Home Retrofits

Frequently Asked Questions

You can do it! In this section, learn more about home retrofits, the Pocket Change retrofit coordination service, and the Changemakers program.

A home retrofit is one or more home improvements that, when complete, result in your house having lower greenhouse gas emissions than it did before. There are two parts to eliminating gas emissions from your home:

  • improving the energy efficiency of your home to reduce the total amount of energy used, and
  • very importantly: fuel switching from gas to electricity for heating, hot water, cooking and other appliances.

When you are able to significantly decrease or eliminate you home’s carbon emissions it is often called a deep retrofit. However, if you are not in the position to do a “deep” retrofit, that’s okay. Any and all measures that you can make to decrease your home’s energy use are impactful and important – you don’t have to try and do it all and you can also decide to tackle a retrofit in phases, over time.

Most of us think of our homes as safe, cosy refuges. We don’t think of our homes as polluters, emitting methane (the primary component of “natural” gas), carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases, which are toxic to both our health and our climate. What’s more, fossil fuel use in residential buildings is the single largest contributor (58%) to our city’s greenhouse gas emissions, and of those, 56% are from the residential sector, the majority of them from single family homes. This is why the city’s Net Zero Strategy has a goal to reduce emissions from homes and buildings by 50% by 2030.

On the other hand, there’s a lot to look forward to when you make green improvements on your home. Energy efficient, gas-free homes are not only healthier for you and your family, but also more comfortable – cold areas and drafts are eliminated and insulation and window upgrades reduce outside noise. And heating and cooling with electricity using efficient, cold-climate electric heat pumps need not cost more than heating with gas and will save you money as the cost of gas continues to increase over the coming years.

Lots of ways! First, we can help you to learn a lot more about home retrofit topics. We share extensive information on this website – check out the Retrofit Stories, Past Event recordings, and In the News sections, as well as the sub-pages of the Home Retrofits section you are in – we add new content all the time. We share information regularly on the Pocket Facebook group. We have a monthly e-newsletter that is full of helpful information, if you have not signed up yet – we share some of our latest retrofit resources and news in it, plus you receive notice of our upcoming educational events and webinars, which are also very practical and informative. Beyond sharing information and resources, we have a retrofit coordination service that many homeowners in the Pocket (who we call Changemakers) have found extremely useful – you will much more information about that in the rest of this FAQ.

Our retrofit coordination service provides homeowners undertaking retrofits with support so they can undertake their project with greater ease and confidence, in less time, and with a much lower learning curve than they would have if undertaking the same project on their own. The service provides homeowners with expert advice, a robust plan (called a Retrofit Roadmap), on-going support, and connections with other homeowners who are going through retrofits themselves. Our service helps with green home improvement projects of any scope and size, from single electric air source heat pump installations to deep retrofits with multiple components that take place over many years.

We call those using our retrofit coordination service Changemakers to recognize and celebrate the steps they are making to take important, on-the-ground climate action. Changemakers are homeowners in the Pocket who are working together while they plan to retrofit their houses to reduce energy consumption, reduce or eliminate natural gas use, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.  

As a Changemaker in the retrofit coordination service, you would go through the following steps:

Energy Audit

  • You first obtain an energy audit to examine the current state of your home and its greenhouse gas emissions (benchmark).

Initial Design Meeting

  • Next, you speak to a registered energy advisor (a registered energy advisor who has advanced knowledge in the area of low-carbon retrofits) to discuss your energy audit, your home’s characteristics, and your own needs, budget, and other circumstances.

Retrofit Roadmap

  • The registered energy advisor then creates a Retrofit Roadmap for you – an extensive report that provides a plan with the suggested work and logical order of activities to meet your objectives, tailored to your household, goals, preferred pace and budget. Your registered energy advisor will discuss the roadmap with you, including the pros and cons of your options.

Retrofit Work Begins

  • Once the Retrofit Roadmap is complete and before you begin your retrofit, you are officially a Changemaker and are matched with a Pocket Changemaker coordinator – one of our knowledgeable Pocket Change volunteers who will be there to support you throughout your retrofit. Your Changemaker Coordinator will check in with you regularly and help with any questions you have or problems you need to troubleshoot.
  • You will also receive one of our Changemaker lawn signs once your Retrofit Roadmap is complete, if you would like one – to celebrate the steps you are taking to reduce your home’s carbon footprint.
  • With your Retrofit Roadmap in place, you now have everything you need to execute your well-planned retrofit, step by step, with on-going guidance from your registered energy advisor, as necessary.
  • Your Changemaker coordinator will also organize regular Changemaker meetups so you can get to know other Changemakers in the Pocket and share tips, success stories, and challenges with each other.

