Understanding Energy Programs

for local home building & renovations

Nova Scotia has a long history of well-built homes. While this tradition of care and quality has remained, the technology and techniques involved have advanced along with our knowledge of the importance of energy efficiency. Today many of these practices have been incorporated into the building code, and this means many home buyers take these methods and certifications for granted. But are all new homes the same when it comes to energy efficiency? What options are standard, and which are optional? What should home owners consider when choosing a home and where can they go for guidance?

To demystify the options and standards of energy efficiency, the following is a summary of the popular registered energy programs available in Nova Scotia, along with comments from the home-builders that use these methods and practices.




Passive House

Passive building uses a set of design principles to attain a measurable and rigorous level of energy efficiency within a specific quantifiable comfort level. In short, a passive house is built to the strictest energy efficiency standards. Certification through the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS), specifies that these homes must be fully insulated, airtight, have high-performance windows and doors, use balanced heat- and moisture-recovery ventilation, and use the sun’s energy in a way that helps keep the house warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Passive house builders are trained in passive house standards and subject to inspection by a third party. All passive homes are covered under warranty, to ensure those standards are adhered to and to provide homeowners with peace of mind.

“When you build your home with energy efficiency in mind, you’re building for now and the future. At Sawlor Built Homes, we are certified to build to all levels of energy efficiency standards practiced in Nova Scotia, including building passive homes. With rising energy costs and consumer expectations of comfortable, responsible and healthy living, the Passive House is one of the best ways to achieve this.”

~ Keith Sawlor, Sawlor Built Homes


Net Zero

A net-zero house is designed and built to reduce household energy needs to a minimum. The construction includes on-site renewable energy systems, so the house may produce as much energy as it consumes. These homes supply electricity to the grid when it is producing more than it needs and draws from the grid when household demands exceed the amount of electricity produced on site. Taken over a year, the energy supplied to the grid balances the energy drawn from the grid, thus achieving net- zero annual energy consumption. Built to higher standards than conventional new homes, a Net Zero Home is more durable – with high performance, warm windows, better insulated walls and roof and water-saving fixtures and appliances.

“A Net Zero home is one that, on an annual basis, produces an equal amount of energy to what is being consumed. Therefore, it is of little surprise that clients are becoming more and more interested in building Net Zero homes given the rising prices of furnace oil and power expenses. Denim Homes was created out of a dedication to building energy efficient homes and we are most proud of our ongoing commitment to lead the industry with our expertise in Net Zero options.”

~ Caleb Howden, Denim Homes



An R-2000 home is designed, built, tested and certified to meet exacting technical standards that exceed current Canadian building codes. These homes offer significant energy savings, health and comfort advantages and are more environmentally friendly than the conventional home. Exclusively constructed by specially trained builders, R-2000 homes feature continuous whole house ventilation, environmentally friendly building products, a continuous building envelope to reduce drafts and cold spots and energy-efficient appliances, lighting, doors and windows. All R-2000 homes receive a certificate from Natural Resources Canada to ensure it meets these standards.

“There are many benefits to an R-2000 home, including healthier indoor air quality, healthier building products and materials and reduced energy bills. At Whitestone, we take the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption seriously, as well as the comfort and economic savings of our homebuyers. R-2000 certification is backed by over 20 years of research by both government and industry and are proud to be a licensed R-2000 builder.”

~ Tamara Barker-Watson,

Whitestone Building and Renovations


Energy Star

ENERGY STAR is an internationally recognized brand and a trusted symbol for identifying energy-efficient products – you probably already have kitchen or laundry appliances or a television with the Energy Star rating. Today, new homes can also be Energy Star qualified and receive a corresponding certificate and label which is placed on the electrical panel. This rating represents the standard of energy efficiency developed by the Government of Canada and Canada’s home building professionals. Builders can obtain the standard by meeting an energy performance target based on predetermined conditions. Such homes are, on average, 20 per cent more energy efficient than a home built to code.

“At Nature Ridge Homes, we collaborate with leading industry professionals and agencies, like Natural Resources Canada, to find a natural balance between green design, elegant and timeless style, and sustainable living. When built to the latest standard, Energy Star homes are on average more efficient than other homes. Certifying our homes through Energy Star has helped to elevate our credibility in the new construction market as a company that is concerned for the environment, as well as a builder that builds homes to a higher standard.”

~ Josh Norwood, Nature Ridge Homes




The EnerGuide Rating System is Natural Resources Canada’s tool for measuring energy efficiency in homes. EnerGuide for New Houses (EGNH) is a program designed to improve the energy efficiency of new homes. The program includes a rating system (on a scale of 1 to 100) designed to measure the energy efficiency of a new home and a step-by-step guide that offers the opportunity to incorporate energy efficient upgrades in to a new home. The EnerGuide program pairs people with a trained energy advisor who conducts two energy evaluations, one prior to building and one when the home is complete. Home owners are then provided with an estimated annual heating bill and government approved EnerGuide rating. It they rating is 80 or higher, there are rebates and incentives awarded.

“At Provident Developments, we always seek to maximize the quality and comfort of the homes we build, and thus are great advocates of the EnerGuide program. By utilizing this program, we help to ensure home owners know they are living in a greener home and saving money, as well as increasing quality and acquiring a government approved label – all contributing to true peace of mind. As builders that subscribe to the highest of EnerGuide ratings, we help people pre-determine what a home’s energy usage will be right from the time of construction, a significant advantage to the homeowner.”

~ David Hilchey, Provident Developments


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.