While we’re all (well, mostly all) aware of the effect we have on the environment and that we need to take steps to reduce that effect, it really can be hard to do without thinking we have to give up the comfort we’ve become accustomed to and without spending more money than we have to try and achieve that.
Here’s an opportunity to do just that: save energy. And save some money at the same time! Working to reduce our carbon footprint has the wonderful side effect of saving us money on our utility bills, so FortisBC has put in place some great programs to help us achieve our goals.
Many of these programs offer rebates on energy-efficient products—some of rebates can be combined to save more—and some of these programs provide free energy-efficient options to those who thought perhaps they could never afford it. There’s even a program to help certain newcomers to Canada learn more about energy-saving options!
And don’t forget to read all the way to the end to learn about some new tips for saving money on your utility bill!
Fortis BC Rebates
HOME RENOVATION REBATE PROGRAM
FortisBC wants to help you save money while you renovate your home, whether it’s because it’s a necessity, you’re renovating for energy efficiency, or both. Even if you’re renovating because you absolutely have to, it’s still to your benefit to upgrade for energy efficiency at the same time because you’ll save money over the long term. So think about taking advantage of the programs available to you under this overarching Home Renovation Program.
Before you start your renovations, why not hire a program-qualified energy advisor to perform an EnerGuide®1 pre- and post-upgrade home evaluation? If you do, not only will you have professional advice on what upgrades are the most important for you, but you could qualify for additional rebates of up to $1,400. They even have a handy video on how to apply for their rebates.
How do you know you’re in Canada? Because all of the following rebates have a common theme: HEAT!
Insulation Rebate Program
The most important component to efficiently heating your home is insulation. It doesn’t matter how efficient your heating system is or how powerful your wall or space heater is if all that heat is leaving the building—literally.
If your energy advisor recommends new or more insulation, they’ll also tell you what kind you need to install and where to install it. That’s important because the insulation rebates are dependent on the type, location, and amount of insulation you install.
Installing the correct R-value insulation in your exterior wall sheathes and cavities will net you $1,200 back. Installing it in your basement or crawlspace walls will see you getting $1,000 in your wallet. For insulation installation in your attic—for homes with flat or cathedral ceilings—you’ll get $600 back, and for insulation you install anywhere else, such as in your basement header or the floor above a crawlspace, you’ll receive $450.
And yes, you can combine these rebates if you install the right insulation in more than one of these locations. Head to their website if you’d like more in-depth details about insulation and R-value.
You could qualify for this program if you’re a FortisBC customer with a 12-month history on your account and you live in a single-family, duplex, row, town, or mobile home on a permanent foundation.
All you have to do is download the application form after you’ve discussed your insulation plan with your home energy advisor and/or your contractor.
Then just send your application to the address on the form along with your invoice showing details of all work performed, including the purchase date, make, model, and installation permit numbers (if applicable); your name and the address where the work was done; and the contractor’s contact information.
If you’re not the utility account holder, make sure you get the account holder to send in a signed Utility Account Holder Consent form first.
Space Heating Rebate Program
So you’re always cold and you’re already wearing 3 layers of clothes and a few blankets. Oh, and your heating bill is astronomical. It must be time to update that heating system of yours!
If you have electric baseboard heating in your home, then this is your lucky day! FortisBC is offering to give you $800 back when you buy a variable speed mini-split air source heat pump (ductless heat pump).
As with the insulation rebate, you could qualify for this program if you’re a FortisBC customer with a 12-month history on your account and you live in a single-family, duplex, row, town, or mobile home on a permanent foundation.
All you have to do is download the application form. Then just send your application to the address on the form along with your invoice showing details of all work performed, including the purchase date, make, model, and installation permit numbers (if applicable); your name and the address where the work was done; and the contractor’s contact information. Remember to get the account holder to send in a signed Utility Account Holder Consent form first.
Water Heating Rebate Program
If you have the temperature cranked all the way up on your current water heater and you’re still not getting enough hot water, then you’re making your poor water heater work too hard, and you’re putting out too much money on your utility bill as a result. Time for a new water heater! But then, your energy advisor probably told you that already, so take advantage of this program and get up to $1,000 back depending on what type of water heater you buy.
To apply, just follow the same steps as in the above 2 programs—the Space Heating and Insulation Rebate Programs—after discussing your plan with your energy advisor and/or your contractor. Note that you don’t have to have an energy assessment done by an energy advisor to participate in these 3 programs, but it is recommended. Plus, it opens up doors to additional rebates!
Energy Coach Home Evaluation Rebate Program
Have a home assessment completed by a program-qualified energy advisor (pre- and post-inspection) and FortisBC will give you a $150 rebate. You’ll also be qualified for an additional possible $1,400 in rebates if you go this route.
