McGuinty and the Liberals are rushing "Bill 150, Green Energy and Green Economy Act" through the legislature this past week. (Introduced on Monday, with Second Reading immediately following on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, ...)
A notable component of the bill is a mandatory home energy audit prior to the sale of a home. Like the private member's bill (Bill 101, Home Energy Rating Act) -- that appears to have died in committee -- the mandatory home energy audit raises many of the same concerns that I pointed out in October, including:
- EnerGuide ratings are not consistently measured. EnerGuide ratings of an existing home can, and do, vary between energy advisers, depending on the assumptions they make and extent of data collected on the building's actual construction (limited to non-invasive visual inspection), without consulting the builder, building plans, materials specification, or equipment (e.g., HVAC) specifications.
- EnerGuide ratings between different homes cannot be meaningfully compared. First, the EnerGuide rating scale is logarithmic (according to the Canadian Home Builders' Association); a home that rates 80 is not 10% more efficient than a home that rates 70. Second, the HOT2000 software (used to compute the EnerGuide rating) makes adjustments for climate zones (heating and cooling degree days); thus, homes in different climate zones may have the same EnerGuide rating, but have very different energy efficiencies.
- EnerGuide ratings are not stable over time. First, the tightness of the building envelope may change over time (e.g., degradation of caulk, compromised vapor barrier, etc). Second, the Ontario government has no control or oversight into the implementation of the HOT2000 software -- achieving minimum EnerGuide ratings could be akin to chasing a moving target. Natural Resources Canada made controversial changes to the software last summer, without industry consultation, which if applied retroactively, would have had the general effect of lowering the EnerGuide ratings of existing homes already labelled. An added confusion is that EnerGuide rating reports and labels do not show the version of the HOT2000 software used.
- EnerGuide ratings alone are not a measurement of building quality. The Canadian Home Builders' Association advocates the design and construction of a "house as a system". One danger in emphasizing EnerGuide ratings is that we may end up with homes with very tight building envelopes but which fare poorly on indoor air quality, humidity levels conducive to mold, etc.
Given these technical problems, homeowners should be extremely concerned about the impact of an unfavorable home energy audit on the resale value of their homes. (Nevermind that the home energy audit is going to cost you somewhere around $300 to $350 up front, before you receive the provincial rebate of (up to) $150 in the mail, roughly six weeks later.)
And the government's claim that mandatory home energy audits would stimulate green renovations is weakened because the ecoENERGY 'D' audit (the pre-retrofit audit) is not transferrable between homeowners (e.g., from seller to buyer). [The ecoENERGY Retrofit program is a federal program managed by Natural Resources Canada; the province can't change this constraint.] There is no immediate incentive under the proposed bill for the new homeowner to undertake any renovations, green or otherwise.
Hey! OREA's policy submission re: private member's Bill 101, and a recent press release, "Mandatory home energy audit could significantly hurt home sellers in an already tough economy" borrowed a phrase from my text without attributing me as its source! Plagarized by my own association? I'm flattered. ;)