Canada Greener Homes Grant

The federal government recently launched its Canada Greener Homes Grant. In brief, the grant provides various incentive options for existing homes to upgrade their energy efficiency, however no grants are available for new homes, even though housing starts in many parts of the country continue to grow (in our own local area, new builds are huge in a hot real estate market). In this article, we ask why the government won’t also support homeowners in building highly energy efficient homes right out of the gate.

Home Energy Facts

According to the Canadian government:

  • Buildings produce 17% of Canada’s greenhouse gases, including emissions from generating electricity that buildings use. A large part of this is from using fossil fuels to heat and cool our buildings.
  • 40% of emissions from electricity generation is for energy used in our buildings.
  • The federal government will support improving the energy efficiency of our homes and buildings.

Sourced from Sustainable and efficient homes and buildings, Government of Canada

Passive House vs. Code Built

A passive house has 3 times the insulation and 4 times the air-tightness of a home built to current code.

Passive walls = R 75Code walls = R 27
Passive roof = R 110Code Roof = R 32
Passive air tightness = 0.6 ach*Code air tightness = 2.5 ach*
*ACH = air changes per hour

With the above info in mind, Passive homes are known to save 80-90% energy per house.

Energy Efficiency at What Cost?

Building to the passive standard does cost 5 to 10% more per build, and this is our point in a nutshell. If incentives were available for newly built energy-efficient passive homes, then more people would be building them, a direct benefit in reaching Canada’s climate change goals. It seems unfair and really a touch irresponsible that only retrofitting of existing homes is being supported when so many people are in the position of having to choose a new build.

For example, take a young family who could afford to build passive with the help of modest incentives, but without incentives has no choice but to build a home that only meets the current code. They are, in essence, being forced to build a home that is guaranteed to require energy retrofitting instead of a home that will never have to be retrofitted.

This scenario is bad for climate change, bad for meeting our emission reduction targets, and simply bad policy. Shouldn’t we have equivalent incentives available to all home buyers?

Canada’s federal government offers point-of-sale incentives of $2,500 to $5,000 for consumers who buy or lease an electric vehicle — why doesn’t the same thinking apply to new home builds when we live in communities bristling with the construction of new homes?

More money in your pocket

There is another reason why building passive matters so much for home owners, and it’s one we find can get a bit lost in the noise and excitement of building. Passive homes are much cheaper to run. Using so much less energy means that energy bills are correspondingly less. From the young family just starting out to the retired couple downsizing, who wouldn’t welcome smaller monthly bills for running a comfortable and healthy home?

A carbon free future

We are hoping to continue this discussion because without new-build home incentives for the most energy efficient homes possible, how will we really start moving towards a carbon free future?

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