Retrofit Analysis

  • At the end of your retrofit, you will have a final energy audit to measure the improvements in your emissions against your pre-retrofit benchmark. You will learn how much the project has reduced your energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

 

 

If you’ve already had your energy audit, you know that those only get you so far in terms of ideas on how best to improve your home. A Retrofit Roadmap is designed to build upon your audit by going further in terms of greenhouse gas emission reductions and providing you with several options and scenarios for you to choose from. Perhaps you are considering switching to a heat pump but are uncertain whether or not you need to insulate or air seal first. Or perhaps you aren’t sure whether it’s best to insulate from the exterior or exterior of your home (and whether you should do your windows before, after, or at the same time).

The Retrofit Roadmap is designed to help answer the critical questions you may be asking about your home and how best to retrofit it. The Roadmap looks at your whole house, your goals and budget and is able to help you make the decision on all the pieces at once so that you end up with a plan that’s coherent, cost-effective, and reduces your home’s emissions at a reasonable pace. Homeowners who have received the roadmap have said that it saved them years, as otherwise they’d be left trying to pull together advice from various contractors on their own.

Retrofit Roadmaps are one of the unique aspects of our retrofit coordination service, and one of the reasons our service has been so successful in helping our Changemakers undertake home retrofits. A Retrofit Roadmap is an extremely detailed report, and so much more, as it also involves the support of your registered energy advisor in preparing it and discussing it with you. It will help you decide what work to do on your house (which items have the biggest “bang for your buck”). Your registered energy advisor will create the roadmap after reviewing your audit and having a site visit to your home and an in-depth discussion with you about your needs and circumstances. After considering all of the relevant information, your registered energy advisor will create your Retrofit Roadmap for you. You’ll find in it:

  • Detailed, prioritized actions to take (so you know what to do, in what order)
  • Information to help you understand the work that is recommended
  • Answers and background on technical questions to make decisions easier
  • Suggestions about reputable and available green contractors
  • A cost-benefits analysis that factors in Information about relevant grants, loans and rebates that would apply your circumstances and the plan outlined in the roadmap
  • Estimates of costs, and of energy savings and other benefits

A Retrofit Roadmap takes much of the guesswork and learning curve out of your home retrofit, and offers you peace of mind, knowing that a green home retrofit professional with considerable expertise has given significant thought to your home and your needs and recommended the best solutions and approach to move forward.

For most homeowners, the idea of undertaking a home retrofit on their own is quite daunting. There is a great deal to learn; much of it is highly technical; the programs, technology, and rebates are changing regularly; retrofits can be expensive; and the whole process may take a lot of time – which is in short supply for most of us these days.

The Pocket Change Project’s retrofit coordination service was created to help you with all of these barriers, so you have all the motivation, support, information, and resources you need. The program:

  • Builds your confidence and saves time by taking out much of the guesswork involved and flattening your learning curve
  • Makes retrofits more affordable, because connecting to grant/loan/rebate programs you qualify for and working to your budget are part of the Retrofit Roadmap process
  • Makes the entire journey a lot easier thanks to a good plan and expert assistance along the way
  • Helps you overcome obstacles and feel less alone by connecting you to helpful resources and a community of neighbours, green contractors, and other professionals who can support you.
  • Helps you actually enjoy the process - especially by feeling more connected to your neighbours and sharing your successes

The ongoing support of your Changemaker coordinator and all of the other tools, events, networking opportunities and resources that the Pocket Change Project provides are free.

You will need to pay for your energy audit (costs are in the $250 - $400 range) and for your registered energy advisor to put together your Retrofit Roadmap (which costs approximately $750-$1000 and up – some registered energy advisors may include the energy audit in the Retrofit Roadmap fee, if you do both with them). Although your registered energy advisor may answer a few questions for you at no cost, if you are asking them for additional substantive help you can usually expect to pay them an hourly rate for this additional work. Additional substantive help would include:

  • acting as the project manager for your retrofit by sourcing quotes from interested and capable contractors,
  • discussing the scope of the project with prospective contractors, as well as providing input and answering questions regarding quotes to help you decide which one(s) would be most appropriate for you
  • Overseeing an installation as required to help the plan translate into high quality work.

