Older couple - first home

Bricks & Sticks

by Desi Auciello

Desi Auciello is the 2006 GTHBA President, and is also president of Cachet Estate Homes.

Energy efficiency in Ontario homes

Date: June 23, 2006

By: Desi Auciello
President, Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association 

Over the years, I have frequently heard the refrain that "they don't build houses like they used to." And quite frankly, I have to agree.  We don't build houses like we used to, we build them much better!

This is particularly evident when you consider how much more energy efficient a newly built home is compared with an older home. And much of the innovation in energy conservation and efficiency in houses has been pioneered by new home builders. 
Ontario home builders have been active in voluntarily applying energy efficient upgrades to their homes and continue to support and market their homes under programs such as R-2000, EnerGuide for new homes and Energy Star.

But still, our society is faced with growing concern about managing our energy consumption.  The provincial government has set a conservation target of five per cent reduction in peak electricity demand by 2007 as well as a ten per cent reduction in the government's own operations.

To assist the government in reaching its target, the Ontario Home Builders' Association commissioned a working group composed of leading industry experts from various sectors within the residential construction industry to analyse current conditions in Ontario and to make some specific recommendations.

Here are some more facts about the housing market in Ontario and electrical consumption patterns:

  • There are 4.8 million homes in Ontario's existing housing stock;
  • New residential construction adds approximately 1.7 per cent to the total existing stock each year;
  • Only one-third of total electricity consumption is used by residential consumers;
  • " New homes theoretically represent less than 0.56 per cent of total electricity consumption annually.

The reality is that beyond newly-constructed homes, real, immediate and significant headway on energy conservation can only be made by broadening our focus to include the energy efficiency of the nearly five million homes that are in our current housing stock. Basically, the older the home, the less energy efficient it is, so we need to come up with workable solutions on how to best address this segment of the marketplace.

What can you, as a homeowner do now to reduce your energy consumption? Well, plenty.  Here are just a few easy suggestions that can make a real difference.

  • Use compact fluorescent light bulbs which use 75 per cent less electricity than regular light bulbs and last years longer;
  • Dimmer switches can make the use of incandescent bulbs more efficient;
  • That old, inefficient refrigerator running in the basement could cost you $150 or more a year in electricity - get rid of it!
  • Set your air conditioner up two degrees Celsius and save 100 kilowatt hours;
  • Use ceiling fans, rather than air conditioners, to circulate air and feel cool;
  • Close blinds and curtains during the day to keep the heat out; 
  • Vacuum the coils of your refrigerator and keep other appliances in good working order. Or consider buying new EnergyStar approved appliances. 
  • Watch your thermostat in winter. Heating costs will rise about five per cent for every degree above 20º C (68º F) that you set the thermostat.

Those are just a few of the many, many ways you can help conserve Ontario's energy and save yourself some money.
 Energy conservation is nothing new.  As a society we have been grappling with trying to conserve energy since the 1970's and we continue to look for ways to reduce our dependency and consumption of energy.

There's another old saying, "if you aren't part of the solution, you're part of the problem."  That's why the Ontario Home Builders' Association initiated its study to look for solutions. 

And it's why the OHBA is voluntarily supporting proposed increases in the levels of insulation in ceilings, walls and foundations, plus higher performance windows and doors.

It's rare for an industry association to take such an enlightened stance in the face of proposals that will increase building costs and ultimately housing prices. By the same token, OHBA has resisted other proposals that would add much more to the cost of new homes and upset the balance between conservation and housing affordability. At the end of the day, the government will decide, and hopefully that decision will reflect the strategic importance of home building within the Ontario economy.

You can access the OHBA report Reducing Electricity Consumption in Houses via  www.homesontario.com