Shanon's Story

“If the water heater went, I don’t know what I’d do. I have no savings,” said a Calgary homeowner.

Shanon’s living room is protected by long sheets of clear plastic that wrap around a white staircase and extend to the second floor of her small house, built in 1980. Moving carefully through her home, a team of insulators manoeuvre a ribbed hose into the attic, where they proceed to blow in loose fill fiberglass insulation. Meanwhile, in her basement, Shanon’s 30-year-old hot water heater is being replaced with a new high-efficiency model that will help her save energy and reduce her bills. With 55% of her income allocated to paying her mortgage and energy bills, she is unable to save and get ahead of repairs.

“If the water heater went, I don’t know what I’d do. I have no savings,” she explains.

Shanon and her 11-year-old son, Grayson, have lived in this house since 2018. At the time of purchase, Shanon was still working, but in the years since she has been forced into early retirement for medical reasons and is now living on modest pension and disability income.  

“If you guys didn’t help with this, I couldn’t do it. There’s no way,” she says, referring to the support she’s received from the Home Upgrades Program.  

Not only is she grateful for the financial burden that’s been alleviated, she's also relieved at not having to manage the logistical burden of finding competent work crews and selecting top-notch appliances. In addition to struggling with ADHD and PTSD, Shanon’s additional health challenges have impacted her day-to-day life.  

“I can barely function some days,” she explains. “I’m up 1.5 hours before Grayson goes to school. Then I take him to school and that wears me out, so I have to come home and lay down.”  

As a single mom, it’s clear that Grayson is Shanon’s top priority. She considers him in all her decisions, which sometimes come down to tough compromises between maintaining her home and maintaining the health and wellbeing of her child. For example, Shanon has made the decision to enrol Grayson in soccer, recognizing the importance of sport in maintaining her son’s social, mental, and physical wellbeing.  

“You do what you can. But then it’s like, if I don’t put him in soccer, I have money to buy a water heater but then it’s still not as good of a quality as the one you guys [Home Upgrades Program] could get me and then I still need to have someone come and install it. So, you’re still looking at a couple thousand dollars just for the water heater, let alone attic insulation etc.”  

When Shanon was still working and bought the house, she anticipated being able to make repairs and slowly pay them off. But as her debt accumulates, there’s no money to pay anything off. To make matters worse, she is now paying approximately $700 more a month on her mortgage, after renewing her mortgage in December during a period marked by rising interest rates.  

With limited income, Shanon learned to pay close attention to her energy bills (which have sometimes exceeded $400) and already made changes to reduce her energy consumption and save money. She installed insulated blinds and started keeping the heat down during winter months. As a Métis woman living in Calgary, she’s also received additional support to upgrade her furnace and windows through the Métis Nation of Alberta.

Yet without proper insulation, Shanon’s home was still energy inefficient. When she applied to the Home Upgrades Program, she reported that her home was only “sometimes” warm enough during winter and that she was “always” worried about her energy bills being too high.  

Today, Shanon emphasizes her gratitude for the program.  

“Especially for people in my situation, where it’s not that we don’t want to work but we’re not able to, this [program] makes a huge difference. And it’s such a great program. Everyone that’s come in has been really nice. They’ve been super courteous and respectful.”

The program is made possible thanks to the generosity of our funding partners: Alberta Ecotrust Foundation, the City of Calgary, the City of Edmonton, ENMAX, the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, the McConnell Foundation, Suncor Energy Foundation, and Calgary Foundation.

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