Greener housing

Buildings are the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases in Halifax. HRM is ramping up efforts to get homeowners to fix that 

Halifax homeowners might get a new incentive to spend on upgrades like heat pumps and spray-foam insulation: mandatory stickers showing a home’s energy efficiency. 

Lara Ryan, a sustainability solutions consultant who’s helping the municipality work towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, says the possibility of requiring an efficiency assessment before a home is sold is one of many ideas to spur more deep energy retrofits. 

Buildings account for 70 per cent of HRM’s greenhouse gas emissions and the municipality aims to cut energy consumption by half by 2040. To get there, 5,000 homes a year need extensive efficiency upgrades. “To be able to reduce your energy consumption by at least 50 per cent, you’re going to have to do more than one thing,” says Ryan. 

Usually it’s a combination of three, such as swapping out an oil furnace for a heat pump, insulating and air sealing for drafts, and adding solar panels. 

Other jurisdictions in Canada are looking at requiring EnerGuide labels (official ratings given to energy-audited homes) as homes go on the market. “It would be a game changer here,” says Ryan. “If your house was rated 85 and your neighbour’s house was 64, and the houses are essentially the same except for their energy systems, which house is going to be more attractive? Obviously the one that has the lower energy cost.” 

It falls under provincial jurisdiction, but some cities have charters that enable them to implement the measure. “We’re looking at it for Halifax,” says Ryan. “There have been lots of conversations about it here in Nova Scotia. We’re not there yet.” 

Andrew Gilroy, vice-president of the Nova Scotia Association of Realtors Association, likes the idea. 

While it might be a headache for some sellers to add booking efficiency tests to other paperwork and appointments, the additional knowledge is a plus for buyers and their realtors, he says. “The way things are moving in this market, and a lot of buyers buying without being here, the more information they can be given, the better.” 

In a frenzied market like Halifax’s, pretty much anything sells. Gilroy’s association doesn’t track whether energy upgrades boost a home’s value. The evidence is anecdotal, and it’s far from clear to what degree making a home more efficient pays off when the “for sale” sign goes up. Having energy efficiency information at the ready for buyers could put a tangible value on doing the right thing for the environment. 

Armed with that information, more Haligonians might spend on greener homes. 

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