“I was a fisherman all my life, so I don’t mind the storms,” 84-year-old Norman Osborne says from the kitchen of his mobile home in Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia. “When it’s blowing hard, saltwater spray comes right up to the windows. You have to wash them after.”
And that’s something you definitely want to do. While his house may be small it has a view as big as the ocean. Perched at the water’s edge, his home overlooks the entrance to Halifax harbour; the Devil’s Island lighthouse stands guard over some rocky shoals. A seagull Norman occasionally feeds sits on the deck rail, enjoying the view with us, stealing a glance every so often at the humans sitting inside.
But as expansive and relaxing as his Atlantic vista is, it’s hard to fully enjoy it if you are cold – or keep hearing the furnace grind on, spending your money.
“It’s a solid house,” says Norman, “but it could be drafty. As you get older you mind the cold more.”
He’s lived in the mobile home for almost 45 years. He had a woodstove in the basement, and an oil furnace that kicked in when needed. He cut his own wood, but could still spend well over $2,000 a year for heating oil. A few years ago he switched to a heat pump as his primary source of warmth. The oil furnace was relegated to an increasingly infrequent backup.
Norman had made his living as an inshore fisherman. “I caught everything,” he says, “cod, haddock, lobster, crab.” His old Cape Islander boat sits in the snow in his backyard. Retired going on 12 years now, he does miss his time on the water.
“But fishing didn’t earn you a lot back in my day. I remember when I was young, you’d get a cent a pound for cod, and you had to salt and dry it first,” says Norman. “So I don’t have lots of savings.” He lives alone, not counting Daisy, his 10-year-old Boston terrier.
That made high heating bills a challenge, and he didn’t have the funds to do upgrades. “I have enough to get by, but there’s not much left.”
The heat pump and some upgrades installed through Housing Nova Scotia made a difference in both comfort and savings, but in the winter “you could still feel the cold coming up from the floor.” The heat pump had to work hard, and that can increase power bills. Then Norman heard about HomeWarming from his city Councillor.
HomeWarming offers no-charge energy assessments and home upgrades to income-qualified homeowners. If an efficiency audit discovers that upgrades will help reduce heating and power bills, they will be installed at no cost to the homeowner.
Clean Foundation and Efficiency Nova Scotia help the qualified homeowners enjoy these upgrades. Clean looks after electrically heated homes, while Efficiency takes care of houses with non-electric heat sources. The program is supported by Nova Scotia Power and the Province of Nova Scotia.
“Norman’s home is unique in that he had poured a full foundation and placed the mobile home on top,” says Eben Fry, Clean’s Energy Advisor who was assigned to the house. “This provided us the opportunity to add spray foam insulation to his previously un-insulated basement walls, and mineral wool batt insulation to the headers. We also replaced a poorly functioning bathroom fan to reduce the indoor humidity and improve the air quality.”
“These upgrades resulted in an estimated 37% reduction in his overall energy consumption, and a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, which is fantastic.”
“It’s so warm now, you don’t feel the cold coming through like I did,” says Norman. “And last winter I only burned half a tank of furnace oil. The Clean guy was good to me.”
“And I really enjoyed working with Norman,” replies Eben. “I had a chance to chat with him about the history of the area and the changes he’s seen to the Eastern Passage area in his lifetime. As a person who spends a lot of time on the water myself (sea kayaking and occasionally surfing) I was very interested in his extensive knowledge of the local islands and sea conditions.”
“It’s always a pleasure to work with people like Norman, seniors who are doing what they can to stay in the homes where they’ve often spent most of their lives. Of course the benefits of our work to the environment is very important, but it’s so rewarding when you can physically feel the changes in a home’s warmth and comfort, and see the pleasure that the results of our work bring to the homeowners.”
Norman says he is talking up the program. “I’d recommend HomeWarming, definitely. In fact, a neighbour of mine, she lost her husband a few years ago and she doesn’t have a lot to live on, so I told her about it.”
Norman finishes his tea, and the hopeful seagull stares at him. Daisy sleeps contently in the cozy living room. “HomeWarming was great, I have no complaints whatsoever. I don’t, but even if I did, well, it was free!”
Efficiency Nova Scotia offers low-income homeowners free energy efficiency improvements that can help them feel more comfortable while reducing heating and power bills. And these upgrades are provided at no-cost thanks to the generous support from the Province of Nova Scotia. Why? Because a house is a structure. A home is warm.Find out if you're eligible
You can speak confidentially with a Service Advisor about your eligibility by calling HomeWarming at 1-877-434-2136 (toll free) or by filling in the form below. Intake will be completed by Efficiency Nova Scotia to provide an easy process for all applicants.
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