Available programs for Energy Efficient Homes

Available ProgramsGreen, eco, environmentally friendly, energy efficient whatever way you slice it, generally speaking, society as a whole can identify with these words and what they mean. The idea of how these relate in terms of a home is another story.

As of January 1, 2010, new energy efficiency and water conservation standards became part of Nova Scotia’s Building Code. Under the Building Code, new houses much achieve an EnerGuide rating of 80 or above, or be built to prescriptive minimum energy standards. However, homeowners are leaning more toward the performance option rather than just choosing the minimum standard.

The performance option can be achieved through programs such as the Nova Scotia Home Builders’ Association’s (NSHBA) Energy Rating Systems’ EnerGuide for New Houses (PerformancePlus) and R-2000.

“When it comes to the efficiency of a home we are finding that more and more homeowners want to have a better understanding of what the rating is on their home and what this means to the overall operating performance,” says Paul Pettipas, NSHBA chief executive officer. “The performance path of the EnerGuide for New Houses and R-2000 programs not only helps the home-owner to better understand the efficiency of their home, but is also an excellent option to have if the home is going to be sold in the future.”

The programs have a number of similarities, however there are some very distinct differences that offer homeowners choices based on what they are looking to achieve with their new home.

EnerGuide for New Houses

The EnerGuide for New Houses option is a measurement tool that only takes into consideration the energy consumption of a new home based on the products being used in the home as noted in the registration process. Based on this, EnerGuide (EG)rates homes on a scale of 0 to 100. Options are then provided to the homeowner to show how the home can be built to incorporate greater energy efficiency, including items such as insulation levels, windows, etc.

These homes can be built and registered by the home builder or the homeowner. There is a course that is available for those interested in learning more about the EnerGuide process and how to reach the EnerGuide 80 level and higher.

PerformancePlus Program

The PerformancePlus Program uses proven R-2000 computer software to predict the future energy use of specific house plans. For a $250 fee, the EnerGuide service allows homebuyers to realistically compare both the costs and benefits of energy efficiency upgrades. Doing this at the planning stage allows energy upgrades to be added at the lowest possible cost.

PerformancePlus provides professional advice on energy options as well as a final inspection. The inspection includes an air-tightness test to independently verify that all specified energy features of the home are included in the finished product.

To qualify for PerformancePlus rebates, homes in the program must achieve an EG rating of 83 or above. Rebate amounts increase based on the EnerGuide rating of the home:

• EnerGuide rating of 83 or 84 = $3000

• EnerGuide rating of 85 or 87 = $5000

• EnerGuide rating of 88 or above = $7000

PerformancePlus homes may also qualify for additional rebates for solar or energy efficient equipment. A home that achieves a minimum EnerGuide rating of 83 can receive a $200 rebate if the home is solar ready. Solar ready means making cost-effective design and construction adjustments for your home so you can more easily install solar equipment in the future. An additional rebate of $1000 is available if solar equipment is installed.

Additional rebates (appx $1250) for solar equipment and installation are also available from Efficiency Nova Scotia’s rebate program. Further rebates may also be available based on the installation of certain energy-efficiency equipment. Details on specific rebate amounts and qualifying equipment can be found at www.efficiencyns.ca.

R-2000 Homes Program

R-2000 homes are built as a system and include both energy efficient and environmentally friendly choices, including a minimum EG rating of 80 to become certified.

There are specific standards that must be followed for a home to become R-2000 certified, such as building envelope and sealing details, environmental product choices and water saving features to name a few.

With these very specific requirements, only trained and certified R-2000 builders are able to build certified R-2000 homes to ensure the program standards are maintained.

The R-2000 program can accommodate most housing styles and a wide variety of construction products and methods are permissible. However it is the overall performance that counts, and homes must measure up in areas such as heating costs and air quality.

The cost of registering an R-2000 homes is about $900, including the inspections and a blower door test.

“Options are important when it comes to a new home,” adds Pettipas. “Each program has excellent merits, but as with the many other choices a homeowner will make throughout the construction of a new home, this is another, very important one that needs to be included on the list.”

Additional information on the NSHBA energy programs can be found at nshomebuilders.ca or phone 450-5554.

Sherry Donovan

Sherry Donovan

Sherry Donovan is Communications Director for the Nova Scotia Home Builders' Association. She is a regular contributer to various local media and currently has columns appearing in Halifax Metro News and The Chronicle Herald's Homesetc publication.