This is a first-come, first-served program though, so if you’re interested, act fast! Just hire an advisor from the list of qualified advisors, and they’ll give you the application to fill out and send in with your supporting documents.
Draftproofing Rebate Program
Participating in the Energy Coach Home Advisor Program will allow you to qualify for this draftproofing rebate. Your energy advisor will inspect your home and let you know where the draftproofing is needed and give your home an initial EnerGuide® rating. Once you’ve had the draftproofing installed, your energy advisor will inspect your home again and give it a new EnerGuide® rating. Your rebate will be based on the difference in your EnerGuide® ratings, but the minimum is $50 and the maximum is $500.
When the work is complete, your energy advisor will give you the application to fill out and send in with your supporting documents.
$750 Bonus Offer
If you’re really ambitious and energy efficiency is your ultimate goal, then this is your ideal program. Not only can you get rebates on each individual product you upgrade, but FortisBC will give you an additional $750 off if you install 3 or more qualifying products from this list:
Make sure you take a look at the eligibility requirements for each item before you buy though!
After you’ve hired an energy advisor, been through your assessments, and made the upgrades you wish to make, then your advisor will give you your rebate application.
Until June 15, 2018, FortisBC is offering to give you $50 to $250 back when you buy ENERGY STAR®-certified clothes washers, dryers, and/or refrigerators. You must be a FortisBC customer, and you have to buy your appliance(s) before December 18, 2018.
Remember to look up the list of qualifying appliances before you go shopping, and that your application must be submitted within 60 days of purchase.
And you could save even more money by taking advantage of The Home Depot’s rebate offer in Kelowna and get an extra $300 back. Not bad!
You can submit up to 2 rebate applications per appliance, if applicable, but you must submit your applications within 60 days of purchase and include all your supporting documents (your FortisBC account number and scanned copies of all receipts) with your application.
NATURAL GAS WATER HEATER REBATE PROGRAM
This is a separate program from the Home Renovation Rebate Program that you can take advantage of to get a nice rebate back if you need to replace your old water heater. You can participate in this program, or you can take part in the Home Renovation Program’s Water Heater Rebate Program (whereby you partake in the Energy Coach Home Evaluation Program and hire an energy advisor to do an assessment of your home), but not both.
To be eligible, you need to be a FortisBC customer, replace an existing water heater, and apply for your rebate within 60 days of buying your new water heater.
Get $200 back for a high-efficiency storage tank, $400 for a high-efficiency tankless heater, $500 for an ultimate high-efficiency tankless heater, and $1,000 for an ultimate high-efficiency storage tank. Be careful because only certain models will qualify for the rebate.
To apply for this rebate, just buy your chosen water heater, hire a professional contractor to install it, download the application form, and send it with a copy of the invoice showing details of all work performed, purchase date, make and model number, and installation permit number to the address on the form.
NATURAL GAS FIREPLACE REBATE PROGRAM
If you dream of cozying up with a special someone, or just a book and a glass of wine, beside a crackling fire in the deep, dark days of winter, now is the time make that dream come true. FortisBC will give you $300 back when you buy one of their qualifying natural gas furnaces.
You could qualify if you own a house, townhouse, or a condominium and are a FortisBC customer.
Applying is easy and similar to all other rebate programs. Start by researching qualifying models, purchase your chosen model, have a licensed contractor install it, then download the application form and send it with a copy of the invoice showing details of all work performed, purchase date, make and model number, and installation permit number to the address on the form.
But! If you own a unit in a strata, make sure you get the board’s approval first and then have them complete and sign section 3 on the application form as the FortisBC account is in the strata’s name.
NATURAL GAS WALL FURNACE REBATE PROGRAM
Until December 31, 2018, FortisBC is offering to give you $700 back when you buy a natural gas wall furnace.
Why do you need one? When you come home from work at the end of the day in mid-January and all you want to do is curl up in front of the TV in warmth and comfort without having to crank up the thermostat and heat the entire rest of the house, this miniature heater is just the thing!
It’s also great in a room that seems to always be cold, perhaps a bonus room over the garage. Besides, they’re easy to install, don’t require any ducts or chimneys, and stay cool to the touch (and include child-safety locks).
All new natural gas direct vent wall furnaces that meet BC code requirements are eligible, but this rebate offer is for existing homes only, not new construction. You can also only use one rebate per household.
If you want to jump on this rebate, make sure you get a pre-qualification code first. Once you have that, then you can purchase your chosen model, have a professional contractor install it, and then download the application form and send it with a copy of your invoice showing details of all work performed, including the purchase date, make, model, and installation permit number to the address on the form.
