Reno rebates begin

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Homeowners can get $6,000 back for green tech

Albertans could get up to $6,000 in energy rebates starting next month under a new provincial program, but some experts question if the province is putting its eco-bucks in the right place.

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips announced details of the province’s new Home Improvement Rebate program Tuesday. The two-year program is one of three set to roll out in the next few months that will give Albertans rebates on energy-saving devices.

“Energy efficiency is one of the best investments we can all undertake,” Phillips said, as it produces jobs, diversifies the economy and saves money.

This new program focuses on insulation, window and hot-water tank retrofits installed by contractors. Homeowners will get up to $1,000 for replacing a conventional water heater with a tankless model, $1,500 for upgrading windows to triple-pane and $3,500 for insulating walls, basements and attics.

How much you get back depends on the improvement your renovation produces, said Monica Curtis, CEO of Energy Efficiency Alberta.

“The more energy your home-improvement project saves, the more money you’ll get back in rebates.”

Replacing a conventional standing pilot hot water tank with a tankless one would likely get you $944.76 back, for example. Replacing a 72-inch by 72-inch metal-framed single-pane window with a triple-pane one would get you around $306.

Curtis said homeowners would have to have these retrofits done by an Energy Efficiency Alberta-approved contractor to get the rebate. The agency will require contractors to have at least three years of experience and to take a free course on how to explain and calculate rebates for customers to get on the approved list. Contractors can apply to get on the list at efficiencyalberta.ca.

Curtis said that this rebate program should create about 170 jobs and prevent about 307,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over the lifespan of the retrofits (i.e. several decades).

Green in the right places?

These new rebates are great news and will definitely drive more jobs and business towards All Weather Windows, said Jason Hill, the company’s sales director.

“We’re delighted to see something that’s going to help our business.”

Hill said homeowners would see a massive upgrade in energy savings by swapping their typically R1-rated windows for modern triple-pane ones, which average R8 (where R is an insulation value, with R0 being terrible and R100 excellent). They’ll also get much of that cash back, as windows tend to retain 50 to 80 per cent of their value on resale.

“You’re increasing the value of your home in addition to comfort and savings,” Hill said.

Given the number of windows in a typical home and the cost per window, Hill estimated that most homeowners would qualify for the full $1,500 if they upgraded to triple-pane.

That’s not much of a rebate considering the cost, said Lynn McCartney, contract sales manager at the St. Albert Rona – most homes will need $5,000 to $8,000 to go triple-pane.

“It’s nowhere near enough.”

The insulation rebate, in contrast, may be too high, she continued. You’d need about $500 worth of insulation to bring a 1,200 square-foot basement’s walls to R12 from R0, for example, which Energy Efficiency Alberta suggests would net you the full $3,500 rebate.

“That’s a lot of rebate,” she said, adding that it would be better for the province to put some of this cash towards windows instead.

The rebates would likely chop 25 per cent off the cost of a typical 1,000 square-foot attic insulation upgrade and lower its payback time to six years from nine, said Godo Stoyke of Carbon Busters. His Carbon Busters Home Energy Handbook suggests that insulating an attic to R40 levels would prevent about 1.5 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions after five years.

“People are motivated by incentives,” he said, so these rebates could encourage more people to act.

While the hot-water rebate would account for up to a quarter of the cost of a typical tankless heater installation, Stokye said this rebate money might be better directed towards drain-heat recovery systems.

“It would be about half the cost of tankless water heaters and provide up to twice the benefit.”

These rebates will be available as of April 28. Visit efficiencyalberta.ca for details.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.