What's in an ENERGUIDE rating? Power Smart new homes offer hidden value

Image of North Vancouver home by Naikoon Contracting Ltd.
This Power Smart new home in North Vancouver offers the latest energy-efficient technology, from the building envelope to the windows.

Consider adding efficiency performance to your criteria

If you're planning a move, chances are that the energy efficiency of potential homes may not top your list of must-have features. Most of us consider the location, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the price long before we look at the insulation and the heating system of a house, if we look at them at all.

One of the challenges of sharing the value of efficient homes is that it's not value that you can see. Unlike a new roof or a gourmet kitchen, energy efficiency starts with the building envelope, hidden from the keen eyes of potential homebuyers.

But while it may never be the most significant step on your house-hunting journey, don't forget about energy efficiency entirely.

That's the message that Cynthia Curll, manager of BC Hydro's Power Smart New Home program, wants to get out to prospective homebuyers. The program works with builders and developers to encourage them to build energy-efficient homes, and educates consumers on the higher value that these homes offer. The result is homes that are more comfortable, healthier and can yield lower energy costs.

Energy savings are savings that deliver, year after year

Power Smart homes use up to 30 per cent less energy than an average home on the market and feature energy-efficient technologies such as ENERGY STARĀ®-rated lighting, appliances, ventilation and windows.

As Curll explains, one of the biggest benefits of a Power Smart new home is that owners can see energy savings from the entire house, for years to come.

"When doing renovations, you're usually looking at making piecemeal improvements, but if you're shopping for a new home, you have the opportunity to look at your house as a system and achieve energy savings throughout the house," she says.

Those energy savings are starting to catch on with homeowners and builders alike. While energy efficient design still isn't a leading trend for new homes, it's a growing one, Curll says. The cost of implementing some energy-efficient technology is coming down, making it more affordable and feasible for builders and developers. Planning with energy-efficiency in mind from the start can save both builders and buyers time and money during the home-building journey, explains Curll. For example, if the right systems for the client's heating and ventilation needs are considered at the beginning, then the right size of room for the mechanical equipment will be designed reducing waste and costs.

And increasingly, potential buyers are interested in long-term energy costs and home comfort.

"You're even starting to see the ENERGUIDE rating for some homes listed on MLS (Multiple Listing Service) and some realtors even list the rating as a selling point, similar to a Walkscore," Curll says. The popularity of energy efficiency as an important feature is only expected to grow in the years to come, thanks to rising standards in the updated B.C. Building Code expected in December 2014, and higher energy costs for many customers.

ENERGUIDE ratings offer insight for existing homes too

The ENERGUIDE rating is the key for the Power Smart New Home program, but homeowners can use it to evaluate older homes as well.

Developed by Natural Resources Canada, an EnerGuide rating is a standard measure of a home's energy performance. A rating of 0 represents a home with major air leakage, no insulation and extremely high energy consumption. A rating of 100 represents an airtight, well insulated, sufficiently-ventilated home that requires no purchased energy.

Power Smart new homes are required to achieve at least ENERGUIDE 80, higher than what's required by the B.C. Building Code.

Learn more about ENERGUIDE ratings