How to fight climate change with your home

Did you know that your home could be responsible for a significant portion of greenhouse gas emissions? In fact, households in Canada account for almost 25% of the total energy used in Canada.

Fortunately, there are things we can do to make our homes more energy-efficient and reduce their impact on the environment. From simple changes like installing LED lightbulbs to more significant renovations like installing a heat pump, there are many ways to make your home more eco-friendly.

How do Canadian homes impact climate change?

Your home may be contributing to climate change in more ways than you think. Daily tasks like doing laundry, cooking dinner, and taking a shower all require energy and produce greenhouse gas emissions.  In fact, home energy use is responsible for about 13% of Canada’s total energy consumption.

Here are some of the most surprising ways your home is impacting our climate:

  • Heating and Cooling: Home heating and cooling are two of the biggest ways Canadian homes impact our climate. In fact, space heating alone accounted for 43.3 megatonnes of CO2 emissions in 2018. That’s the equivalent of 9,329,818 gasoline-powered passenger vehicles driven for one year. And, depending on the type of fuel you use, it can also produce a fair amount of greenhouse gases. Research conducted by Vancity found that 73% of homes surveyed in Southwestern BC use gas as the primary fuel source to heat their homes.
  • Hot water: Heating water for baths, showers, laundry and dishwashing is another significant source of greenhouse gas emissions in our homes. Like space heating and cooling, many homes use natural gas to heat our domestic hot water. In 2019, almost 70% of the energy used by residences for hot water was from burning natural gas.
  • Electricity: While homes in BC rely mostly on hydroelectricity, which is a low-carbon energy source, not all provinces are as fortunate. In fact, coal still accounts for about 9.5% of the electricity generated in Canada. Even with low-carbon electricity, there are very good reasons to conserve energy, such as reducing our energy bills and leaving room in our electricity supply for other important uses like powering electric vehicles.

How can Canadian homes become more energy efficient?

An energy-efficient home is more than just a home that uses less energy. It’s a home that is designed and built to be comfortable, and affordable. Home energy renovations and upgrades like air sealing can make your home more comfortable by preventing drafts. It’s important to keep in mind that ventilations systems may need to be upgraded along with air sealing. Taking a “house as a system” approach to upgrades will help you identify the best combination of upgrades that can improve energy efficiency, comfort and affordability.

Some of the most effective ways to make your home more energy-efficient, include:

  • Improving insulation and air sealing
  • Installing high-efficiency windows
  • Upgrading heating and cooling systems to an electric heat pump
  • Replacing old appliances with Energy Star-certified models

Making these home energy renovations can have a big impact on your carbon footprint. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), retrofitting just one home, through improvements to insulation, air sealing, and improved heating and cooling systems, can reduce emissions by 25-70%.

What to know before retrofitting your home.

Of course, home energy renovations come with a price tag, but don’t think you have to do everything all at once. Installing weather stripping and taking other steps to air seal your home are more cost-effective than other home energy renovations like improving insulation or installing new windows. Once you have a solid foundation of energy efficiency, you can start thinking about upgrading your heating and cooling systems. This is another example of taking a house-as-a-system approach.

Keep in mind that most appliances, heating, lighting and other systems in your home will need to be replaced eventually. As they come to the end of their lives, consider more energy-efficient models. This is especially important for furnaces and air conditioners, which can account for up to half of a home’s energy use.

How to access home energy rebates.

If you’re thinking about making some home energy upgrades, it’s important to do your research and plan ahead. Luckily, there are a number of home energy rebates available in BC, and across Canada that can help offset the cost of home energy renovations.

For example, BC Hydro, in partnership with CleanBC, offers up to $10,000 in rebates for energy-efficient upgrades. CleanBC’s BetterHomes website lists all the rebates available for homes, including federal programs.

Here are some resources available to help you plan and access rebates for your home energy renovations:

Make change at home.

There are many benefits to retrofitting your home, from saving money on your energy bill to making your home quieter, more comfortable, and more resilient to climate change impacts. Energy- efficient homes stay warm longer in power outages and cooler during summer heat domes. Installing a heat pump with air filtration will also improve indoor air quality during wildfire season.

When you bank with Vancity, you’re not only helping to finance the shift to a cleaner economy, but you’re also part of an organization that’s working to make your home – and our communities – more sustainable. Vancity is committed to net- zero carbon emissions by 2040, and a big part of that goal is helping our members make energy-saving home improvements.

Learn more about our climate commitments here and become a Vancity member today.

Planet-Wise™ is a trademark of Vancouver City Savings Credit Union, used under license. 

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