions, they’ve lost far more than the $5,000 federal grant. As an example, Enbridge's HER+ program in Ontario was bundled with the federal program. That means Ontarians watched a $10,600 rebate get instantly axed.

Ontario will have another incentive program sometime soon - utilities are required to follow demand side management plans and goals. The next version of the Greener Homes Grant may be available later in 2024.

In the meantime, everybody’s on hold.

Whenever a new version of the Greener Homes Grant sees the light of day in 2024, the uncertainty created by last week's cuts can't help but undermine the progress this industry desperately needs.

Since 2021, the Greener Homes Program has supported about 75,000 jobs for home retrofits and efficiency upgrades. The number of registered energy advisors has nearly doubled, showcasing the program's success in creating jobs and driving economic growth.

Energy Advisors, Service Organizations, insulation and air sealing companies, renovators, HVAC installers, financiers, and the entire supply chain now face multiple challenges and potential losses.

This disruption is getting in the way of the success of the program.

The Need for Consistency and Certainty

Homeowners who want to do retrofit projects keep bumping into obstacles and roadblocks:

● There's no easy way to gather the knowledge they need to steer their own upgrade projects.

● Understanding reports and recommendations from Energy Advisors requires technical knowledge, leaving homeowners dependent on contractors to interpret their options.

● Contractors have varying levels of training and skill -- how can homeowners know who to trust?

● Inconsistent or vanishing programs create confusion, doubt, and fear about spending big dollars to make important upgrades.

How many Canadians have planned a significant retrofit but were waiting for their appointment with an Energy Advisor to provide the assessment that made them eligible for the grant?

Getting that retrofit grant was often the first step for homeowners, and this disruption is likely to push most off the path to energy efficiency before they even start.

A house is the most significant investment most individuals make in their lives.

Knowledge is Power: Building Science is the Key

Retrofit projects are the biggest short-term investments you can make to protect and enhance the value of your home. The best way to protect it is to understand the ‘why’ behind retrofits: Building Science.

Building Science is not rocket science, it’s a series of ‘cause and effect’ outcomes from the science experiment we find ourselves living in - our homes. Understanding how the house works as a system gives you the home advantage:

● Predictable outcomes during renovations

● Discernment in the homebuying process

● Consistent comfort

● Healthy Indoor Environment

● Decreased energy bills

We know this because we’ve developed best-in-class online training that’s been taken by thousands of building professionals and energy advisors. Homeowners have taken our courses as well, but this disruption has made it clear that we can offer - right now - a way for homeowners to be more than a bystander in directing their home retrofit plan.

Unleash the Power of Building Science in Your Own Home

Blue House Energy has part of the solution: we’re now providing homeowners with the opportunity to learn about building science online, so they can understand their homes better and ask informed questions of their contractors. This is based on the same industry-vetted training we provide nationally to energy advisors, builders, and renovators.

By taking our on-demand Home Comfort Mastery course ($75 registration), homeowners can easily and conveniently gain the knowledge and confidence to navigate the complexities of home retrofits. Armed with building science expertise, they can make informed decisions, ensuring better health and comfort for their households.

At Blue House Energy, we see this as closing the circle. Engaging the most important player of the whole retrofit industry: the homeowner. At this point, it’s critical to provide homeowners with the knowledge they need to protect their investment, improve their quality of life, and contribute to a greener future.