Heard about HER&D? It will change the way you build or renovate houses
Before codes require NZE, builders will need to know about energy rating disclosure
By John Bleasby
HER&D is the word!
Home Energy Rating and Disclosure (HER&D) is coming to Ontario possibly as soon as 2019, and after that perhaps to the rest of Canada. The implications are enormous for new home builders marketing their products to purchasers. It’s also an important tool for existing home owners and renovators. Just as appliances have EnerGuide ratings that indicate electricity use, EnerGuide ratings for homes will be mandatory for any new or existing home going onto the market, indicating their overall energy consumption.
While EnerGuide ratings for homes are not new in Canada, the move to mandate HER&D is. However, the experts tell not to be frightened! The sky won’t fall when mandatory HERD&D arrives — home energy ratings have been mandated in Europe for some time. In the United States it’s known as HERS, Home Energy Rating System. In fact, it is suggested evidence suggests that it can even be a wonderful marketing tool, even increasing home values.
Corralling all the energy labels into one HER&D
What has confused matters somewhat has been the proliferation of rating levels within EnerGuide that have been introduced to consumers over the years: R2000, EneryStar, passive house, Net Zero Energy, for example. However, steps are well underway across the country to bring the actual whole-house rating of home energy efficiency down to one easy-to-understand rating system.
Under the previous rating system, the closer the home’s rating was to 100, the better. However, it was also completely contrary to the energy rating system for appliances, which says the lower the number the better. Using this industry standard for a rating means consistency across the board, and will help builders and consumers better understanding the energy efficient of their buildings. The new labels themselves are much more informative as well (see picture). In addition to showing the total gigajoules of energy used in a particular house over 12 months, the label breaks down the efficiency into identifiable elements within the home itself.
Ontario’s HER&D mentality
Ontario’s move towards the Home Energy Rating and Disclosure program is part of the province’s Five Year Climate Change Action Plan to promote the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The province leads all others in this initiative. Once rolled out, any house put on the market will require an energy audit and rating, undertaken by a licensed energy advisor. It’s not yet clear if this will be paid by the federal or provincial government. “Every single house in the province, new and existing, will be audited,” Wayne Rowbotham, Quality Assurance Specialist with Enertest Corporation in Orillia ON told Canadian Contractor. “The energy advisor will evaluate the home to include an inspection and assessment of mechanical equipment, insulation, construction detail, sizes and doors and windows, orientation of the building itself, conduct a blower door test. All that data goes into the software developed by Natural Resources Canada, and gives the advisor a really accurate rating of energy consumption for that home in a typical year. The software can even be tweaked to take into account the actual occupancy of the house versus the typical assumed occupancy”
Energy ratings of new homes made possible by computer modeling
New homes can be analysed and modelled for energy efficiency before any shovels hit the ground. While it’s an option today, it will become mandatory in the future. Once again, sophisticated software developed by Natural Resources Canada, in the hands of trained specialists like Rowbotham, make this a reality.
“All the work is done from the specs provided by the builder,” explains Rowbotham. However, it will require builders to think further out in time during the modelling process. “We need to know which direction the building is facing. In a subdivision, for example, the builder may not know. Through the software, we can turn the building on the lot and change the solar gain of the building. We need to know what windows are being used, their ratings, even their frame construction. We need to know how the building will be built, insulation levels, height off the ground. In the past, builders didn’t have to think about the heating system, but they will need to. Will it be a boiler, radiant heat, or forced air? We take into consideration every element of the building’s construction.”
With existing homes, even what can’t be seen can be HER&D
While new builders will be dragged toward improved energy efficiency through building code amendments or HER&D directives, home renovators should regard HER&D as a marketing opportunity. Using an energy audit on an existing building could locate energy weaknesses and form a foundation for renovation plans. Once again, it’s due to advanced software developed by Natural Resources Canada and the massive data base of typical building construction techniques which has been assembled over the years. This database allows NR Canada to make assumptions about the energy efficiency of buildings based on the year of construction.
When an energy audit is conducted on an existing home and the year of construction is entered into the software, the software draws on the data base to consider core parts of the house that can’t be seen. “We go with that,” says Rowbotham. “Anything that can be seen, like attic insulation, windows, doors, heating equipment can be inputted directly. What we can then tell the owner or the renovator is, “This is the energy efficiency of the home.” If we can’t access the attic, for example, we tell them that when they do open it up to give us the data. We’ll update the information in our simulation and the simulation will be more accurate.”
What is important for builders and renovators to understand is that the move towards HER&D in Canada, starting with Ontario, will change the way they market their new homes and renovation services. Purchasers torn between two homes can compare energy efficiency and see where the differences lie in terms of windows doors, heating system etc.. This in turn could aid purchasers by directing them to specific areas that need improvement should they buy that home. Consider it a marketing opportunity, not an obstacle to business.
Coming up soon in a future post…important questions!
Who are these energy evaluators, where will they all come from and how are they trained?
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