Of heat pumps, windows and solar photovoltaic panels
By Roy Nandram
The Canadian government has made available a grant up to $5,000 for energy improvements of your home plus $600 for EnerGuide evaluation.
Here are some key areas and incentives available: home insulation ($5,000), Air-sealing ($1,000), windows and doors ($125 or $250 each), thermostats ($50), ground source or air source heat pumps ($5,000), renewable energy like solar panels ($5,000), resiliency measures ($1,000).
This program was designed to help Canadian homeowners reduce greenhouse gas emissions by making where you live more energy efficient. This means your home will be more comfortable and energy bills more affordable while you support Canada’s environmental objectives.
I want to focus on three of the largest incentives – Heat Pump, Windows and Solar Photovoltaic panels.
Understanding air source heat pumps
A heat pump can be either ground-source (geothermal) or air-source. Air source is more affordable, and that is why I am emphasizing it.
A heat pump is an electrically-driven device that looks like a normal air conditioning unit. This technology has been used for decades in Canada and globally to efficiently provide heating and cooling — and in some cases, hot water to homes and commercial buildings. A typical heat pump could produce 3 kW of heating while consuming 1kW of electrical energy. Instead of % efficiency, the heat pump performance is measured as Coefficient of Performance (COP). In this case COP is approximately 3.
For a typical home a single unit, a heat pump will cool your home in the summer and provide almost all your heating in the winter. “Almost”, because some heat pumps might not operate efficiently below -20C, and a backup heat source might be required during extremely low temperatures. This could be your gas furnace, radiant hot water or electric resistance heater.
Selecting high-performance windows for your home
Traditionally, a window was simply an opening in a wall, roof or door that allowed light, sound and air to enter or leave and so you could see outside. Today’s windows are complex architectural features that provide protection against wind, rain and snow; insulation in the exterior envelope (winter and summer); a visual connection to the exterior; ventilation when required, solar heat gain in the winter to reduce heating costs; a decrease of solar heat gain in the summer to lower cooling costs; egress in some cases; and protection against bugs and intruders.
When you’re dealing with the energy efficiency of windows, you’ll need to understand the most important terminology:
U-Factor is a measure of how well a window can prevent heat from escaping from the inside of your home. U-factor is measured as a range of 0.20 to 1.20 BTU/hr x ft² x °F. (or metric equivalent). The lower the U-factor, the better the product insulates.
SHGC: The solar heat gain coefficient is the ability of the glass to absorb energy from the sun. High SHGC helps reduce energy consumption in the winter but could cause overheating in the summer. Low SHGC helps to reduce cooling costs. It is obviously important to determine which windows should have low or high SHGC. The range for SHGC is 0.25 to 0.80. In general, look for lower numbers.
Other factors to investigate are condensation resistance, air leakage, visible transmission, type of frames and hardware.
ER: Energy rating is a value given to a window based on independent testing. It takes into account U value, air leakage and SHGC ranges from 0-0.50. The higher the number, the more energy efficient the window. More information is available at nrca.gc.ca and .energystar.gov
Before solar panels are installed, it’s essential to improve your home’s energy efficiency and upgrade its mechanical systems. These steps reduce the energy demand of your home and allow your HVAC system to be powered by electricity — i.e., Installing a heat pump.
In Ontario, electricity consumers are able to utilize Net Metering, where home and business owners get to use the electricity generated by solar panels. Net Metering also allow solar panel owners to generate excess electricity and store it in the grid, thus avoiding the expense of battery.
The Canada Greener Home Grant covers many energy improvements that can be applied to a typical home. There is no one solution that fits every home. Your Energy Audit (EnerGuide Evaluation) will determine the priorities for improvements.
Consider meeting with an industry professional to plan and cost the best course of action for your home.
Roy Nandram is president of RND Construction Ltd.