For those in B.C. with a drafty or poorly insulated home, not plugging leaks in a home is like leaving the door ajar on a cold winter day.
Fortunately, the Home Renovation Rebates and Clean BC Better Homes programs, a partnership between BC Hydro, FortisBC and the Province of B.C., are making it easier for homeowners to upgrade their insulation cost-effectively. That's vital, as a well-insulated home is energy wise year-round: warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.
Here are a few things you should know about the insulation rebates, and how to ensure you're getting a quality upgrade. You can only claim the rebates if a licensed contractor does the work.
Insulation rebate amounts and bonuses
The most popular rebate in the program is for attic insulation upgrades, but many homeowners add at least one other upgrade to earn a bonus rebate. Upgrade the insulation of the floor over your crawlspace, for example, and you're looking at a $300 bonus rebate in addition to the up-to-$900 for the attic insulation and up-to-$1,200 for a crawlspace or basement upgrade.
To qualify for rebates, you'll need to have a licensed contractor do the work, and not all installers are created equal.
Hire a contractor with specialized insulation training
When choosing a contractor, look to the Program Registered Contractors (PRC), which are insulation contractor firms that have received additional training for a deeper knowledge of best practices for air sealing and insulation in retrofit projects. A PRC firm will also provide customers with a quality checklist of the work performed, including any air sealing work done along with the insulation.
You can see the list of Program Registered Contractors on the Clean BC Better Homes site, and if you don't see a contractor in your area, check back later as the list is continuously being updated as firms meet qualifications.
Terms to know when planning an insulation upgrade
When hiring a contractor, it helps to know a few basic terms around insulation:
R-value: The ability of insulation to slow the transfer of heat is measured in R-values. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation material's ability to resist the flow of heat through it. Rebate amounts are calculated by the amount of R-value you’re adding to a space.
Vents: Openings in various areas of the home to allow for the passage of air and decrease the incidence of moisture buildup year-round. There should be at least two vents per crawlspace, openings in the soffit under the eaves to allow air through the attic and out roof vents, and ridge or gable vents that help ensure the flow of air through the attic.
IC-rated light fixture: An IC marking on recessed lighting fixtures indicates that it's designed to be safe in direct contact with insulation.
Ventilation: Creates a positive flow of air that allows the house to "breathe" and helps prevent moisture build-up year-round.
Batt or rolled insulation: Pre-cut, glass fibre, mineral wool or other fibrous insulating material, of varying thicknesses and densities, sized to fit between framing members.
Loose-fill insulation: Loose-fill insulation is suitable for walls and floors and excellent in attics and enclosed spaces, such as roofs, where the space between the joists may be irregular or cluttered with obstacles.
Fibreglass insulation: The pink stuff most of us think of when we envision insulation. Easy to install in batts, and also available in loose-fill.
Mineral fibre insulation: Brownish in colour and also available in batts and loose-fill. Slightly lower R-value but considered more fire resistant and better for soundproofing than fibreglass.
Cellulose insulation: A loose-fill material, cellulose is a favourite for attics as it's denser than fibreglass or mineral fibre. As loose-fill, it's best installed by a professional.
Spray foam insulation: Popularized by home improvement celebrities, the cellular version of spray foam carries the highest R-value per inch, is resistant to mold growth and is often used for attics and exterior walls.
If you can't find a PRC near you, do your homework
What if the Program Registered Contractor list doesn't include any insulation firms near your community? Do your homework as you search for a good-quality licensed contractor who's not on that list.
Insulation upgrades are too important to leave the work to a contractor who doesn't have the experience or training to do it right. Mistakes can be made, and quality contractors have the expertise to spot other issues – such as mold or water damage – that shouldn't just be covered up by insulation; they should be fixed.
Here are some questions to ask a contractor:
Do you have references and referrals I can contact?
What experience do you have with insulation and air sealing?
Which health and safety standards do you have in place?
Don't forget to get multiple quotes – we recommend three.