Complete guide to eco-friendly renovations

It’s a win-win-move to get eco-friendly renovations: homeowners can boost their green credentials while making their dwelling more efficient and comfortable, and then there’s the money saved on energy costs. Improving the home’s resale value in the eyes of future buyers is an undeniable added bonus. The fact there are provincial and federal grants available to reduce the drain on your bank account can be considered the cherry on top. 

Discover more than 11 ways to optimize your energy performance and improve your comfort, from smaller initiatives to large-scale projects.

Benefits of eco-friendly home renovations

There is a long list of benefits to getting eco-friendly renovations, both for the environment and for homeowners. The overall comfort level is improved and draughts reduced by regulating temperature and blocking outside noise. Air quality is decidedly better in the home when non-toxic materials are used and adequate air ventilation systems are installed, and this is beneficial to good health.

Reducing energy consumption

You can significantly cut your energy bills by installing energy-efficient appliances and systems like solar panels, heat pumps or better thermal insulation.

Protecting the environment

Using eco-friendly or recycled materials, energy-efficient technologies and green construction methods reduces a home’s overall environmental impact and that includes any work carried out. By opting for this approach, you demonstrate your commitment to building a better future.

Increasing your property value

There has been a real estate market shift to homes with sustainable features. They have a higher resale value and are selling faster than traditional homes with a high carbon footprint. Eco-friendly materials are designed to last longer and require less maintenance, which can reduce long-term maintenance costs.

What changes can be done to make your home more environmentally friendly?

Where to start?

You may be wondering where to start? Each house has its own quirks… and history! If you live in an older house and some features are nearing the end of their useful life, like the windows or heating system, you could replace them with more eco-friendly products or systems.

Work that would have the most favourable impact would be replacing the wall, roof or window insulation to reduce heat loss. You would notice an immediate benefit if you got rid of your heating and air conditioning system and replace it with a heat pump. Installing solar panels to generate a renewable energy source can also be a game changer.

Professional help

Another option would be to schedule a Rénoclimat energy advisor to conduct a home energy assessment. You will receive a personalized report that includes an estimation of heat loss, a list of retrofits to be completed and energy saving tips. You can use this service for your primary residence as well as your four-season chalet.

Renovation advisors at RenoAssistance can connect you with a Verified Contractor that specializes in green renovations. Simply fill out this short form.

Lower your bill: grants and assistance available for green renovations

It’s less appealing to invest in insulating the space under the roof than to put in a new bathroom… even though it would be better for your wallet in the long run. Fortunately, both levels of government have established programs to encourage homeowners to undertake eco-friendly home renovations.

According to the Renovations intentions survey commissioned by the Association des professionnels de la construction et de l’habitation du Québec (APCHQ) and RenoAssistance, 39% of respondents don’t know about government programs to support eco-friendly retrofits.1 Here are some of the financial incentives available to carry out green renovations.

Oil to heat pump affordability program

Spearheaded by the Government of Canada, this program helps eligible homeowners transition to a greener heating system. This grant of up to $10,000 covers the cost of replacing an oil heating system with a heat pump.

Rénoclimat

The Rénoclimat program, overseen by the Government of Quebec, arranges home visits by an energy advisor and financial assistance to improve the energy efficiency of your home. Several types of work are eligible for funding: those involving the building envelope (insulation and airtightness), replacing windows and doors, as well as heating and ventilation systems.

Chauffez vert (green heat)

If you have a water heater or a fossil fuel (heating oil or propane) heating system, you can take advantage of the Quebec Chauffez vert grant to remove it and replace it with a renewable energy system (like electricity, for example).

renovation plans with a white construction hat

LogisVert program

This Hydro-Quebec program aims to boost energy saving by allocating financial assistance to those who carry out various work to reduce energy consumption in their home or who purchase more energy efficient appliances. Though most financial support will go to owners for residential renovations, some is available to tenants too.

Renovations to make your home more energy efficient

There is an extensive list of renovation work that can be undertaken to improve your home’s energy efficiency that affects the envelope as well as some systems.

1. Choose Energy Star windows and doors to maintain optimal heat and cool

According to Natural Resources Canada, doors, windows and skylights can account for significant energy loss in a house – up to 25%! And it adds up on your energy bill (heating and cooling).

One way to fix this issue is to choose Energy Star-certified products when it comes time to replace your old windows and doors. Products with this certification can help you save money while making your home more comfortable with their superior thermal insulation.

Signs that scream it’s time to replace your windows:

  • They are cold to the touch in winter and you can feel air drafts.
  • Condensation and frost appear on the glass and frames when the mercury drops.
  • Rooms facing south and west become really hot during the day and cool quickly at night.
  • A frame or sash is cracked or deformed and you can no longer open the window.

In addition to deciding to use certified windows, make sure to get them installed by a qualified professional. Improper installation can lead to air infiltration and leakage of the insulating gas trapped between the panes – problems that will undo all the benefits of your replacement work.

windows for a energy-efficient home

2. Replace your fossil-fuel heating system with one that is greener, more energy-efficient

You could replace your old oil or propane heating system with a system powered by renewable energy, like electricity.

On milder days, you can benefit from reduced hydroelectricity rates. The switch from the main source of energy to the auxiliary source of energy is made automatically by a temperature sensor placed outside the house. If your heating costs are high, you’ll find that savings from dual-energy systems are substantial, especially if your system is several years old.

3. Install a heat pump 

With summers getting hotter and hotter, cooling can really jack up your energy bill. A heat pump could be a tremendous asset to heat and cool your dwelling.

In addition to consuming less electricity than other heating appliances, it uses ambient air. The heat pump captures heat from the ground and air – even when it’s cold – and diverts it into your home. It gets rid of indoor heat in the summer to cool and dehumidify your house. Hydro-Québec provides financial assistance of up to $6,700 with its LogisVert program.

