Save hundreds on utility costs

By David Houle-Tymeczko October 15, 2021

 

 

In this video, DiversityCanada’s Executive Director Celia Sankar and Elliot Lake senior Ron Shields discuss several programs that reduce the cost of utilities for eligible seniors in Ontario.

 

Watch the video and read below to see if you qualify for any.

 

You could save hundreds of dollars per year!

 

Help with paying utility bills

Let’s look first at two programs that can help you pay your utility bills.

 

Low-income Energy Assistance Program

The Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) is provided by the Ontario Energy Board.

 

Usually, the LEAP is intended to help people who are behind on their electricity or natural gas bill and are under threat of having their service disconnected.

 

However, as of July of 2021, as a temporary measure, consumers don’t have to be facing a letter of disconnection to access assistance. Also, the rule that you could apply for support from the LEAP only once per year has also been temporarily suspended.

 

What remains the same is that this support program gives up to $500 in emergency assistance to consumers for their natural gas bill and a further $500 for their electricity bill. (However, if your home is heated by electricity, then up to $600 in support is available.).

 

To qualify for the LEAP, your household’s annual after-tax income has to be less than $28,000 for individuals and couples.

 

Does this describe your income situation?

 

If it does and you are behind on paying your utility bills, then you should not hesitate to apply.

 

You’ll have to do so through an intake agency. There are several different intake agencies across Ontario that serve customers of various electricity and natural gas providers.

 

For instance, if you are a Hydro One customer or an Enbridge Gas customer (which many Elliot Lakers are), you would need to apply for the LEAP through United Way Simcoe Muskoka. Here’s their phone number: 1-855-487-5327.

 

CLICK HERE to see the list, which includes the contact information for the various intake agencies.

 

After you’ve contacted the intake agency, a representative from the agency will have an interview with you. Here are some things you’ll likely be asked to provide:

  • Identification

  • Current electricity and gas bills

  • A disconnection notice, if you have received one

  • A copy of a rental contract, lease or mortgage documents

  • Proof of household income: cheque stub, employment letter, income tax return for adult members of household

  • A copy of your most recent bank statement.

 

The agency will decide whether or not you qualify. During this process, they will contact your utility provider and ask them to pause disconnection or collection activity until a decision is reached.

 

When your eligibility has been established, the amount of the arrears will be paid on your behalf to your electricity or natural gas provider, up to the maximum annual total of $500 (or $600 if your heating is by electricity).

 

CLICK HERE to start the application to get relief from the LEAP if you are in arrears on your electricity or natural gas bills.

 

Ontario Electricity Support Program

Now, not every lower-income household needs immediate emergency assistance. Of course, they could still use some help paying the bills.

 

This brings us to the next program, also provided by the Ontario Energy Board, called the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP).

 

Unlike the LEAP, the OESP provides a monthly on-bill credit to lower-income households. Basically, the OESP works to prevent the emergency situations from happening in the first place.

 

As the name implies, this benefit covers electricity only (and, unlike the LEAP, is not available for natural gas).

 

Any lower-income customer can apply if they have an account with an electricity distributor or unit sub-meter provider.

 

The credit amount you receive will depend on the number of people in your household and your household’s combined annual income after tax. The following are the household income groups along with the credit amounts based on the number of household members:

Less than $28,000

1 person: $45

2 people: $45

3 people: $51

4 people: $57

5 people: $63

6 people: $75

7 or more people: $75

$28,001 - $39,000

2 people: $40

3 people: $45

4 people: $51

5 people: $57

6 people: $63

7 or more people: $75

$39,001 - $48,000

3 people: $35

4 people: $40

5 people: $45

6 people: $51

7 or more people: $57

$48,001 - $52,000

5 people: $35

6 people: $40

7 or more people: $45

 

However, some households must use more power due to unavoidable circumstances. For example, if you have to use a kidney dialysis machine, mechanical ventilator, or an oxygen concentrator, then your household would qualify for a higher credit amount.

