With all the news about climate change, it can be hard to know where to start. You might already do some eco-actions like walking instead of driving, eating more vegetarian meals, and swapping instead of buying new. But if you are a homeowner or know someone who is (a relative or friend), there is an even bigger eco-mission to take on – making your house energy efficient! Did you know your home is one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions – most of it is from heating your home in winter, but also from other ways like air conditioning, hot water, and appliances.

(In 2019, Canada’s per capita household GHG emissions were about 3.8 tonnes per person. For international context, other countries such as the United Kingdom, France and Germany, have emissions ranging from 1.7 tonnes to 2.2 tonnes.)[HA1] 

One big change vs Many small actions

Most eco-messages you get are related to “daily behaviour changes” – such as “bring a shopping bag”, or “don’t forget to recycle properly”, or maybe even “eat less meat”. While these do have positive impact in reducing your carbon footprint, they usually need to be done by forming new habits – which we all know can be hard to do! Another option is to do something BIG, one time. This is where home energy conservation comes in. Once your home is more efficient, you don’t have to worry about it anymore – and the carbon savings keep on coming!

Attic insulation level, 18 inches

Steps to energy audit

Most people don’t know much about their home energy consumption. Is my home airtight? How much insulation is behind my walls and in my attic? How efficiency is my heating system?

These are all questions that can be answered by a home energy auditor. These professionals have extensive knowledge of home construction methods and energy saving solutions. They examine wall construction, attic insulation levels, and review HVAC (heating/cooling) and domestic hot water systems. They also test for air leakage using a “blower door test”. After spending 2-3 hours in your home, they ask you questions about your upgrade priorities. Finally, you are sent a report with detailed, individualized recommendations.

Once you chose your upgrades, you then find a contractor to do them. Some can even be done by yourself! After that, the energy auditor comes back to your home for a “post-audit” where they check to make sure everything was done properly.

Rebates? There are rebates?

Yes, there are! The federal government is currently offering the Canada Greener Homes Grant. Some key parts of it are:

ItemDetailsRebate AmountPotential Carbon Emission Savings
Pre & Post AuditPre-audit – 2-3 hrs, ~$400 Post-audit – 1hr, ~$200$600NA
Attic insulationMost attics have some insulation (R12*- R20) but should be increased up to R50, about 18 inches.$325 up to $2,350Moderate to Large
Basement insulationSome unfinished basements have no insulation at all. Upgrade to R10-R22.Up to $2,000Moderate to Large
Air sealingMany homes have lots of small to medium holes in the building envelope. Achieve air tightness target in your report to get rebate.$725Minimal to Large
Windows & DoorsWindows – choose Energy rating >40 to get bigger rebate   Doors – Energy rating >34$175 or $325   $175Minimal to Moderate
Space Heat Pump
(for both heating and cooling)
Air source heat pumps are the most common type. There are many options to choose from. Read details carefully to make sure it qualifies.$3,250 – $6,500Large
Heat Pump Water HeaterNeeds to be Energy Star and have an Energy factor >2.2$1,300Minimal to Moderate

R = resistance value. A number given to a material to show how well it prevents heat loss. For example, a detached home from the 1980s might have attic insulation of about R20, whereas newer homes built in 2020 would have at least R50.

To learn more and sign up, go to: Canada Greener Homes Grant

Join your UHN Green Team members, Michael Kurz (Team Lead, Energy and Innovation), Ed Rubinstein (Director of Energy and Environment) and Andrew Holownych (Knowledge Translation & Education Specialist) on Friday April 28th from 12:00pm to 1:00pm

About the Author

Andrew is a new member of the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and joined the Cancer Education department in November 2022. He is an instructional designer, focusing on hybrid learning in both in-person and virtual classrooms. Andrew was a part-time energy auditor for 2 years and completed about 20 home energy audits. He also has a background in environmental education and contributes his knowledge and experience to making the UHN Green Team even Greener!