4. Swap your manual thermostat for a smart thermostat

If your home is heated by electricity, replacing your manual thermostat for an electronic model can save you up to $150 or 10% of your annual heating costs, according to Hydro-Québec.

Better yet, smart thermostats have been around for years now. Managed through an app, they offer greater customization and potential energy savings, even if they do cost more up front to buy. Some have a learning capability feature that will automatically adapt the temperature to daily or seasonal changes. You can also remotely control your home’s heating while on the road… perfect for when you’re heading back from the cottage!

Be aware that thermostats must be installed by a professional member of the Corporation des maîtres électriciens du Québec (CMEQ).

A Hydro-Québec subsidiary founded in 2019, Hilo aims to reduce household energy consumption during the coldest periods. Interested customers must get thermostats installed in order to register. Then, a mobile application presents challenges during peak demand periods. It goes like this: agree to let Hilo lower your heating by a few degrees and you receive a reward for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) not consumed.

You can save 15% on your annual electricity bill by participating in this service, along with challenges that earn rewards (average in winter 2023-2024 was $135). It’s also worth noting that Hilo customers receive a 25% bonus on financial assistance offered by the LogisVert program.

It can take a lot of time and energy to find a reliable contractor to carry out work like installing a smart thermostat. RenoAssistance now offers its HomeExpress online referral service to help make your search easier.

Nest thermostat for an energy efficient home

5. Make your house more airtight to prevent air leakage

According to Québec Energy Transition’s master plan, a poorly sealed house can allow cold air to seep in and that can increase the heating bill by up to 15% a year.

Common leak culprits include:

  • Doors and windows
  • Stove hoods
  • Recessed lights and outlets
  • Letter slot
  • Chimney
  • Cracks in foundation

When it comes to doors and windows, caulking and installing weatherstrips (an insulating strip attached along the edges of a door), can make a difference and not break the bank. You can also get more major work done such as closing off an unused chimney.

You should also think about weatherproofing. Québec Energy Transition offers practical advice to maximize airtightness such as installing air and vapour-barrier materials, applying sealant and correcting deficiencies in foundation walls.

6. Insulation upgrade

Another good way to make your home more energy efficient is to update your building envelope to current standards.

Under the roof

Hydro-Québec’s LogisVert program offers $1,500 in financial assistance for attic insulation when the work is combined with caulking.

End joists

Another source of heat loss comes from end joists, often insulated with batt insulation. A rigid polyurethane foam sprayed in this case would offer the best continuous insulation.

Envelope

Lastly, if you need to replace the exterior cladding, adding at least 1.5 inches of rigid insulation with an integrated air barrier to the structure would seal off most leaks in the envelope and increase overall energy efficiency.

7. Generate your own energy with solar panels

If you want to take your green plans even further, why not install photovoltaic panels? Although it’s virtually impossible to be self-sufficient by relying entirely on solar energy, you could combine your renewable energy production with that of Hydro-Québec. You just have to register for the net metering option. You could share your surplus energy with the utility’s grid, when available, and benefit from kilowatt-hour credits to be used within 24 months.

Contact Hydro-Québec before starting any renovation project to make sure you purchase the right equipment. And beware of salespeople showing up at your door and promising incredible savings while pushing solar panels that don’t comply with Hydro-Québec’s grid connection requirements.

energy-efficient house with solar panels

How to reduce your energy consumption 

Besides major renovations, there are several ways to be more energy efficient on a daily basis and reduce your home’s energy consumption.

1. Upgrade to energy-efficient appliances 

When it comes time to shop around for a new fridge or dishwasher, choose an energy-efficient appliance with the Energy Star logo. You can also look for the EnerGuide label on appliances. It will list the amount of energy used and how its consumption compares with similar models.

2. Save water with a flow regulator and a low-flow showerhead 

Reducing your water consumption – both hot and cold – will have a positive impact on both the environment and also your energy bill.

There are taps and showerheads on the market that reduce water flow by up to 40% without affecting the pressure.

3. Encourage energy-efficient lighting

Replacing your incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs is a smart choice since they consume between 70% and 90% less energy and last up to 15 times longer. They are particularly useful in hard-to-reach areas or where the lights need to be on for several hours a day.

Inside your home, install dimmer switches to adjust the light according to your needs and prolong the bulb life. Using a motion detector or timer is a good way to minimize outdoor lighting.

intelligent lights for an energy-efficient house

4. Plug in your electrical appliances on a power bar

Did you know that your electrical appliances keep consuming energy even when turned off? This is known as phantom power. A great way to reduce this power usage is to connect your appliances to a power bar and turn it off when you’re done. Even better: Use the same power bar to plug in appliances that have the same function or are used at the same time of day (like the coffeemaker and toaster, for example).

There are also smart power bars on the market that have a timer to turn off the power at night. Others feature a main outlet for the TV and secondary outlets for the DVD player and games console. When you switch off the TV, the other devices also get switched off.

Moves with benefits

Whatever you do – whether you install a heat pump or buy LED bulbs – an energy efficient home will improve your comfort, energy consumption… and the fate of the planet. Why not make the move?

You simply have to go to Start a project to be paired with a renovation advisor. You can also get in touch with us by calling 1 877 736-6360. It’s worth repeating: no fees and no obligation!

 

1. Ad hoc survey on renovation intentions commissioned by the APCHQ and RenoAssistance (third edition-January 2024).

Isabelle Pronovost is a former statistical analyst that left the world of numbers to devote herself to words and writing. With a diploma in professional writing, she started working as a freelance writer and journalist in 2017. She has always been passionate about architecture, design, and, to a greater extent, everything house and home related – an interest that naturally led her to collaborate with RenoAssistance.