 

Here’s the credit amount for the energy intensive version of the assistance provided:

Less than $28,000

1 person: $68

2 people: $68

3 people: $75

4 people: $83

5 people: $90

6 people: $113

7 or more people: $113

$28,001 - $39,000

2 people: $60

3 people: $68

4 people: $75

5 people: $83

6 people: $90

7 or more people: $113

$39,001 - $48,000

3 people: $52

4 people: $60

5 people: $68

6 people: $75

7 or more people: $83

$48,001 - $52,000

5 people: $52

6 people: $60

7 or more people: $68

 

In order to apply to the OESP, just visit the Ontario Energy Board’s website and start an application. CLICK HERE to start the application.

 

Energy-saving upgrades done for you

Now let’s look at some programs that can help you save even more on utility costs by reducing energy inefficiencies in your home.

 

With the following two programs, service providers swoop in and do a whole range of things for you as well as give you a bunch of neat, energy-saving stuff, if you qualify.

 

Energy Affordability Program

The first is the Energy Affordability Program. This is run by the Independent Electricity System Operator under the brand name “Save on Energy”. This is intended to help households of certain income levels to lower their electricity costs.

 

To be eligible for the Energy Affordability Program, you must be an Ontario resident who is responsible for paying monthly electricity bills as a homeowner or a renter. The type of support you receive will depend on your household income from the previous year and the number of members in your household.

 

There are two types of support offered by the Energy Affordability Program: comprehensive support and energy saving kits.

 

The great thing about the program is that all of the expert advice and energy-efficiency upgrades that you qualify for are given free of charge!

 

With comprehensive support, Save on Energy sends experts to examine your home for opportunities to save energy, install upgrades and replace certain appliances.

 

As mentioned by Ron in the video, the Energy Affordability Program made his home so much more comfortable as it gave him a new fridge, shower and faucet heads, a power bar and much more. The upgrades added greatly to his feeling of contentment as a retired senior, Ron said.

 

To qualify for comprehensive support, you must:

  • be a resident of an eligible Social Housing property, or

  • be an individual who owns, rents, or leases a residence, is listed as the primary or secondary utility account holder, and meets one of the following criteria:

  • have an annual household income for the previous year that does not exceed $36,578 for an individual and $51,729 for a couple (there are different thresholds for larger household sizes)

  • received one of the following types of assistance in the past 12 months:

    • Allowance for the Survivor

    • Guaranteed Income Supplement

    • Ontario Works

    • Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)

  • received a grant from the Low-income Energy Assistance Program or were part of the Ontario Electricity Support Program within the last 12 months

  • qualified to participate in a natural gas income-eligible demand side management (DSM) program during the past 12 months.

If you don’t qualify for comprehensive support, you can still receive a free energy saving kit that contains products to help you save energy around your home.

 

You can qualify for an energy saving kit if you:

  • own, rent, or lease a residence in Ontario and are listed as the primary or secondary utility account holder

  • do not meet the eligibility for comprehensive support

  • have an annual household income for the previous year that does not exceed $46,748 for an individual and $58,453 for a couple. (There are different thresholds for larger household sizes.)

 

If you’re thinking of applying for the Energy Affordability Program, you can sign up by calling 1-855-591-0877.

 

You can also reach the program by the following email address: eap@saveonenergy.ca.

 

For more information, CLICK HERE to visit Save on Energy’s website.

 

Home Winterproofing Program

This next program is similar to the Energy Affordability Program, but is only available to Enbridge Gas customers and applies to natural gas usage instead of electricity usage.

 

The Home Winterproofing Program (HWP) by the natural gas company Enbridge Gas offers upgrades that include insulation, draft-proofing to stop hot air from escaping, and a smart thermostat that automatically adjusts to optimize your energy use.

 

To be eligible for the HWP, you need:

  • an Enbridge Gas account in your name

  • to have your home heated with a natural gas furnace or boiler

  • to meet one of the following criteria:

  • your household income is below $36,578 for an individual and below $51,729 for a couple (there are different thresholds for larger households)

  • you receive assistance from one of these government programs:

    • Ontario Works

    • Ontario Disability Support Program

    • LEAP Emergency Financial Assistance Grant

    • Guaranteed Income Supplement

    • Allowance for Survivors

    • Healthy Smiles

    • Ontario Electricity Support Program

    • Energy Assistance Program (EAP), formally known as the Home Assistance Program (HAP).