It is up to you whether you would like to hire your registered energy advisor to do some of this additional work for you, or you would rather take some or all of it on yourself. Keep in mind that their professional skills are likely to save you time in researching and communicating with contractors, help you feel confident of receiving good value for your money, and can increase the likelihood that the work will be done properly, all of which will reduce the stress that this type of work often creates.

Keep in mind that not all registered energy advisors and the reports they provide are created equal. It is best to find someone who really knows the green home retrofit sector well, and these professionals can be in short supply – we will provide some recommendations as part of our retrofit coordination service.

Some homeowners may be eligible for grants, loans, or rebates to cover the costs of energy audits and roadmaps and any fees from a registered energy advisor. Down the road, there may be more funding available to help cover the costs of energy audits and Retrofit Roadmaps.

The program is organized and run by your neighbours – people you may already know and trust – who have some experience in this area to help the community at large. We are very fortunate that in the Pocket, there are a number of people who live here who already have considerable experience in building science, home renovations, community engagement, and related fields. Others on our volunteer team have experience in engineering, technology, solar energy, sustainable heating and cooling, and more. All of these team members have come together with a desire to offer any relevant skills they have to benefit on-the-ground climate action in The Pocket. Some of them are working as Changemaker coordinators, and others are helping to organize the program as project managers, event organizers, administrators, and in other roles behind the scenes.

In terms of technical expertise and sustainable building science best practices, the program is guided by highly qualified experts, including the Pocket’s Retrofit Coach Paul Dowsett, one of Canada’s leading authorities in sustainable retrofit practices for residential properties. The registered energy advisors in our program are also highly qualified.

Most importantly, all of the Pocket volunteers running this service, and the registered energy advisors you work with, are completely at arms length from any contractors or service providers, so we are working independently and for you.

Finding really good and available contractors to do green home retrofits is one of the most challenging aspects of a retrofit these days. The market is growing, but there simply aren’t enough of them around yet to meet the growing demand. In addition, there are many contractors who claim to have knowledge about green retrofits, but who do not really have a deep level of expertise. There are also many contractors and suppliers who will try to steer you away from green retrofit options, claiming that they won’t work for your situation or are too expensive. In some cases, these contractors may not have the training to know all of the green retrofit solutions available. In other cases, they may be steering you away from a green option so they can give you a lower quote, in an effort to bring you on board as a customer.

Your registered energy advisor can help you with recommendations for good green contractors, and your Retrofit Roadmap will also contain some suggestions. You can also have a look at the Retrofit Stories section of our website to see what companies and contractors other homeowners who have done retrofits are using (most of them are Pocket Changemakers who have used our retrofit coordination service).

Right now we have more than 20 Changemakers in the Pocket who are at various stages of completing a green home retrofit. If you become a Changemaker, your Changemaker coordinator will set up regular (usually every month or two) meetings and/or social events where you have an opportunity to meet other homeowners in the program. It’s a great opportunity to learn from each other and share challenges, tips and successes.

Email [email protected]. You’ll hear back from Paul Dowsett or another member of our team who can help get you started or answer your questions.

No problem! Many of our Changemakers do these things. We understand that life sometimes gets in the way and you may need to take a break from your retrofit work, or that you may just decide to do the work in stages. You can still be a Changemaker with our service. Retrofits do not generally happen overnight – they quite often take at least a few years. Some people can get through them faster, some may need more time, but the key thing is to have a plan and keep working at it bit by bit.

Yes, we help with green home improvements of any size! Just email [email protected] to get started. A retrofit doesn’t have to be deep for you to be part of the retrofit coordination service. Even if you don’t want to do anything right away, we encourage you to go through the thinking about what you want to do in future and get your Retrofit Roadmap in place.

That’s okay! Email [email protected]. Our retrofit coach can help you with answers to brief questions and/or referrals to others who can assist.  

While you are not eligible to be a part of our Changemaker program if you live outside the Pocket, our information and resources (such as the ones we share in our newsletter) are available and may be useful to you. We also have regular webinars and other learning events where you can learn about retrofit topics and ask questions. Please sign up for the Pocket Change newsletter if you’d like to receive notice about our upcoming events.

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