May 4th, 2023

A street view of homes in Peterborough on a quiet residential street.

Many homes in Peterborough built decades ago when there were less stringent building codes have tremendous potential for better energy efficiency, improved comfort, smaller energy bills, and reduced greenhouse gasses by undergoing deep retrofits. (Photo: Clara Blakelock / GreenUP)

By: Clara Blakelock, Program Manager & Registered Energy Advisor, GreenUP

Thousands of Peterborough homes will need to reduce emissions by 50% or more to meet 2030 climate targets.

With the heating season almost at a close, it’s a good time to take stock of your home’s energy use. How much electricity did you use over the winter? What about natural gas, propane, or fuel oil? Do you know how much greenhouse gas your home emitted this winter?

A new community greenhouse gas emissions inventory was recently completed by staff at the City of Peterborough. This inventory gives a more elaborate picture of what actions we must do as a community to meet our climate targets.

As of 2021, our homes have contributed to 23% of Peterborough-Nogojiwanong’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Our homes account for 114,779 tonnes of CO2 annually. Locally, only on-road transportation emits more.

Emissions from the residential sector have decreased by about 12,500 tonnes from 2011 levels, but residential emissions still need to go down by about 45,000 additional tonnes of CO2 to meet the 2030 climate target. This means a reduction of over 2 tonnes of CO2 for every single detached or semi-detached home in Peterborough.

The good news is that there is a tremendous opportunity for homeowners to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In our area, 82% of homes were built over 30 years ago, when there were less stringent building codes. Simple retrofits like topping up attic insulation can reduce a home’s emissions by 10% or more.

Residential homes comprised 23 per cent of of Peterborough’s overall greenhouse gas emissions in 2021 according to a new community greenhouse gas emissions inventory recently completed by staff at the City of Peterborough. (Infographic: GreenUP)

Residential homes comprised 23 per cent of of Peterborough’s overall greenhouse gas emissions in 2021 according to a new community greenhouse gas emissions inventory recently completed by staff at the City of Peterborough. (Infographic: GreenUP)

However, to meet these ambitious targets, we’ll need to do more than what simple retrofits can offer. Most homes in Peterborough emit between 5 and 8 tonnes of CO2 annually, depending on age, insulation levels, and heating type. To meet our targets, many homes will need to conduct deep retrofits. A deep retrofit will reduce energy use by 50% or more.

“The latest community greenhouse gas inventory revealed the extent of emissions produced by housing in Peterborough. Deep energy retrofits are needed to lower the energy demand of homes,” says Councillor Joy Lachica, Chair of the City’s Environment and Climate Change Portfolio.

Deep retrofits consist of three elements: 1) improving the building envelope, 2) updating mechanical systems, and 3) adding renewable energy.

Eric Ta is the Energy Coordinator at Green Communities Canada, a national non-profit working to expand deep retrofits in Canada. “As a homeowner, a deep energy retrofit can improve the comfort, durability, and indoor health of your home, while lowering maintenance and monthly utility costs,” they say.

“Deep energy retrofits will increase the overall future value of your home.”

A deep retrofit first focuses on improving the building envelope. This means adding insulation to attics as well as to walls, sloped ceilings, and basements. Improving the envelope also means making the home more airtight, so that less warm air is leaking to the outside in winter. To do this, you repair or replace windows, weatherstrip doors, and seal up cracks and holes in the building.

Peterborough has set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent from 2011 levels by the year 2030. To help meet this target, half of Peterborough homes would need to undergo deep retrofits to reduce their emissions. (Infographic: GreenUP)

Peterborough has set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent from 2011 levels by the year 2030. To help meet this target, half of Peterborough homes would need to undergo deep retrofits to reduce their emissions. (Infographic: GreenUP)

Alex Joseph, the Senior Manager of Deep Energy Retrofits with Green Communities Canada explains the next two steps of a deep retrofit.

“Once your building envelope is airtight and insulated, then the mechanical system can be upgraded. The added benefit is that these systems can be smaller due to the reduced heating and cooling load. Consider adding solar to your roof or yard where space exists. Solar systems are modular and can be added in stages and installed and connected as funding permits.”

Electric air-source heat pumps are a popular choice for many homeowners that wish to upgrade their mechanical systems. A heat pump can drastically reduce a home’s emissions from heating and cooling and is the most efficient choice for heating your water.

If you’re thinking about undertaking a deep retrofit on your home, there are supports available.

The Home Efficiency Rebate Plus program offers grants up to $10,000 for Enbridge customers to install measures such as insulation, air sealing, heat pumps, and solar panels (up to $5000 for non-Enbridge customers). The Canada Greener Homes Loan offers a $40,000 interest-free loan to further assist with upgrades.

In addition, the City of Peterborough is in the process of developing the Home Energy Efficiency Program, which will provide additional low-interest loans to support deep retrofits.

The first step of a deep retrofit is improving the building envelope. This means adding insulation to attics as well as to walls, sloped ceilings, and basements. Improving the envelope also means making the home more airtight, so that less warm air is leaking to the outside in winter. To do this, you repair or replace windows, weatherstrip doors, and seal up cracks and holes in the building. (Infographic: GreenUP)

The first step of a deep retrofit is improving the building envelope. This means adding insulation to attics as well as to walls, sloped ceilings, and basements. Improving the envelope also means making the home more airtight, so that less warm air is leaking to the outside in winter. To do this, you repair or replace windows, weatherstrip doors, and seal up cracks and holes in the building. (Infographic: GreenUP)

GreenUP believes that these programs, and the homeowners who choose to undertake deep retrofits, are exactly the type of leadership we need to reduce our residential emissions.

“The Home Energy Efficiency Program will help guide homeowners through the renovation journey and direct them to select third-party financing or property tax repayment methods to fund the retrofit. Once launched, the Program can support many Peterborough homeowners to access capital to undertake extensive energy renovations that will lower utility costs and greenhouse gas emissions,” says Councillor Lachica.

To be eligible for any of these programs, the first step is to book an EnerGuide home energy assessment with GreenUP(https://www.greenup.on.ca/home-energy). A registered energy advisor will assess your home’s energy use, perform a blower door test, and provide recommendations for how best to upgrade your home to reduce energy and emissions.

Over the next several months, GreenUP will be covering the elements of deep retrofits in greater detail online, over the news, and with engaging webinars.

Learn more about the need for deep retrofits in the Peterborough- Nogojiwanong area at our upcoming webinar on Friday May 12 from 12:15 to 1:00pm or by registering here: https://www.greenup.on.ca/event/your-home-made-energy-efficient-deep-retrofits/.