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September 2011 ... The Green House: Look to your mortgage for energy savings

Turn off the lights. Ease up on the air conditioning. Turn the thermostat down. Switch to energy-efficient appliances. We’re all getting the “green” message. There are good, sound reasons for saving energy: from doing your bit at home to reduce the strain on the planet, to enjoying the bottom-line financial savings from a lower energy bill.

There are many financial grants and rebates designed to help you turn your home into a  “green” house. Natural Resources Canada’s ecoENERGY Retrofit program provides up to $5,000 to homeowners to help them implement energy saving projects. This popular program had expired but was renewed in the last budget, and is again available for the period June 6, 2011 to March 31, 2012. Visit to learn all the details. If you’re thinking green at your house, check out the list of provincial and municipal incentives that might also apply to your project.

To qualify for an ecoEnergy grant, arrange for an NRCanada licensed energy advisor to perform a residential energy assessment, which will identify how your home uses energy and where it is being wasted. The advisor will outline how to improve the comfort of your home and cut heating and cooling costs, while ensuring adequate ventilation for a healthy indoor environment for your family.

The real financial incentive, of course, is the long-term energy savings you’ll get from your energy improvements. That’s why the mortgage industry has stepped up with their own incentives to help you make these long-term energy investments in your home.

Canadian mortgage insurers – Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp (CMHC) and Genworth Financial Canada – have specific programs to encourage Canadians to build or buy energy-efficient homes… or to retrofit their existing homes. Canadians purchasing an energy-efficient home (generally considered to be a home certified EnerGuide Rated 77+ or R2000 by the builder) are eligible for a 10% mortgage insurance premium refund, for example. Existing homeowners who make retrofits to improve energy efficiency can also apply for a refund.

Let’s say you’re looking at a home valued at $300,000. You make a downpayment of 5% and pay $7,837 in mortgage insurance premiums (2.75%). After your energy audit, you then upgrade insulation, the furnace and install some energy-efficient windows as recommended by your energy advisor. If your retrofits improve your home’s energy efficiency by the required amount, you may qualify for a 10% rebate on your insurance premium, giving you a cash refund of $783.70. And your home’s energy improvements will reduce your costs for years to come.  Ask your mortgage planner for more details and get a copy of the applicable refund form. 

In addition, if you extended your amortization to 30 years, you can have the longer amortization premium waived. For example, the usual premium of .20% for a 30-year amortization would give you a savings of $600 on a $200,000 mortgage. That’s not chump change.

If you’re planning large-scale retrofits that may tie in with other home improvements, make an appointment with your mortgage planner to get help on financing those improve­ments. Mortgage rates remain very low, and you can use your current equity to invest in the energy future of your home

There’s money out there to help you make investments in your very own “green” house – and there’s never been a better time to take advantage.

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