Canadians want clear, simple, trustworthy and actionable information to assist them when they buy a new or resale home and to assist them in making decisions to improve the energy efficiency of their homes, new research has determined.
Consumers Council of Canada released its report Home Energy Labels: How well do they serve consumers? with this finding, after consulting consumers and industry stakeholders.
The research set out to determine what consumers would expect from a label describing the energy performance of a house.
Consumers are presented with information on labels to support many purchasing decisions, from food labelling to the energy consumption of home appliances. However, when it comes to arguably the largest investment of their lives – their homes – consumers often receive little reliable information about its environmental impact, operating costs, or its potential for improved energy efficiency.
The Council’s research focused on the utility and functionality of existing home energy labels in Canada. More specifically, it looked at how consumers understand these labels and how they factor into renovation and home purchasing decisions, among other actions.
Its report identified the information consumers draw from the labels, how it is used, and what additional information consumers want and need to make informed decisions and to act on their decisions.
While the Government of Canada’s EnerGuide label is highly regarded by industry stakeholders and is recognized by many Canadian consumers, a national survey of 1,000 people conducted for the Council by Oraclepoll Research Ltd. found about 60 percent of respondents could not identify or identify accurately the Canadian home energy labels presented to them. The most recognized home energy labels were the EnerGuide and ENERGY STAR labels, as nearly half (45%) recognized the EnerGuide label and 40% recognized the ENERGY STAR label.
“Achieving high levels of brand recognition for any product is tough,” said Consumers Council of Canada President Don Mercer. “Clearly the government has a highly recognized program, and we hope this research’s suggestions for improvement will lead to future label designs that will even better command consumers’ attention as being useful.”
The ideal scenario from a consumer perspective for a top-quality home energy label includes:
- having a clearly identified, trustworthy issuer.
- being easily obtained within a reasonable timeframe.
- providing information and presentations that can be delivered in a variety of ways (e.g. print, application service-based) and connects consumers to additional guidance as needed.
- a presentation of how components of a home function and affect a homes’ overall energy use.
- useful information to help the homeowner improve their home’s energy efficiency.
- a simple presentation of costs, benefits and value a consumer can expect from home upgrades.
This latest research follows on the Council’s 2018 research report Mandatory Home Energy Rating and Disclosure for Existing Houses: Opportunities and Risks for Consumersand 2017 report Incenting Energy Efficient Retrofits: Risks and Opportunities for Consumers, both of which found widespread support for government programs that help people understand and improve the energy performance of their homes.
“Consumers feel challenged to modify their homes to do their part to both moderate and prepare for the impacts of climate change,” said Mercer. “They need trustworthy, actionable information to help them confidently make good decisions.”
Consumers Council of Canada has received funding from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s Contributions Program for Non-profit Consumer and Voluntary Organizations. The views expressed in this report are not necessarily those of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada or the Government of Canada.