Greenrealestate: Energy audits a success in England

Green Real Estate Apr 7, 2009


Canada’s largest province has made it clear that mandatory home energy audits will soon be a fact of life in the Ontario real estate market. So far, the positive response this announced legislation has received indicates that sooner or later other jurisdictions in Canada will likely follow. The legislation itself is hardly unprecedented – other jurisdictions such as Germany and the United Kingdom have already implemented mandatory home energy audits, and reported quite a bit of success with their programs.
 
In the U.K., Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) have been required since 2008 on houses that are being sold, built or rented. The ratings, on a scale from A to G of most to least efficient, are harmonized with ratings that the U.K. requires on home appliances, making the assessment of a property’s environmental impact and energy costs extremely straightforward. EPCs are issued after a licensed inspector examines a property for its energy efficiency, a process which allows homeowners to see where improvements can be made to save the most on their energy bills, and gives prospective buyers an idea of the potential costs of owning a given property and the work that may be required to improve its efficiency. Since energy use in the home contributes to approximately 30 per cent of individual carbon emissions, increasing efficiency in the home presents an effective way to combat climate change, a factor that is a significant selling point for environmentally aware buyers.
 
The U.K. experience with EPCs has also been credited with improving the overall housing stock in the country, and reducing costs for first-time buyers.
 
Members of the National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB) have been arranging home energy audits for their clients for over three years. In partnership with home inspection providers AmeriSpec, NAGAB members have been able to offer exclusive rates to their clients, and the relationship with AmeriSpec means that they won’t have to scramble looking for inspectors at a time when demand will be exploding.
 
As well, NAGAB offers resources online with its home conservation kit, which allows NAGAB members to conduct an preliminary examination of a home and point out areas in which some smaller changes and fixes can be implemented that can help reduce energy costs and improve a property’s score on a home energy audit.
 
The majority of home improvements in home energy efficiency come in the way of enhanced insulation – in the cavities of walls, between joists in attics, or around window panes – and from installing efficient fixtures and appliances. These improvements are relatively low-cost, and the benefits they provide in terms of reduced energy consumption mean they pay for themselves over the short-term, and provide large savings over the long term.
 
Home energy audits also give owners a detailed assessment of a home’s energy value, which means no unpleasant surprises down the road. Getting a home inspected now means that that aspect of the home’s value is secured, and in a time of fluctuating property value this additional safeguard has tremendous value.
 
Considered over the long term of owning a house, the opportunities for improvements that audits can reveal ultimately pay for themselves several times over. Take into account that both the audits and the improvements are both government-subsidized and it becomes clear that home audits are an opportunity for savings and asset enhancement.
 
Elden Freeman  B.A., M.E.S, broker is the founder and executive director of the non-profit National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB). Freeman says he believes that Realtors across Canada can play an important role in educating their clients on increasing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (416) 536-7325; elden@nagab.org.