I grew up around adults who cooked with propane or natural gas. When I moved into my own place, I couldn’t get rid of its electric stove quick enough and replace it with natural gas. Even though I heard of induction stoves when they came out — which intrigued me as a techie — I never considered giving up cooking with gas.
A natural gas furnace, on the other hand, I’d give up. But electric heat is super expensive and drying. Way back, when our furnace was red-tagged in winter (because when else would it spew carbon monoxide?!) and we froze, we grabbed the least expensive, immediately available furnace with the newest safety features (one of which died within months, seriously). The problem with that is that furnaces last decades. It’s better to think that sort of purchase through; but you can’t anticipate red tagging!
This time, I did. I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay to replace my dying furnace, but furnaces aren’t exactly optional in Canada. And despite climate change, my budget was going to determine my purchase, no matter how much I wanted to make a good choice for the climate, our planet, and humanity. To make matters worse, my stove was dying. I hadn’t been able to use my oven in months, and now the stovetop was getting cantankerous. I could probably operate with just a microwave…not like I was cooking a lot…one more brain-injury-related loss.
And then the universe gave me a hard shove.
I suddenly, inexplicably had to get rid of all my natural gas appliances and replace them with hydro-powered — including my stove. Say what? Me, not use natural gas for cooking?!!! No way! But the universe had somehow switched my thoughts to yes, way! I don’t know why I had to get rid of all my natural gas appliances, despite the big obstacle of no money, nor why I suddenly, absolutely did not want to cook with natural gas anymore. It was a rather unreal moment. How could I afford the universe’s shove? An email landed in my inbox, curiosity prodded me to fire off a question, and…
I’ll spare you the details. Suffice to say, people offered me a miracle, showed me a wondrous future, and plunged me into a nightmare, which I’m thankfully emerging from with a 20-year debt load. Fun!
However, my home has no more natural gas, and my indoor air is noticeably fresher. My home is warmer, and, I’m hoping, resilient against power outages. And maybe by Spring I won’t have any more energy bills.
Back in the 1990s, we investigated off-grid housing, read up on solar panels, environmentally friendly materials, energy efficient alternatives for appliances and lighting. I also learnt a lot about renovations prior to my brain injury. About contracts and change orders, how to manage a complex job, what to look for in work quality. And so I knew I had the knowledge to change my natural gas furnace to an air-to-water heat pump, to replace my natural gas water heater with electric-powered, and to replace my natural gas stove with induction/convection oven. The budget and my brain injury were the two stumbling blocks.
The miracle was the City of Toronto launched an enhanced home energy loan program. Zero percent interest, a 20-year term on major retrofits, and three grants. The Federal government had their Greener Homes grant of up to $5,000. And neighbourhoods had bulk buy agreements with Best Buy for energy efficient/induction ranges and an in with energy advisors. You want to know who’s driving Climate Action? Neighbourhoods!
The nightmare began with the financing not as it seemed. First off, it’s all tokenism. The Feds are funding loans and grants for an extreme few. They want to be seen as doing Climate Action without actually making an effort. Canadians, on the other hand, are stomping in impatience for help with financing as I discovered when I realized I was catapulted into a race for funds that makes the bull run look tame.
When I found out the city’s loan is funded by the Feds, I realized why it’s a fucking nightmare. The Trudeau government’s focus is the middle class with well-paying jobs. Although homeowners with low income are the ones in most need of assistance, loans are set up to thwart helping them. When the city held a webinar to explain to us all how this works, I wasn’t the only one with jaw on floor when we realized it’s not a loan, but some sort of weird thing where they give you some funds for contract deposits, they may extend further funds upon request, but you have to pay for all the projects — and all of them must be completed — before they’ll loan you the money. Does your brain hurt? My whole self hurt!
Obviously, only middle class with jobs can handle this sort of nutty “loan” financing.
But I was too deep in and needed heat for the winter to turn back when I found out. The City of Toronto, in my experience, wouldn’t put us through this. The staff did what they could to help us, but the stampede for the enhanced loan overwhelmed them and Revenue Services while City Council didn’t meet the staffing demand. Austerity and all that. Who cares staff are drowning. We’re drowning. And Torontonians need and want the services and the funding!
Then another blow to my budget occurred.
I’d gone over and over my budget early this year. I’d replace my natural gas and hydro bills with the loan payments, based on getting solar panel summer credits. You see, the Ontario provincial net metering program works by solar panels feeding power into the grid during spring and summer, which are stored up as credits to you. Then in the winter, you take power from the grid and the credits pay for it. I’d lined it up nicely. Solar panels feeding those credits all summer would pay for my winter bills in full. Well, okay, not the whole summer, just August credits as the net metering agreement was delayed. Uh, no, apparently not August, but maybe September. I was in another fucking nightmare. Delay after delay after delay after…well, with that last delay, I hit the ceiling. I demanded communication with the owner and contacted my City Councillor. When I began adulting in another century, I learned how very helpful MPs, MPPs, and City Councillors are in helping one with big problems, in this case, Toronto Hydro.
As anyone who’s been retrofitting and renovating these past couple of years knows, labour shortages and supply issues have caused all sorts of delays. With the help of my neurodoc, I began to call on my pre-brain injury skills to juggle a screwed-up schedule and then to assertively but politely, helpfully, and persistently get contractors to do their jobs. Not having heat as cold weather approached, and my winter budget flaming out, was a real impetus for me to start to speak up, let me tell you! Unfortunately, this need stopped progress on my self-help book for brain injury, trauma, and grief, and it forced me to set aside things like photography that are important to me.
So 2022 has been a year of fancy financing footwork. Thank goodness for my mother paying for my groceries! And the new induction stove she gifted me. As my Twitter followers will have seen, it got me baking again! The right appliance really does make a difference between something being doable or not after brain injury.
Meanwhile, the pandemic has flamed out my neuropsychiatrist. We don’t know when they’ll be back seeing patients again.