The Ontario Building Code Can Help Make Energy Improvements Affordable

Published on January 08, 2019

The Ontario Building Code Can Help Make Energy Improvements Affordable

Canada has made a commitment to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, and to contribute towards keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius, as per the Paris Agreement. As half of all existing Canadian homes were built before 1995, and they use twice as much energy as a recently built one, it means that homeowners in less efficient homes are able to significantly contribute towards helping Canada reach its greenhouse gas emission targets.

The way in which any homeowner can contribute to lowering carbon emissions in Ontario is by improving the level of energy efficiency in their home. This works towards making their home: more comfortable, more environmentally friendly, have better interior air quality, lower utility bills, and a stronger value in the EnerGuide rating system- helping also to improve the home’s value.

It is also important that higher requirements for energy efficiency within the Ontario Building Code remain at an affordable pace, so that young Canadians, new Canadians and new families are not priced out of the housing market.

Expanding the Ontario Building Code

In a recent RNNR meeting, the CEO of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, Kevin Lee, spoke about how the efficiency portions of the building code need to be expanded, with affordability being a top priority. He also notes that when the efficiency requirements to meet building code are increased, the national building code developers “have always sought to balance improved performance with cost impacts;” saying that this is to ensure a home meets minimum requirements for performance, health and safety in an economical fashion.

New homes are also able to benefit from higher levels of efficiency requirements being added to the building code, as they still have some way to go towards becoming an extremely efficient and/or low carbon emitting home, such as a Net Zero Home or a Passive House. By continuing to increase the Ontario Building Code’s requirements for home energy efficiency at an affordable pace, new homes can continue to be built with increasing levels of efficiency, helping to lower Ontario’s carbon emissions by a more significant amount with every requirement increase.

Every step towards improving a home’s efficiency is significant, and with estimates sitting around $17 000 to improve the average new townhome’s efficiency to a level that is sufficient for it to be labelled as a Net Zero Home, a periodic and incremental increase in energy efficiency requirements within the building code can be an effective way at closing this price gap over the years.

Efficiency Improving Products

According to Lee, by focusing on affordability, innovation can be stimulated and a competitive market will emerge for efficiency improving products; lowering prices for homeowners and making improving efficiency even more affordable. Some efficiency improving products that are already available include: smart thermostats such as the ecobee4, Magnetite window retrofits for increased insulation and air sealing, and ENERGY STAR certified water heaters.

All Homes Can Benefit From an Energy Improvement

Improving energy efficiency in a home built before 1995 can hold significant savings and home improvements for the homeowner. According to the CHBA, every dollar invested in improving efficiency in an older home will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 4 to 7 times greater than every dollar invested in improving efficiency in a new home - but this does not mean that newer homes can’t see significant benefits as well.

Recall the estimates for improving a modern home to Net Zero Home levels - a $17 000 dollar investment. As this may seem like a significant sum, it actually only accounts for a small percentage of additional mortgage payments, due to the returns on energy savings the home will receive. This also means that there is much room for improvement in a newly built home in terms of energy efficiency, and that homeowners are able to invest a much smaller sum to work towards lowering their home’s utility bills and carbon emissions through efficiency improvements.

How to Improve Home Energy Efficiency and Save Money

Both new and old homes are able to see significant benefits through improved energy efficiency, but it can be difficult to decipher which areas need to be improved, and what could be done to improve efficiency by the highest amount and at the lowest cost.

By contacting Barrier Sciences Group and having our Registered Energy Advisors conduct a Home Energy Assessment, you can be provided with a complete look as to how efficient your home is, along with a list of options for improving energy efficiency that are specific to your home. Our Advisors use a multitude of methods to determine which options would be the most cost-effective for you to use, and can even show you each option’s projected energy and financial savings for the future.

By having a Home Energy Assessment conducted on your home, it also helps you qualify for the home renovation rebates that are currently available from both Enbridge and Union Gas - helping you to see a return on your investment even sooner.

The Canada Greener Homes Grant offers home efficiency renovation grants up to $5,000.

Homeowners Canada-wide are eligible for the Canada Greener Homes Grant, announced on May 27, 2021. This new incentive offers up to $5,000 in grants for home efficiency retrofit renovations, plus a $600 reimbursement for pre- and post-work EnerGuide evaluations. Eligible retrofit scopes include home insulation, heating, doors, windows, photovoltaic solar panels, resiliency measures, and thermostats.

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