Cape Breton woman finds comfort and ease of living in her 200-year-old home

When Darlene MacDonald and her husband bought a house in their hometown of Judique, Cape Breton almost 33 years ago, they weren’t concerned about heating costs. They wanted to find a home nearby their extended family, so they could start raising their own.

They found the perfect spot in the small town – a 200-year-old home built with beautiful Douglas Fir and old-fashioned character. They spent most of their married life there and raised three children.

View More:

But the home was always cold. On windy days they could feel the drafts and the cold air coming in. Darlene and her husband worked hard to keep the house comfortable using mostly wood heat and occasionally their oil stove. When Darlene’s husband passed away in May of 2015, it got harder to keep up.

“When my husband died, I just wanted things to be easier, not harder,” says Darlene. “I just wanted my home to be comfortable and warm.”

Now living on a single income, it was harder financially to keep up with the house. The wood stove was a lot of work, and oil was expensive. But leaving her home was not an option for Darlene.

“Your home is your home,” says Darlene. “This is where my children were brought up and although they’ve all moved out, they still consider it their home.”

View More:

Struggling with high energy costs, she decided to give Efficiency Nova Scotia a call. After participating in the Product Installation service, the installer recommended she apply for the HomeWarming program. The program helps low-income homeowners make their homes more energy efficient and comfortable all year long, by providing free energy efficient upgrades. It’s funded with support from Nova Scotia Power and the Province of Nova Scotia, and delivered in partnership with Efficiency Nova Scotia and Clean Foundation.

Soon after Darlene found she was eligible, MJM Energy, a partner of Efficiency Nova Scotia and delivery agent for the program, completed an energy assessment of the house. They discovered that the 200-year-old home had no insulation in the walls or attic.

“They couldn’t believe there was no insulation, whatsoever,” says Darlene. “Some older homes have at least seaweed in their walls to help insulate, but my house had nothing.”

Before the winter Darlene had R20 insulation added to her walls, R50 added to her attic and R20 added to her sloped ceilings. Her home went from an EnerGuide rating of 49 to 57.

Thanks to HomeWarming, Darlene’s heating system now didn’t have to work so hard to keep the house warm and she noticed an immediate difference on her next heating bill.

“I was so pleased with my entire experience going through this program, and am so grateful,” says Darlene. “Every person I dealt with were so nice and considerate.”

View More:

HomeWarming participants could save up to $950 a year on heating costs – although each house is unique. Since 2015 the program has helped over 8,000 homeowners, like Darlene, who are struggling to heat their home. Additional funding from the Province will help develop similar programs for low-income renters, non-profit organizations and First Nation communities.




If you’re looking to improve your home’s efficiency and reduce heating and power bills, you can speak confidentially with a Service Advisor about your eligibility for HomeWarming.

For help getting started, call 1 877 434 2136 (toll free), or email

HomeWarming is a program that provides energy-saving home upgrades to income-qualified homeowners at no cost.

Clean Foundation delivers the electric heat portion of the program through a generous contribution from Nova Scotia Power.

Efficiency Nova Scotia delivers the program to non-electrically heated homes with funding from the Province of Nova Scotia.

Are you eligible?

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

Contact Us

We’re ready to help.

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.


More info?

If your community group or association would like to learn more about HomeWarming, please email us at to set up a presentation.


If you are a reporter and would like to speak to HomeWarming, please email us at

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.