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Home energy efficiency

The largest share of Ottawa’s greenhouse gas emissions (45 per cent) come from homes and other buildings. These emissions are mostly from burning natural gas for heat and hot water. Making energy efficiency improvements to your home is one of the most important actions required to meet Ottawa’s target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. To meet this target, all homes in Ottawa need to reduce the amount of energy used to heat their homes by 70 percent by 2040.

Improving your homes energy efficiency will make your home more comfortable, healthier and reduce your energy usage.

Through the Better Homes Ottawa - Loan Program homeowners can get a low-interest loan from the City to cover the cost of home energy efficiency improvements.

Steps to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in your home

Step 1: Assess your home’s energy efficiency

An EnerGuide home evaluation is a great way to learn more about your home’s current energy efficiency and make informed decisions on how best to improve it. A registered energy advisor will conduct a top-to-bottom assessment of your home, inspecting your home’s insulation, heating and cooling systems and overall home energy use to detect sources of energy loss. When the assessment is complete you will receive a customized action plan to improve the energy efficiency of your home.

An EnerGuide home evaluation is a requirement to receive financing through the City’s Better Homes Ottawa - Loan Program and for other rebate and incentive programs.

Step 2: Improve your insulation, windows and doors

Insulation, windows and doors make up part of your homes building envelope. The building envelope is the physical separator between the indoor environment and the weather outside. It controls the flow of heat, air, moisture, light, and noise from the inside of your home to the outdoors. Improving your home’s building envelope is a cost-effective way to significantly reduce your energy use. Start by:

Step 3: Replace appliances with ENERGY STAR models

Switch gas and older electric appliances to more energy efficient ones. For example, replace your gas stove with an induction stove which provides a similar cooking experience to gas but is much more energy efficient.

Look for the ENERGY STAR symbol to know you are getting the most energy efficient option. Find certified products using the ENERGY STAR Product Finder and the annual ENERGY STAR Most Efficient list. (Note you will be redirected to the US ENERGY STAR website. Be sure to select Canada as your market to see products available here.)

Water heaters account for almost 20 per cent of the energy used in an average Canadian home. ENERGY STAR certified water heaters use less energy than standard models and can help save money on your utility bills as well as reducing your greenhouse gas emissions.

Replacing your light bulbs with LED light bulbs will also help to reduce your energy use.

Step 4: Replace your furnace and air conditioner with a heat pump

A heat pump is an electrical appliance that takes heat energy from one place and moves it to another – just like a refrigerator. In summer, it moves heat out of the building, and in winter it moves heat into the building, even if it’s cold outside. A ‘cold-climate’ heat pump is designed to work in Ottawa winters.

Switching to a heat pump for heating and cooling will significantly reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.

Another option is to get a dual fuel heat pump with gas back up. The heat pump works until it’s below -12 degrees Celsius outside. When it gets colder it switches over to a gas furnace to make sure your home still stays warm. This lower cost option helps significantly reduce fossil fuel consumption and is a good option for homes that haven’t undertaken insulation and window upgrades yet.

Learn more about heat pumps:

Step 5: Generate your own renewable energy

Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems convert energy from the sun into electricity. Solar photovoltaic panels have few operating costs and can be installed on any kind of home or building, providing a safe and reliable source of electricity that produces no on-site pollution and is emission free.

Resources to help you plan your energy efficiency renovation

The Better Homes Ottawa website has everything you need to know to make your home more energy efficient and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It includes information on:

  • Renovations and upgrades
  • Rebates, incentives and financing
  • Energy audits
  • Net zero homes
  • Resources for apartment and condo owners and tenants

Borrow a thermal imaging camera from Ottawa Public Library

Thermal cameras measure surface temperature using infrared imaging. They allow you to identify hot and cold spots in your home where insulation is missing and where air is getting in or out.

Borrowing a thermal camera can help you learn about the opportunities to improve the comfort and energy performance of your home.

Some issues such as leaks around windows, doors and outlets are easy to fix yourself with caulking, weather stripping and foam gaskets. For other things such as insulation you may want to contact a local contractor for help. The Keeping the Heat In Guide from Natural Resources Canada and the Better Homes Ottawa website offer guidance on how to complete these projects.

More information about how to reduce your energy use

Resources for tenants, condos and apartments

If you rent your home talk to your landlord about making some energy efficiency upgrades. They will save you money and increase the value of the property. Landlords are eligible for financing through the Better Homes Ottawa – Loan Program.

If you own a condo get involved in your Condo board so you can influence the buildings energy efficiency decisions.

There are many small changes you can make around your home to use less energy such as lowering your thermostat, replacing incandescent light bulbs with LEDs and replacing your air filter every three months. Find out more in the links below:

Choose an energy efficient home

Consider energy efficiency when looking for your next home to rent or buy. An energy-efficient home has many benefits. It is cheaper to heat and cool, more comfortable to live in, has improved indoor air quality and is better for the environment.

Questions to ask when buying or renting a new home:

  • Is the home certified or rated? Look for energy efficiency labels such as EnerGuide, ENERGY STAR or R-2000. These labels will help you better understand the energy efficiency of the home. If the home has an EnerGuide label, it means a EnerGuide home evaluation was completed. Ask to see a copy of the report and if any upgrades were completed.
  • How efficient is the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC)? What is the fuel source? Look for an ENERGY STAR rated heat pump or furnace. Space heating represents 61 per cent of the average home’s energy uses and offers the most potential for cutting your energy bill.
  • Have you completed any energy efficiency upgrades? Look for improvements such as insulation, energy efficient doors and windows, and air sealing.
  • Are the appliances ENERGY STAR rated?If the home comes with the appliances, check their age and energy efficiency ratings. Newer ENERGY STAR rated appliances will typically use less energy and save you money on your utility bills.

Find out more about buying or constructing an energy efficient home: