Making home energy audits the law

An Ontario legislator, Ottawa-Orleans MPP Phil McNeely, introduced a private members’ bill this week that proposed the creation of the Ontario Home Energy Act, which would require “the preparation of Home Energy Rating Reports with respect to detached and semi-detached homes and low-rise multi-unit residential buildings.”

Any building/home owner who makes application for a building permit on or after Jan. 1, 2010, would have to provide such an energy audit if they were planning to sell or lease the property. The law would extend to all home sellers after Jan. 1, 2011. The bill has been applauded by the Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance.

I applaud it as well — and encourage its swift passage. What such a requirement does it build the energy-efficiency of a building into the resale price of the property, allowing buyers to pass clearer judgement on the value of a building by factoring in ongoing operating costs. Increasingly, homebuyers are demanding to see natural gas, electricity and other energy bills for a home before committing to a purchase. The requirement for an energy audit, almost like the provision of a home inspection, will put more pressure on homeowners to consider energy efficiency when they go about home renovations. It means each turnover of a property is likely to result in improved efficiency, otherwise the sellers’ property when put on the open market will be discounted against other properties with higher efficiency ratings. Eventually, these efficiency scores will start showing up on MLS real-estate listings and become a key consideration when buyers are on the prowl.

No longer should people be able to hide the inefficiency of their homes in advance of a sale.

I liken this to the early days of network computing, when initially the prime consideration was upfront cost of the hardware and software. It became increasingly clear to many corporations, however, that total cost of ownership — that is, servicing and maintaining the equipment, and ongoing energy consumption — was a much higher cost. It made sense for organizations to pay a little more upfront and save much more over the life of the equipment by purchasing more efficient and easier-to-maintain products.

This is just one example of how a single, simple piece of legislation can increase awareness and accelerate change.

10 thoughts on “Making home energy audits the law”

  1. We have already a surplus of “consultants” and other blood sucking parasites. This idea will multiply the number of the quick buck artist who pray on home owners.

  2. I like this idea, but it would be good if it was used in conjunction with an increase in the minimum standard. The last time they aimed to increase the minimum standard with respect to energy efficiency (announced in 2006, to be implemented by 2012), there was a lot of noise made on the builder side, and the increase wasn’t even that significant — 35%, but this is based on a very old building code.

    Maybe times have changed now that people are generally more aware of the ongoing heating/cooling costs… but the prior argument was that it’d add $12,000 to the price of a house. With the market cooling and prices and volume concerns going down, combined with new awareness and higher energy prices, maybe we are more open to these things now.

    This is probably a more difficult sell in Ontario than somewhere like PEI, which is mostly oil-heated and directly affected by the price of oil.

  3. I look forward to the day when the second price tag of a home can be clearly seen and the benefit of building a high performance home can be quickly and clearly communicate to a buyer. I applaud the move and sincerely hope it passes.

  4. I recently completed my first spec custom built luxury energy efficient home as a budding custom home builder. After more than 20 years in the construction field as a professional construction manager in the commercial interiors field, I was always interested in “perfecting” the construction process and so at the tender age of 48 years young, I embarked on finding and developing my first energy efficient home.
    I found the perfect house, a 1937 centre hall Georgian style home that was as original as they get with no improvements having ever been done to this home (except the boiler being replaced in 1986) and I closed on the deal in October of 2006. I began the design and engineering process, attained my building permits etc and completed the home in the Spring of 2008 (I was working on other projects to keep food on the table during the same time-to explain the 15 month construction schedule).
    In any event, I had the house tested and certified by an energy audit and was pleased to recieve my certificate with an EnerGuide rating of 83 (an energy efficiency achieved by less than 5% of the new homes built in Canada according to the statistics from EnerGuide provided to me).
    Now notwithstanding the luxury appointments, this house has cost approximately $125K more to build to this higher standard than a average house, factoring in premium windows, polyurethane foam insulation, exercises in stopping any potential thermal bridges around the house, layered and systematic sealing up of air and moisture barriers outside and inside the building envelope, adding a gypsum/concrete composite thermal mass floor (topped with limestone no less) for a hydronic radiant heated flooring system with 4 zoned controls in basement and main floors of the house, retained the cast iron rads for the upper bedrooms (a sustainable design choice to reuse what were perfectly good rads that work better than anything on the market today), variable condensing boiler technology at a rated 96% effieciency coupled with a hot water storage tand (indirect fired) and a heat pump for air conditioning and heating during at least 6 months of the year when the heating demands are light (more energy savings and green house gas savings there).
    Finished it and put it to market and the economic crisis not factored in, the attention given to it by the average consumer was pathetic. We are talking the talk, but no one (or just a few) are walking the walk on the consumer side. So despite an estimated annual heating/energy savings of more than $4250 per year vs your average new home built with forced air gas and a power vented traditional hot water tank, people were more interested in why I put limestone floors and pocelain tiles (becasue to the beautiful heat transference from the thermal mass and additional thermal mass afforded by my choice of finishes).
    So my point would be that yes, I am in favour of the Home Energy Act becasue then my home and others like it would be judged by something more tangible and important. This would give the consumer the tools and the language by which they could compare to similar houses and get it. The fact that I had an energy cerficate but no other competitors out there did seemed to actually work against me as they would say they don’t see the difference between my house and the traditional buildt house down the street selling for less but they have no idea how it was built, how well it performs, and what kind of energy costs or savings they may experience buying one house or the other.
    I am just getting fired up as I have seen so many poorly built lesser homes get “fixed up” in the last 5 years or so and frustrated that the average buyer has no idea what they have just inherited. It is like buying a Model T vehicle today (and at todays dollar value) would be when there is a Honda Hybrid getting 55 miles to the gallon and still drives at 70 miles an hour plus for only a 15% premium. And it runs better, will last longer, save you money in the long run (although not all of the premium it costs is returned) and you will save the economy and infrastructure capital expenditure department (and ultimately your own taxes) due to the overall energy reduction factor attiributable to your energy efficeint purchase.
    We have to get the message out that we can no longer build the old way. Thanks for listening. If there is anything I (we) can do to help, or if you are interested in amazing house facts about possible energy savings on my new home rated at 83 on EnerGuide, let me know. I cold use some help to get the message out that people and developers/builders had better start doing it the NEW way because this will happen eventually, and people investing in thier homes today will be sadly disappointed when selling their homes in 10 years that their home is non-compliant and will be judged poorly compared to “Future Friendly” homes like mine.
    Yours truly;
    Peter Goulimis
    President- Goulimis Construction Ltd.

