What Makes an Energy Efficient Home?

R-2000 Showcase of Homes: Energy Efficient Housing for Nova Scotians

Energy Efficient HomeWhen we think about a new home we often think about things like kitchen cabinets, flooring options, lighting choices, colours, layout styles, and pretty much everything to do with how your house will look when you walk through the front doors. One area of consideration that is gaining more attention during the planning process is just how energy efficient the home will be when it is complete.

There are many reasons for this shift in attention over the past decade. One in particular is that homeowners are looking to reduce the environmental impact associated with the construction of their new home by making choices that use recycled products, utilize solar energy, or reduce water consumption overall.

Another reason there is greater focus on energy efficiency in new home construction is in part due to the rising energy costs. Energy efficient homes require less energy to heat and cool compared to a traditionally built home, the result being consistently lower energy costs.

There are two programs in particular in Nova Scotia, offered by the Nova Scotia Home Builders’ Association, which provide homeowners with an option to make energy efficiency a priority in the construction of their new home. These are the EnerGuide for New Houses program (Energy Rating System / Performance Plus) and the R-2000 program.

Both programs help homeowners understand the energy efficiency of their home.

The EnerGuide for New Houses (Energy Rating System/Performance Plus) program is an energy measurement tool that takes into consideration the energy consumption of a new home, based on both the layout and products used in the home. The program offers additional options the homeowner can take advantage of in order to further increase the energy efficiency rating.

R-2000 differs from EnerGuide for New Houses, as the homes can only be built by a certified R-2000 builder. An R-2000 home is built as a system and although an energy rating is a part of this process, the process also includes environmentally friendly building products and specific standards and requirements that must be followed and met in order for the home to be certified.

There are currently a variety of rebates offered by Efficiency Nova Scotia Corporation for homeowners who opt to build using the EnerGuide for New Houses (Performance Plus) or R-2000 programs based on choices that are made in the home – from energy rating targets, heating systems, lighting choices or solar options.

“Homeowners want to know as much about their new home as possible before construction even begins,” says Paul Pettipas, chief executive of the Nova Scotia Home Builders’ Association. “And even moreso when it comes to how energy efficient their home is going to be, most likely because this affects operating costs. Any options to reduce operating costs is a benefit in the long term, especially with a new home.”

So what makes an R-2000 home?

Due to the specific standards that must be followed for a home to become R-2000 certified, only trained and certified builders are able to build them. This ensures 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.

Features of R-2000 homes include:

• All homes must have a minimum energy rating of 80 and have no more than 1.5 air changes per hour.

• Windows are low-e with argon. There are a variety of windows for homeowners to choose from for an R-2000 home from vinyl, fiberglass, wood products or aluminum clad windows. There are some who are opting for triple glazing for their windows to further enhance energy efficiency levels.

• Water conservation features such as low-flow faucets using 11.5 litres per minute or less and six –litre or less toilets are requirements. Dual flush toilets also provide greater water saving opportunities and are becoming an increasingly popular choice.

• High efficiency heat recovery ventilation (HRV) system to keep indoor air fresh, dry and odour-free. An HRV changes the stale air in your house by replacing it with air from the outside, using the outgoing air to heat the in-coming air so there’s very little heat loss. The HRV also removes moisture and contaminants and help residents deal with allergies and asthma by filtering any air that enters the house.

Solar energy is another choice homeowners are making when it comes to their new home. Although not necessarily a requirement of R-2000 construction at the present time, solar energy options can provide significant energy-saving benefits.

Encom Alternative Energy Solutions Ltd have one efficient option with the advanced evacuated tube technology combined with custom designed solar heating tanks to provide hot water heating in up to -50 degree weather.

“Over the previous six years, the majority of our business came from the residential market. Now we are seeing a large developing commercial market with several installs now completed in condos, apartment building, hotels and industrial,” says Kelly Lunn, owner of Encom Group. “Our solar trained plumbers and certified installers are very knowledgeable on integrating our solar into any size or type of hot water heating systems.”

There are a variety of other features to be found in an R-2000 home, all of which can be seen by taking the time to visit the 23 houses on display throughout the R-2000 Showcase of Homes held every Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm, from May 14 – June 5. Visit the homes and see for yourself why R-2000 is the right choice for your new home.

For more information contact the Nova Scotia Home Builders’ Association at 450-5554 / 1-800-668-2001 or visit www.nshomebuilders.ca.

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.

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