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Consumers nervous to get good, useful advice about energy performance of their homes

Sep 21, 2018 9:00 AM

Canadians acting to improve their homes and make them more energy efficient, whether to reduce their contribution to climate change or to improve the comfort or cost-effective operation of their home, want to do so informed about what’s best for them rather than simply because they feel either incentivized or subject to market pressure.

The Consumers Council of Canada released its report Mandatory Home Energy Rating and Disclosure for Existing Houses: Opportunities and Risks for Consumers with this finding, after consulting consumers and industry stakeholders.

A home energy rating and disclosure system (HER&D) was emphasized in the 2016 Ontario Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP). The CCAP found buildings and the energy that they consume represent a quarter of Ontario’s GHG emissions. Single detached housing represents 55.8% (or 2.93 million households) of Ontario’s household building types.

The Ontario government has been developing options for the design of a Home Energy Rating and Disclosure (HER&D) program for Ontario as part of the Ontario Green Energy Act (GEA), with the objective to launch the program by 2019. 

The central objective for all the HER&D systems has been to empower the consumer with accurate and insightful information about a home they’re planning on selling, buying or upgrading. The data from this study suggests that a home energy label is only useful if it can inform decisions and drive action from the homeowner. 

"What is important to home owners is that a home energy report includes the information they need to improve their homes, and that they can trust that information," said Consumers Council of Canada President Don Mercer. "They worry about receiving misleading information leading to bad decisions on their part, and they are uneasy information they receive may detract from the the market value of their asset and diminish the pride of ownership they feel and enjoy."

The research found buyers already consider evidence of a home’s condition, including with respect to its energy performance, to develop their views of a home’s worth. 

The ideal scenario from a consumer perspective for the introduction of home energy ratings would include:

  • access to good quality information and homeowner education. 
  • minimal complexity, cost and time needed to obtain a home energy rating. 
  • quality assurance of the rating results and resulting advice.
  • an emphasis on assisting a home owner to understand the improvements they can make cost effectively rather than on a performance grade.
  • reasonable exemptions from a requirement to obtain an energy efficiency rating.
  • a manageable if steady effort to improve the energy efficiency of homes to avoid backlash against initiatives to do so.
  • sensitivity to home owners’ reasonable rights to privacy.

This latest research follows on the Council’s 2017 research report Incenting Energy Efficient Retrofits: Risks and Opportunities for Consumers, which found widespread support for government programs that help people improve the energy performance of their homes.

"Consumers feel challenged to modify their behaviour and personal assets such as their home to do their part to both moderate and prepare for the impacts of climate change," said Mercer. "People are seeking a fair balance between personal and societal responsibility and action.

"Consumers are anxious about how to receive the introduction of new market forces even as they face the impact on themselves, their families and their homes of a more forceful nature.”

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. 


Research Announcements, Energy, Housing & Shelter, Focus-Climate Change, Right-Information, Right-Choice, Right-Redress, Right-Education, Right-Safe Environment, Right-Privacy  




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