CENTRAL AIR SOURCE HEAT PUMP REBATE
Have you stopped to consider a new way of heating and cooling your home? You could save money by buying a central air source heat pump if your home is currently heated with an electric furnace.
Central air source heat pumps are made for homes with existing forced air heating, such as an electric furnace. Forced air heating means heated air is forced through ducting to deliver heat to individual rooms. A central air source heat pump uses existing ducts, but instead of heating the air with the electric furnace, it pulls heat from outside air. In the summer it does the reverse, and sends warm air inside the home to the outside for air conditioning.
You can even apply online for this one. All you need is your FortisBC account number, your email address, and your invoice showing all relevant information.
HEAT PUMP WATER HEATER REBATES
Don’t forget that poor old water heater! It may just be time to replace it, especially if you want to upgrade for energy efficiency. That’s not a bad thing since FortisBC will give you $1,000 back in your wallet when you upgrade your current water heater to a high-efficiency electric heat pump.
An electric heat pump water heater works just the same way as a central air source heat pump. It pulls the warmth out of the surrounding air and uses it to heat your water. Simple!
Apply online for this one too! All you need is your FortisBC account number, your email address, and your invoice showing all relevant information.
HEAT PUMP SERVICE REBATE
We all know the downside to having the things that make us the most comfortable—furnaces, water heaters, heat pumps, air conditioners, etc.—is that we have keep them in top shape, so they need regular servicing, which of course costs more money.
FortisBC is happy to help you out with that one. Have your heat pump serviced and they will actually give you $50! This is the absolute easiest rebate program out there. Any FortisBC customer that has their heat pump serviced before December 31, 2018, qualifies for the rebate.
NEW CONSTRUCTION REBATE
FortisBC encourages the construction of new, energy-efficient homes that go above and beyond current standards. That’s why they’ve create this rebate program.
The most current rebate program is still being put together right now to align it with the new BC Energy Step Code, but the previous rebate offered 2 options to choose from with rebates of up to $2,000 available to be had.
Keep checking their website regularly to see the details of their new rebate program when it’s ready.
CONNECT TO GAS REBATE
Should you be currently heating your home with oil, wood, or propane, you could save both money and mess when you upgrade to natural gas systems. It’ll open up opportunities for lots of rebates, and it also gives you so many more options when it comes to purchasing appliances.
Switching is easier than you might think. All you need to do is request a natural gas line, and you can do that online!
Then you’ll qualify to get back as much as $2,700 for these rebates:
To apply for this program, make sure you get a pre-qualification code first and request a natural gas line. Then, as with other programs, purchase and install your chosen, qualifying models, and then you can download the appropriate application form(s) and send them with your invoices showing details of all work performed, including the purchase date, make, model, and installation permit number, to the address on the form.
Remember that you have to purchase your systems before December 31, 2018, and apply for your rebates no later than January 19, 2019.
EMPOWER ME PROGRAM
This program is specifically for South Asian, Chinese, Korean, and Persian homeowners and families that are new to Canada. Adjusting to whole new ways of doing things can be incredibly difficult, so FortisBC is doing what it can to make it a little easier.
The Empower Me program teaches these families how to create a safer and more comfortable home while reducing energy bills. The program is delivered in the participant’s native language and focuses on these three areas:
There is no cost for this program. For more information call (604) 598-8428 or send them an email.
Fortis BC Income-Based Programs
ENERGY CONSERVATION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
FortisBC offers 2 energy-saving programs as part of the Energy Conservation Assistance Program for those who have a low income and would like to make their home more energy efficient so they can save a few pennies, or for those whose homes require these upgrades.
If, for example, you have a family of four and an income of $60,300 or less, you could take advantage of one of these programs.
Free Energy Evaluation and Upgrades
Increase the comfort of your home, save some money, and save some energy by taking part in this program that offers a free energy evaluation of your home, free energy-efficient products, and free installation.
If you’re a FortisBC account holder living in a detached house, duplex, townhouse, or mobile home with a qualifying income, you can try out this program.
After an energy advisor visits your home and evaluates it for all the energy-saving opportunities available to you, they will give you advice on any improvements you can make and then install some free energy-saving products—for free:
You may even qualify to receive an ENERGY STAR®-certified refrigerator; attic, wall, and/or crawlspace insulation; and/or a high-efficiency natural gas furnace or a furnace rebate (unless you live in an apartment).
To apply, just download the application form and send with your proof of income for everyone in the household to the address on the application form (and the Landlord Consent Form if you’re a renter).
Housing organizations with multiple units could also qualify, so call 1 (866) 436-7847 for more information.
Then just sit back and wait for your appointment!
