Heat Pump Chronicles Vol 3

This is the third in a series of posts on our journey to navigate government grants and loans available for home energy retrofits and to replace our natural gas furnace with a cold-climate heat pump. Click here to see all articles in the series.

With Thanksgiving upon us and the weather turning colder, I realize it’s been almost 6 months since my last post about our journey to replace our natural gas furnace with a heat pump. No, we haven’t given up, far from it. But progress has been slower than anticipated navigating the granting and loan processes within the Federal and Provincial government agencies. And there hasn’t been a lot to tell you.

It turns out, a lot of the delay was the result of bad timing and poor communication. So, if you are considering making the switch, I can assure you that your journey will be easier than mine. Here’s why.

My wife Dayle and I needed to replace our aging gas furnace. We are motivated to continue reducing our carbon footprint, so our choice is to switch to a heat pump that doesn’t burn fossil fuel. See my previous posts, Heat Pump Chronicles Vol1 and Vol2, to find out more about heat pump technology. In this post I’ll explain why our process has taken way longer than it should have.

Sorry, Mr. Laing, your application is no longer in our system! That was the response I got from the Gaston, the customer agent from the Greener Homes Grant service line whom I spoke with on July 17th. How could they just lose my grant application after it had been in process for more than 6 months!

We had submitted the grant application on Christmas Day, 2022. We had scheduled a home energy audit which was completed on February 18, 2023. We had booked appointments with three heat pump contractors and had received quotes. By the end of March, we had decided on the equipment we wanted and were ready to order. The problem was, we were in what appeared to be an endless loop. Our grant application had been marked as “eligibility confirmed” but was not technically approved. We wanted to take advantage of the Greener Homes Loan Program. But that website had a warning in big red letters that stated, “IMPORTANT Ontario Residents – If you have started your loan application via the NRCan grant portal, please do not register for the loan portal. You will continue to access your loan application through the NRCan grant portal”.

Installation work could not start until the loan application was approved. The loan application couldn’t start until the grant application was approved. And the grant application seemed to be going nowhere.

From March to June of this year, I made several calls to the Greener Homes Grant’s service line. In May I asked that my case be escalated and I was told someone from the Greener Homes Grant Office would contact me within 20 business days. Eighteen days later, instead of the expected phone call, here is the response I received,

I forwarded this “informative” response to Visha, my energy auditor. At this point, he suggested I ignore the warning and apply for a loan through the Greener Homes Loan portal. He was most patient with me and helped me through the loan application process. Despite that, it took a few emails with the loan department along with plenty of financial documentation, but the loan application was approved within a few days.

Finally, I thought, progress ! But then, disaster! On July 17th, I received three emails from the Canada Greener Homes Grant Program within less than 10 minutes of each other. The first message was encouraging, indicating that my EnerGuide evaluation results were available and asked me to log into the grant portal to review the recommendations and decide which retrofits to proceed with. Less than 5 minutes later, however, I received a second email, indicating that my application is either incomplete, ineligible, or requires further clarification.

The third email arrived almost immediately after that indicating that, “at my request, we have closed out your application.” In a panic I logged into my grant portal account. Sure enough my application had completely disappeared. Hence my call to Gaston who agreed to once again escalate my issue. Given my previous escalation experience, rather than wait the requisite 20 business days, after 5 days of not hearing anything I submitted a complaint to the office of my local MP Ruby Sahota. Finally, on July 26th, more than 7 months after my application had been submitted, I receive the following message,

“It appears that your application has been transferred to the Enbridge Gas Home Energy Rebate Plus program (HER+). Please contact your Energy Advisor directly to obtain your application status. Your Energy Advisor will process your application on your behalf, and you no longer need to use the Canada Greener Homes portal. If you believe this was an error and you would prefer to stay in the national portal, please let us know.”

Calls to Susan, at the HER+ service line and to my auditor Visha, confirmed that, indeed, my application was now with the Enbridge program as was approved. I don’t know if my grant would ever had been approved had I not complained to my MP. I don’t know if my application ended up being transferred because of my complaint or because I had applied for the loan which may have automatically caused my grant application to move to Enbridge.

I knew that the Federal Government had arranged with the Ontario Provincial Government to have Enbridge gas administer the Greener Homes Grant Program for the Province, starting on January 01 2023. What I didn’t know was, it appears no one at the Federal level was looking at Ontario grant applications after that date. No one in the grant office bothered to tell me, or my energy auditor that my application was in limbo for most of those seven months or that the better option would have been to cancel my Federal application and reapply through the Enbridge HER+ Ontario Program. That oversight probably cost me at least four months of worry and wasted time and effort.

The good news is, we didn’t give up. Both the grant and the loan are now approved and the heat pump installation is scheduled for tomorrow. Good thing too because our furnace still isn’t working; the temperature outside is 10 degrees. Inside our home it is 19 degrees and falling. Time to put on another sweater. And maybe some gloves!

Still, thinking of those folks in Afghanistan, Ukraine, Israel, Gaza and many other parts of the world, we have lots to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, despite the fact that our turkey and squash is more expensive this year than last. Next week I promise I’ll tell you about our energy audit experience. Blessings to you all!

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