A popular federal grant program is closing after only being around for four years, although it has already made an impact in Stratford.
Anna Stratton is a homeowner in the city and a beneficiary of the Greener Homes Grant, a program aimed to offset the costs of green energy retrofits like more efficient insulation, windows and doors, heat pumps, and renewable energy systems.
Stratton said she did it because it is imperative for citizens to make a change.
“The reality is that climate change is happening, the temperatures are warmer,” she said. “I think anything that encourages us to get off of natural gas, or fossil gas or fossil fuels, we have to. It's the most important thing facing us.”
In response to high demand, Enbridge Gas, which partnered with the government to deliver the grant program in Ontario, and the government closed their respective application portals recently.
Currently, there are more than half a million applications for the grant already in, nearing the $2.6-billion budget for the program.
Stratton received the maximum amount, $5,000, in 2021. It went to the install of a heat pump, a heating and cooling device for homes that uses a refrigeration cycle: moving heat from outside to warm a house or from a house to the outdoors, cooling a home when the temperatures get hot.
Stratton was interested in getting off natural gas but it wasn’t until her home needed a new furnace that she began to seriously consider it.
She didn’t know much about them so phoned up Aire One Heating & Cooling, an HVAC company based in Kitchener, who explained how they work and pointed her towards the grant.
After doing some research, she had an energy assessment done and decided to go through with making a change.
Stratton doesn’t believe that at the time she would have made the jump if not for the Greener Homes Grant. Although she received the maximum amount from the grant, it was still a costly endeavour.
After the grant, the energy assessment, and the installation of the heat pump, she was out of pocket about the same amount of money as if she bought a brand-new furnace.
Month-to-month, so far, it is also not been much of a saver. She claimed her costs are about the same, although now more weighted on her monthly electric bill rather than her gas bill.
That being said, she said she is incredibly happy with her decision and only wished that there was more money from the grant to go around.
Mike Sullivan is another Stratford resident who used the program, though has yet to receive the money for his investments just yet.
Like Stratton, he had an interest in moving away from natural gasses.
“When you do the math and multiply by the efficiency of the furnace, and the efficiency of the pump, even with our natural gas prices pretty low relative to the rest of the world, electric heat pump comes in at almost exactly the same as natural gas,” Sullivan said.
But the rub is that he thinks natural gas will only get more expensive, due to carbon taxes.
“I'm going to be ahead of the game with a heat pump,” he said.
Both Stratton and Sullivan have not fully moved off of natural gas. The heat pump he has installed does not deliver heat when temperatures drop below minus 25 degrees. Sullivan has left his existing furnace in place so that if temperatures ever get that low, he can still get heat.
At the moment he is not concerned about receiving the money, now that applications have closed. He has already made an application and had an energy assessment done.
Both Stratton and Sullivan would recommend the program, but said anyone interested would have to look at their home and their specific circumstances, for example, if they are already need to replace their gas furnace and are set to spend a lot of money anyway.
The grant launched in December 2020, and Energy Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said the expectation was that applications would be open until about the end of 2024.
Families who have already applied have until 2027 to complete the paperwork to get the grant money.
Although applications have ceased, a second phase of the program is now being designed to make the program more accessible to low and middle income families.
With files from Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press