  5. We had an energy audit done in Sept. /08 and scored 64. We wanted new siding so opted to add insulation to the outside walls before replacing the siding. The grants available paid for the insulation and the installation of same and was well worth it. Our final energy audit showed that we increased our house’s efficiency to 74 points and we are warmer thanks to the grants available. It is a small price to pay for the Energy Audits if you are planning Renovations. IF and when we sell I will display the paper work proudly. Most people purchase their homes in the warm months so have no idea what the house is like in the colder weather; we discovered this our first winter. I don’t know that this should become law but when I go to make my next purchase it is going to be a factor that I will ask about.

  6. I’m a home inspector, ECO energy advisor and ENERGY STAR evaluator. I think that the bill like this is long overdue. The energy efficiency of the houses is often overlooked. One of the production builders told me that people are more interested in granite countertops and marble floors than ENERGY STAR certification of the house. Well, I guess this builder needs some education along with his customers. It is always nice to have a granite countertop but when you also have three dozen potlights on the second floor and the gas bills skyroclet because these potlights leak air like a sieve, I don’t think anybody will be happy in this house. Energy efficient houses will allow people to have more comfort, save money and protect environment. What is more important that the energy rating will be confirmed by an independent third party professional, using specialized equipment and modeling software.

  7. aT 61 YEARS OF AGE i am very upset at all of this save energy crap. First, I like saving energy, and still try all of the possible ways within an, economical to my pocketbook, approach to make it happen. This then is my rant. Each and every time I have succeeded in saving, because of some Idea that I have created, or used, I get nailed with extra costs. Eg. Propane fired furnace, fresh air input for better combustion from outside as opposed to inside reduced my burn times dramatically, and also the consumption of propane. Now I pay almost double the price because i don’t use as much. I ran a continuous fan in the furnace at low speed between burns to better keep the house at even temperature and as a consequence kept the use down even lower. This happened in earlier years with oil fired burners, and made the usage of oil reduce by almost half. The price of oil raised each year, and for three years I hid the raised cost in what I saved. Didn’t help me to save in my pockebook. NO INCENTIVE! They, the powers that be keep raising the cost of fuel as people get more conscious. It’s all about money and power! Damn it this has got to stop!

  8. I really don’t think we need energy audits by law. There are so many laws out, most with good intentions and most with bad results. It creates a pyramid of government officials living off the backs of homeowners and business owners. Here in California our electricity is designed to discourage excessive use. We have 5 tiers of billing from less than 10 cents a kilowatt to over 27 cents a kilowatt. If you go beyond your baseline you pay more, not less as the previous rant has been experiencing.

    The over complication of departments in the government seem to feed off one another while slowing the process down. For instance, when we install solar systems for homeowners it can now take up to three months to get them online when the installation only takes a couple of days. So many inspections, so many different people having their own little godlike say in everything. It is a hinderance.

    If a government agency wants energy audits then offer incentives to do it, such as a discount on the building permit or a tax waiver of some sort when the home sells. Government for the sake of government seems a little foolish to me and I see it in the form of hundreds of thousands of my dollars going into it each year.

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