Sustainability has been on the mind of Canadian homebuyers for years. Now that so many people are working from home (and will be for the foreseeable future), buyer demands have shifted, and energy-efficient homes and features have become an even higher priority. If you’re spending all of your time in the house, you’ll want to be comfortable. You will also want to make sure that your utility bill isn’t breaking the bank.
New technologies and certifications hitting the Canadian market have ensured that buyers in every budget range, looking at any style of home, have the opportunity to seek out energy-efficient features. Here are five features that buyers are loving right now.
1. Double-pane, triple-pane, or even better, Low-E windows
A few low-tech features that buyers of all budgets are paying attention to are double-pane windows, and properly sealed doors, windows and skylights. So much heat escapes through thin windows and door gaps! It makes a noticeable difference both on the utility usage and the home’s comfort level when the home is airtight.
Focusing specifically on windows, double-pane windows are a relatively affordable way to help with insulation. Plus, in many parts of the country, triple-pane windows are becoming the norm to meet the often extreme demands of Canadian winters.
Another trend in the window game is called Low-E. These are windows with a low-emissivity coating. There are a few different types of Low-E coatings to choose from, depending on which direction the windows face and with a few other differences. This new technology is trending up with buyers today for a very good reason: it works.
When buyers are eyeing modern-style homes with a lot of windows, it’s even more appealing to have energy-efficient windows already installed. This removes the need to take on that expense as a new homeowner later on, a major bonus when energy efficiency is a priority.
2. Programmable and smart thermostats
The technology in smart thermostats is incredible these days. Some include geofencing features that automatically sense when you leave the home and therefore don’t need your heating or cooling systems running as much. Many are wi-fi enabled so you can control them with your smartphone, even when you’re out of the house. These smart thermostats allow homeowners detailed control over the heating and cooling systems in the house, making it easy to save energy and noticeably decrease your utility bill.
Programmable, but not smart, thermostats are also popular with buyers these days. These let you pre-schedule home, away, and vacation modes, again allowing close control of your home’s heating or cooling system. Both programmable and smart thermostats are great energy-efficient features to look for when buying a new home. If they don’t come pre-installed, you can find these thermostat styles in a variety of budget ranges anywhere from your local department store to Amazon and other e-retailers. Keep in mind your budget and the features that will actually make a difference based on your needs and lifestyle as you shop.
3. Appliances, but most importantly, the washer, dryer and refrigerator
The draw towards energy-efficient appliances is not necessarily new - the clout that Energy Star holds in the appliance game is huge and has been for years. But if homes aren’t 100% upgraded to energy-efficient appliances, buyers today are specifically paying attention to the washer and dryer, followed by the refrigerator, as those are the units that take the most power to run. This also appeals to buyers of all budgets. Those with lower budgets may only look at the energy efficiency of one or two appliances, whereas those with higher budgets are looking to make sure all appliances are energy efficient.
4. Energy Star Certified homes
Buyers who are in the market for new or newer homes are starting to look at whether the entire home is Energy Star Certified. These homes are constructed by certified Energy Star builders and are energy-efficient from the roof to the foundation. They include advanced heating and cooling systems, more and better insulation than the building code requires, airtight windows and doors, Energy Star appliances, and more. All of this combined can save homeowners up to 20% on their utility bills, making Energy Star Certified homes very appealing to many buyers in today’s market. If you’re building a new home or doing some serious renovations, you should look into this certification now and see if it’s right for you.
5. Net-zero energy homes
Taking it a few steps further, buyers looking at the higher end of the market are leading the trend of seeking out net-zero homes – homes that produce as much energy as they use. These have many of the same features as Energy Star Certified homes which reduce energy usage, but they also have means of producing energy. The Canadian Home Builders Association has launched a net-zero labelling program that guides and standardizes how these types of homes should be built.
According to an interview with GreenEnergyFutures, the first home certified with this labelling was built in Victoria and included solar panels, solar thermal water heating, an electric vehicle charger, ductless dryer, and more. Pairing these energy-efficient features with the stunning aesthetic of the home, it’s no surprise these homes are in higher and higher demand.
In British Columbia, there’s a goal for all new buildings (including homes) to be net-zero energy ready by 2032, meaning this is going to move from a trend to the new normal in the not-so-distant future.
While some of the energy-efficient features mentioned above may be pricy, a steady demand for them is driving prices down, making them more affordable for the average consumer. Even when compared to just a few years ago, there’s a notable difference in cost and a wider selection of price options. There is a range of low, medium and higher-end technologies, appealing to buyers with varying budgets. No matter which direction is right for you, it’s both good for the environment and your wallet to start thinking about some of these energy-efficient features as you shop for your new home.