Investing in warm homes, and a healthy environment

With an energy in her 60s that many younger people would envy, Cindy, a native of Cape Breton and her husband George, a transplanted Newfoundlander, live in a house that is “probably 90 or 100 years old.” Both are retired but keep busy as active volunteers in their community.  

The Mullins are delightfully friendly, yet as emotionally warm as their home is, the physical house could be very cold. “We had space heaters all over the place, and our electricity bills were very high.” 

And the cold caused physical pain for Cindy, who has been living for over a decade with inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. “It’s in my hands, my legs, in my spine. And let me tell you, it doesn’t like the cold. Some nights, I seize up, and the pain is so bad.”  

They had the house insulated ages ago, but it was an older style of insulation that hasn’t stood the test of time. It settled and there were lots of drafts through the walls, floors, ceilings. “It was so cold there’d be frost on the cups,” says Cindy. 

“We’re on a fixed income,” adds George, “so it was hard to keep up with heating bills, and we didn’t have the money to do more retrofits.” Then George heard about HomeWarming, which offers no-charge energy assessments and home upgrades to income-qualified homeowners. All their walls and attic were in insulated, gaps were sealed, and an oil hot water tank was replaced with a more efficient electric tank. 

But far too many Nova Scotians – and Canadians – have not had the benefits of energy efficiency and lower energy costs. Clean Foundation believes no Canadian household should have to choose between eating, heating, and other essentials. Yet this is an everyday reality for the more than 2.8 million Canadian households that spend a disproportionate amount on their home energy costs.  

One in five Canadian households are affected by energy poverty. In Nova Scotia, that rate is much higher. According to research by Canadian Urban Sustainability Practitioners, Nova Scotia has the third highest proportion of energy-poor families. 

Energy efficiency upgrading is critical in helping reduce energy poverty for homeowners struggling to heat and cool their homes, and power their lights and appliances. It saves money, makes people more comfortable, and reduces some stress associated with bills. 

Energy efficiency is also a vital tool in efforts to dramatically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, as 13 per cent of Nova Scotia’s GHG emissions come from buildings. Across Canada, buildings are the third largest source of GHG missions. As the vast majority of housing stock has already been constructed, immediate and wide-ranging investments in retrofits are essential.  

That’s why Clean – and energy efficiency advocates across the country – are calling for governments at all levels to take a leadership position in expanding the scale and scope of low-income energy efficiency funding. 

With the 2022 federal budget on the horizon, there is an opportunity to include funding for energy efficiency for lower income households. The budget should prioritize lower-income citizens and the least efficient homes for federal funding delivered in the form of no-cost energy retrofits.  

We need more success stories like Cindy and George. As a result of the energy efficiency upgrades they received, their house is significantly warmer and 34 percent more efficient. “Heating bills have really come down, basically in half,” says George. 

Cupping a warm tea in her hands, Cindy adds that the upgrades have also brought both emotional and physical relief. “You’ll never believe how much stress was on us. And the arthritis is better this year because the house is holding the heat in. I’m amazed really.” 

To learn more about how you can show your support of low income energy efficiency being a priority in the 2022 federal budget visit: https://www.efficiencycanada.org/low-income-energy-efficiency-2022/   

To learn more about HomeWarming visit: https://www.homewarming.ca/  

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