 

After you apply, Enbridge Gas will contact you for follow-up questions. You’ll then have to schedule a visit by one of their experts who will inspect your home for opportunities for upgrades.

 

Any upgrades you qualify for will be free of cost and Enbridge Gas will have follow-up visits to make sure they work.

 

CLICK HERE to apply for the Home Winterproofing Program.

 

 

. .

Rebates for energy-saving upgrades you do

Finally, we’ll look at two programs that can help you save even more on utility costs by reducing energy inefficiencies in your home.

 

Unlike the previous two programs (where service providers would do upgrades for you and give you energy-saving stuff) with these programs you have to spend your own funds upfront to make energy-saving changes. However, you’ll be able to apply to get back thousands of dollars to cover your expenses.

 

Enbridge Home Efficiency Rebate

This program is available only to customers of the energy company Enbridge Gas and is therefore intended for those who heat their homes by natural gas.

 

To participate in the program, you have to have your home tested by an approved energy advisor to see where improvements can be made. Then you spend out-of-pocket to do upgrades to things like insulation, air sealing, windows and doors, water heaters, boilers, furnaces.

 

You don’t have to do work on all of these areas. If you complete at least two of the recommended upgrades, you’ll get up to $5,000 of what you spent back as a rebate from Enbridge.

 

You’ll also get a rebate on the energy efficiency assessment that will have to be done before and after you do the upgrades. That cost is usually about $600. (Thus the total maximum amount you’ll be able to get back through this program is $5,600.)

 

CLICK HERE to start the process for the Enbridge Home Efficiency Rebate.

 

Canada Greener Homes Grant

The final program we’ll look at which seniors can access to save on energy costs by making their homes more energy efficient is the Canada Greener Homes Grant (CGHG).

 

The Government of Canada has created this program with the objectives of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making homes more affordable to maintain.

 

The CGHG provides homeowners with a grant of up to $5,000 to reimburse them for making energy efficient retrofits to their homes.

 

The initiative also provides EnerGuide evaluations, worth up to $600, and expert advice to help you plan your retrofits.

 

This program is very similar to the Enbridge Home Efficiency Rebate. However, it differs in that it is available to any homeowner anywhere in Canada and there is no requirement that your home be heated by natural gas.

 

Also, it covers a wider range of upgrades. For instance, you can get a rebate for installing solar panels on your roof.

 

You qualify for the CGHG as an eligible homeowner if your residence falls into one of the following categories:

  • Single and semi-detached houses

  • Row housing

  • Townhomes

  • All-season cottages

  • Mobile homes on a permanent foundation

  • Permanently-moored floating homes

  • Mixed use buildings (residential portion only)

  • Small multi-unit residential building (three storeys or less with a footprint of 600 square meters or less).

 

Homes that are six months old or less, based on the date of occupancy by the first homeowner, are not eligible for this program.

 

The program follows four steps: pre-retrofit evaluation, planning and completing your home retrofits, post-retrofit evaluation, and getting reimbursement.

 

When you register, you’ll need to search for a valid service organization in your area using your postal code. Once you choose your organization and request an evaluation, you’ll be contacted by an energy advisor to set up your pre-retrofit evaluation appointment.

 

After the evaluation is completed, the energy advisor will give you an EnerGuide home rating and a label, and a Renovation Upgrade Report and Homeowner Information Sheet with recommendations for improving your home’s energy performance.

 

The next step is to plan your retrofits.

 

Only retrofits that are recommended by the energy advisor after the pre-retrofit evaluation are eligible for reimbursement.

 

The Government of Canada also has a very comprehensive list of considerations and tips when it comes to planning and completing your retrofits. All products have to be purchased in Canada to qualify for reimbursement.

 

If you feel that you could benefit from one or more of the potentially eligible retrofits listed on the CGHG website, the Government of Canada would be delighted to help you complete them as reducing greenhouse gas emissions is part of a commitment they have for 2030.

 

Take advantage of the Greener Homes program while you can, as it will be available for up to 700,000 applicants!

 

CLICK HERE to go to the Government of Canada’s website about the CGHG.