Free Energy-Saving Kit
We could all use a little help when it comes to saving energy and saving money, so it just makes sense that FortisBC customers whose incomes qualify according to the Free Energy Evaluation and Upgrades Program (above) also qualify to receive a free energy-saving kit.
The free energy-saving kit includes
Fortis BC Financing
CENTRAL OR DUCTLESS HEAT PUMP LOANS
Don’t qualify for a rebate or just prefer to use a low-interest loan to finance your purchase of a new high-efficiency air source heat pump? No problem. Take advantage of FortisBC’s 1.9% interest rate on up to $6,500 and spread it out over 10 years to make it super affordable!
The only criteria are that you are a FortisBC customer and your existing primary and backup heating system are electric. All you have to do to receive this loan is choose a qualifying model and then call 1 (866) 436-7847or email them and request the loan.
Keep in mind that your chosen heat pump must be ENERGY STAR® certified and have a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio of 15 or greater and a Heating Seasonal Performance Factor of 8.5 or greater. And remember when you’re choosing your pump that if you have an electric forced-air furnace, then you need a central air source heat pump, and if you have electric baseboard heating, then you need a ductless heat pump.
6 Tips for Spending Less on Your Utility Bill
Ready for some great ideas on how you can save more money on your utility bill without buying anything?
We’ve got some great ones for you, and hopefully they’ll help you think of more. And should you be curious enough to learn some more money-saving, energy-saving tips, be sure to read our articles on the Manitoba Hydro and BC Hydro programs!
Stay on top of changing mortgage rules
Mortgage rules are constantly changing in Canada, so staying on top of these changes will keep you from any nasty surprises. In the last decade, mortgage rules have changed 7 times!
The last change made it much harder to qualify for a mortgage: even borrowers with a down payment of 20% or more will now face a stress test, as has been the case since January 2017 for applicants with smaller down payments who require mortgage insurance.
Basically, this means that in the end, you will only qualify for a mortgage that’s 20% cheaper than what you previously thought you could afford, regardless of the size of your down payment.
Use all the tools available to reduce the cost
If you do your homework and take advantage of all the possible programs listed in this article, your dream of home ownership could come a lot faster than you thought it would.
By combining such options as participating in the national RRSP Home Buyers’ Plan, the CMHC Green Plan, and a municipal down payment assistance program, you can end up with sizable down payment with almost no effort in no time at all.
Top it off the all the tax credit programs available to first-time home buyers, and you even end up covering the little odds and ends at the end of the buying process, such as closing costs, lawyer’s fees, and home inspections.
nsure you qualify for a mortgage before you start hunting
Too many people make the mistake of house hunting before pre-qualifying for a mortgage and then their excited, hopeful bubble bursts when they find out they can’t afford what they want, or worse yet, don’t yet qualify for a mortgage at all.
To make sure you’re prepared, pay off as much debt as you can first, put aside as much money as you can by reducing every possible cost (hint: have coffee and lunch from home), get yourself a side gig (dog walking anyone?), and hunt around for institutions offering the best rates and terms.
Even if it takes you a year or two, you’ll be surprised at how fast it goes, and really, what’s another year in the grand scheme of things?
Don’t get discouraged by soaring house prices
Housing prices can seem completely unattainable to average, middle-class renters. This is one big reason why many renters keep renting. But when you do a little research, such as combing through this article, you can find many programs designed to do everything they can to help low- to modest-income renters buy their first home.
And when you break the total cost down into monthly payments, quite often your mortgage ends up costing you the same or less each month than your rent.
So unless you’re the type who prefers not to worry about maintenance or you’re a bit of a nomad, it’s worth it to get out of the rental market, own your own little corner of the world, and possess a sizable asset.
Have reasonable expectations
Scouring through online listings and touring open houses can unwittingly give you some unrealistic expectations. If you’re just starting out, you probably don’t have the resources for that 4-bedroom house with the large backyard, open concept main floor, and high-end finishes in that lovely neighbourhood you covet.
But don’t be discouraged! If you look at your list and cross off all but that which is the absolute most important to you, your search will actually end up being that much more fulfilling because you won’t be looking at that which you can’t have, and you’ll end up with that which you really need.
Besides, this is just the first step, so someday you’ll probably end up achieving that lofty goal.
Remember this handy piece of advice: always choose the smallest house in the best neighbourhood!
Hopefully the information and tips in this article encourage or help you on your path to home ownership. It’s a dream that’s more doable than you think if you go slowly and methodically, stay organized and knowledgeable, and work hard.
Start young if you can, take advantage of every program and opportunity available to you, and keep reminding yourself of why you want to be a home owner.
Remember too, that everyone who buys a home opens up a space in the rental market so everyone can have access to housing they can afford.