Household energy performance
Credit: FortisBC

Household energy performance

Household energy performance should be a major consideration for home owners

Among the many factors to consider when purchasing a home, energy performance is one that homeowners don't always focus on

When buying a home, people come armed with a wish list – location, size, styling and kitchen. House hunters’ priorities don’t usually include the energy efficiency of the home.

“That can be a costly oversight,” says Einar Halbig, certified energy advisor at E3 Eco Group. “It’s important when buying a home to recognize how energy efficient it is. Of course the aesthetics and layout of a home are important but if you don’t factor in the energy costs to heat or cool the home, you could be in for higher energy bills than you expected.”

To help homeowners figure out how efficient a home’s energy performance is, there’s the national EnerGuide rating system. EnerGuide measures the whole house, including space heating and hot water systems, air tightness, insulation, ventilation and windows.

“A rating of 100 means the house is airtight, well insulated and requires no purchased energy, ” explains Halbig. “A zero range means a home has major air leakage, no insulation and extremely high use of energy.”

For a brand new house, an EnerGuide rating of 80 or higher is excellent. In addition to this Government of Canada rating, there are specific ratings for furnaces and hot water systems. “If you are rating a space heating system for your house, a boiler or natural gas furnace, the rating is defined in AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency),” says Halbig. “An AFUE of 90 means that 90 per cent of the energy in the fuel becomes heat for the home and 10 per cent is lost up the chimney or through other forms of escape. New houses’ heating systems have to be a least 90 per cent.”

If you are considering buying a home built before 1995, find out if the furnace was replaced with a high efficiency one; if not, consider upgrading. Older homes may be equipped with what is now considered low efficiency furnaces, which operate at 60 per cent.

Although electric baseboards are similarly efficient in heating your home, a high-efficiency natural gas furnace could significantly lower your annual heating bill.. To help compare appliances and energy sources, like electricity and natural gas, visit FortisBC’s energy calculator.

“Electricity prices have gone up by 30 per cent in the last three years but the price of natural gas is among the lowest we’ve seen in a decade,” Halbig adds. The second largest user of energy in your home is your hot water system. It accounts for roughly 20 to 35 per cent of your total annual energy consumption, depending on how many household members there are.

The rating for hot water systems is EF (Energy Factor) – the percentage efficiency as a decimal. “An EF 0.92 indicates that the hot water heater is 92 per cent efficient. The best rating a new natural gas tankless, on-demand water heater, will receive is 0.95,” says Halbig. “The natural gas tankless hot water system, or on-demand water heater, offers instant hot water and they look like a small white suitcase.”

The alternative is a tank model. And with natural gas rates being what they are, heating water with natural gas costs less than it does to heat water with electricity. So switching to natural gas not only saves you money, but can also help you save energy. Now what’s not to like about that?

Right now, FortisBC offers an ENERGY STAR® Water Heater Program rebate of up to $500 when upgrading to a qualifying high-efficiency model, or $1,000 for a qualifying condensing storage tank. Learn more about FortisBC and the benefits of natural gas.

To learn more about FortisBC, click here.