Canada Edges Closer To Mandatory Energy Audits For Homes

Written by Posted On Monday, 04 September 2017 12:05

The issue of making home energy audits mandatory for homes listed for sale in Canada is back in the news.

A group of 10 organizations, including the Pembina Institute, Atmospheric Fund, Architecture Canada and Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance, are calling on the federal government to "incentivize and support provinces in requiring mandatory home energy labelling at time of listing" by 2019.

When listing their home for sale, homeowners would be required to have an energy audit performed, which would give the home an energy rating. These ratings would be published on the Multiple Listing Service.

In a news release, the organizations say that homes and buildings account for nearly a quarter of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions. "Left alone, inefficient, leaky buildings will suck energy and spew emissions for several decades," say the organizations.

"Many home and business owners have taken simple actions to improve the energy efficiency of residential and commercial buildings, such as replacing weather-stripping around windows and doors, insulating roofs and walls and swapping out old boilers and furnaces. But time is not on our side," say the organizations. "Sweeping changes are needed to make high-efficient buildings the norm rather than the niche."

They say the economic, health and environmental benefits of building low-energy homes require a "bold, long-term commitment to well-built, nearly zero-energy homes".

Ontario has been talking about implementing mandatory home energy audits for years. The Climate Change Action Plan, released in 2016, calls for a program to be launched in 2019. "These audits are intended to be provided free of charge," says the plan. "The Home Energy Rating and Disclosure program will improve consumer awareness by allowing home buyers to compare homes by energy rating. It will also encourage uptake of retrofit incentive programs."

But Peter Shawn Taylor, writing for Canadians for Affordable Energy, has a different take. "This country may be on the verge of witnessing the birth of a new, money-grabbing boondoggle as governments spiral towards making energy policy as complicated and onerous as possible for the average consumer."

He says the Ontario commitment for free audits is for only the first two years of the plan.

"If governments follow up on this demand, the impact will be felt by everyone who owns a house," says Taylor. "And with audits typically priced at $400 to $600, this is not an insignificant obligation (although rebates sometimes cover part of the cost). This burden will inevitably fall hardest on modest-income homeowners. Mandatory energy audits will also punish owners of older, less energy-efficient homes. If you own a heritage home today, be warned that your house will become harder to sell in the future, as disclosure of energy costs becomes yet another item to be obsessed over by prospective home buyers…"

The Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) says it has been fighting against mandatory home energy audits since 2009 because the program would "hurt consumers and the real estate market."

Recently Ontario passed a bill that requires licensing and regulation for home inspectors. OREA is now calling for energy audits to be included as part of home inspections.

"Including an energy audit within a standardized home inspection will better protect consumers and help the province achieve its climate change emission targets quicker," says Tim Hudak, CEO of the association. "Home energy auditors have no minimum education standards, are not required to carry errors and omissions insurance and (have) no disciplinary oversight. Forcing consumers to use the services of an unlicensed energy auditor exposes home sellers to the risk of unqualified operators ripping them off with phony reports -- the exact thing the government is trying to eliminate" with the passage of the home inspector's bill.

In addition to the energy audits, the 10 organizations are calling on the federal government to "drive momentum toward ‘net-zero energy ready' new construction" and "accelerate retrofits and emissions reductions in existing buildings."

It also calls for improved energy-efficiency standards for appliances.

"Canadians spend 90 per cent of their lives indoors," say the organizations. "It should be no surprise that the quality of our indoor environments can have a major impact on our health and well-being. Replacing leaky windows and insulation and improving ventilation can address health and comfort-related problems linked to cold air drafts, excess moisture and mould -- not to mention saving energy. Several studies indicate that health benefits could represent up to 75 per cent of the overall benefits of energy efficiency retrofits."

But Taylor says the proposed audit program in Ontario has too many unanswered questions. "How often will the audits have to be performed? Will a 10-year-old audit suffice when it comes time to sell your house, or will you need to get a new one before every sale? It is hardly a stretch to imagine mandatory energy audits metastasizing in unexpected and unpleasant ways, as complicated bureaucratic programs are wont to do."

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Jim Adair

Jim Adair has been writing about Canadian real estate, home building and renovation issues for more than 40 years. He is the former editor of Canada’s leading trade magazine for real estate professionals, as well as several home building, décor and renovation titles. You can contact him at

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