Helping hands – rebates and tax credits help take the pain out of renovating
Upgrading your home, to make it more energy efficient or to make it safer and more independent for the elderly and disabled, can put a strain on your financial resources. Fortunately, there is a range of programs that you may be able to access.
Federal, provincial, and sometimes municipal governments most often provide nonrefundable tax credits – specific dollar amounts that you can apply against your tax bill – for expenses you incur related to energy or accessibility enhancements. They may also provide refundable tax credits – cash that is given to you to offset these costs.
Federal and provincial agencies – such as Energy Efficiency Alberta and NB Smart Habits Efficiency Programs – electric utility companies – such as Hydro One and BC Hydro – and private energy companies – including Enbridge and Fortis – typically offer rebate programs that provide cash incentives to offset labour or product purchase costs related to the reduction of energy consumption.
Most rebates and tax credits have to do with energy conservation, and include, for example, incentives to undertake a whole house energy audit, upgrade your heating system or draft proof your house, install more energy-efficient appliances such as furnaces, heat pumps, or water heaters, replace older windows with higher efficiency units, install solar panels, or top up the insulation in your house. Additionally, there are programs for making houses more accessible to the disabled and elderly. Some of these programs are geared to low-income earners, others specifically for disabled people. Typical improvements that may be eligible for rebates include widening or paving your driveway, reconfiguring bathrooms to make them wheelchair accessible, and installing access ramps, slip-resistant surfaces, handrails, automatic garage door openers, and transfer aids for mobility devices.
There are also federal programs specifically for first-time home buyers, including the First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit, which provides a tax credit of up to $5,000, the GST/HST New Housing Rebate that provides a tax rebate on a portion of the GST or HST that you paid, and the Home Buyers’ Plan that allows you to withdraw a portion of your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) to apply towards a purchase.
Upgrading your home to save energy, or making modifications for the elderly or disabled, can be an expensive and time-consuming process. If you plan on doing any of these improvements, the time spent researching available programs can be a wise investment.
In all cases it’s important to find out about qualification criteria for specific programs and how to apply for the program before you begin any work, rather than doing the work and then applying to a program.
Where to Start
National Resources Canada maintains an extensive, up-to-date database on energy efficiency related tax credits and rebate programs. It covers incentives offered by all levels of government along with crown corporations and utility companies, and the database is searchable by province.
They also have a database that lists Energy Star rebates and incentives. It’s also searchable by province.
If you’re considering installing solar panels, visit SolarPanelPower.ca for information on rebates.
Some provinces provide a one-stop (or close to one-stop) shopping experience for energy-related programs. These include:
Energy Efficiency Alberta
BC Home Energy Coach
NB Smart Habits Efficiency Programs
NS Citizen Rebates
Efficiency Nova Scotia
Note: The Green Ontario Fund (GreenOn.ca) is now closed.
Here you’ll find provincial programs for home adaptations for the elderly and disabled:
Alberta Seniors Home Adaptation and Repair Program
BC Home Adaptations for Independence (search ‘HAFI’)
Saskatchewan Home Repairs and Renovations (search ‘Home Repairs and Renovations’)
Manitoba Home Adaptations for Seniors (search ‘ Home Adaptations’)
Ontario Disability Support Program (search Ontario Disability)
Quebec Programs and Services for Seniors (search ‘Programs and Services for Seniors’)
NB Housing Assistance for Persons with Disabilities (search ‘ Housing Assistance’)
NS Senior Citizens Assistance Program (search ‘Home Adaptations’)
NL Provincial Home Repair Program (search ‘Home Repair’)