My husband and I love to dream about renovating our decades-old kitchen. I'd say we're still years away from being able to afford the kitchen of our dreams, but we always manage to justify our wistful planning by pointing toward all the money we're going to save by making the space more energy-efficient.
It's actually quite easy to renovate with saving energy in mind these days. If you're buying Energy Star appliances or installing solar panels, TD Bank will even give you a discount on your line of credit. Royal Bank of Canada has a similar plan, as does Bank of Montreal. Scotiabank has some neat information on energy-saving ideas, such as incorporating used hot water that goes down the drain into your heating system.
What kind of energy-efficient renovation can you get government rebates for? That varies from province to province, but it's heartening to see that there's money to be had for small changes (such as installing a programmable thermostat or buying fluorescent light bulbs), as well as big (such as getting a new air-conditioner or furnace). You can take a look at a list here.
In addition, the federal government has set aside $400-million to homeowners for energy-efficient renovations. It's due to release the details of what qualifies, but has already promised homeowners up to $5,000 in grants.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has an energy-focused renovation tool that examines in some detail what kind of renovation you may benefit from, based on the age and style of your house.
And the Ministry of Natural Resources has a detailed list of energy-saving changes you could make around the house. For instance, did you know using an electric kettle to heat water is more efficient than the stove-top or the microwave?
It looks like we're not alone when it comes to our reno pipe dreams. Canadians are spending about as much on renovating houses as on building new homes from scratch - $45-billion, according to Scotia Economics economist Adrienne Warren. She says reno spending is the fastest-growing component of investment in housing over the past decade, increasing by 8 per cent annually.
"Energy-efficient renovations and retrofits to existing homes have the potential to make a bigger impact in driving improvements in the housing stock," Ms. Warren says in a research note. In fact, the average household spent about $4,500 on energy in 2010, and that's likely to rise 10 per cent this year.