Retrofitting Vintage Homes for Energy Efficiency

A few weeks back, we invited Greg Labbé of the home retrofit consultancy BlueGreen Group and Marco Iacampo, who is spearheading the City of Toronto’s new Home Energy Loan Program (HELP in short), to share their expertise on how to accomplish and finance energy retrofits in neighbourhoods like ours  -  lots of character (thanks to the abundance of double brick houses) and lots of potential to improve energy performance. Judging by the turn-out  - a packed room on an early Saturday morning at the Annette Library - and interest of those in attendance – many had concrete plans for retrofitting, we’ll be seeing some of that potential realized in the near future.

We’re sharing a few points of their talks below.

You may also watch a video of the presentations below or download Greg's slides.  More information about the HELP program is available here.


Greg  Labbé started us off with many practical tips on how to achieve a deep energy retrofit.  Applying building science principles, they can be safely and easily achieved.

  • If you want your reno to include energy performance improvements, provide the specs in the contracts with your service providers. The Building Code doesn’t require an increase in performance for existing old buildings.
  • When gutting your home be aware of lead (in paint and pipes) and asbestos (on duct work, under cedar shingles, some plasters, boilers and pipes, insulation) being set free. Consider moving out to deduce your family’s exposure as managing the dust is not regulated.
  • The ins and outs of innies vs outies: It’s easier and cheaper to insulate your home from the outside, on the downside, you’ll lose some of that beloved brick character.
  • Air leakage is the biggie in bringing down energy efficiency in old homes, we’re exchanging our expensively heated inside air for cold outside air multiple times per hour. Contrary to popular belief, the walls and not the windows are the main culprit, the cozy fireplace acting as accomplice.
  • When air-sealing vintage homes balancing ventilation and moisture control is key. The old brick stood the test of time because it drove out moisture with the heat.

BlueGreen Group maintains a very active and insightful blog on the topic that can be accessed here.

Marco Iacampo continued with details on the City’s new financing tool – HELP. Ward 13 (postal codes M6P and M6S) has been selected as one of four areas in the city where this exciting new program is being piloted.

  • The City has set aside $10 million over 3 years. These will be given out as a fixed-rate loans to homeowners who apply for funding for energy retrofits to the City. The loan will be attached to the property – not the homeowner – and repaid over time through the property tax bill.
  • The maximum financing that can be applied for is 5% of the current assessed value of the property. Participants are also eligible for up to $2,650 in grants from Toronto Hydro and Enbridge.
  • The program promises equal access regardless of income level at interest rates of 2.5% for 5 years, 3.75% for 10 years and 4.25% for a 15-year term. In addition, an admin fee of 2% of the funding amount is charged and amortized of the loan term.
  • The City will provide an initial 10% of the funds upon signing of the funding agreement (following pre-qualification and a home energy assessment). The remainder of the funds will be disbursed 7-10 days from completion of the measures agreed upon measures.

To find out more or to apply, visit the City of Toronto’s web portal.

Green  13 would like to thank the Annette Street Library for making these seminars possible by providing a space where the community can meet and the Good Neighbour for donating their excellent coffee – indispensible on a Saturday morning. Warm thanks also to Vincent for recording the event.