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Guide to ENERGY STAR certified homes

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What’s in an ENERGY STAR certified home?

Each ENERGY STAR certified home will have some common features, as well as features that may differ.

Common features

ENERGY STAR certified homes have common features, such as energy-efficient windows, an HRV to recapture lost heat and provide outdoor air, and 400 kwh/year of electrical savings which are typically obtained through ENERGY STAR certified lighting or appliances.  In addition, ENERGY STAR certified homes must meet certain thresholds for airtightness.

Flexible features

ENERGY STAR certified homes also have a number of elements that will differ from home to home, such as level of insulation, efficiency of the water heater, and extent of air tightness. The upgrades chosen for each home will depend on the builder’s design and construction choices. This means that to some extent, each home is unique in how it was constructed, and in the energy efficiency elements used by the builder to meet the ENERGY STAR Standard.



What does the ENERGY STAR Standard specify?

Developed by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), the ENERGY STAR for New Homes Standard (ESNH) outlines the technical requirements that a home must meet in order to be awarded the ENERGY STAR energy efficiency label. 

The main objective of the Standard is for a home to be, on average, approximately 20% more efficient than one built to local building codes, based on space and water heating.  The ENERGY STAR for New Homes Standard is updated as regional building codes change. When the building code changes in your province or territory, there is a build out period during which some builders may build to the previous Standard while others comply with the new Standard. Because of this, there may be periods when homes built are 20% more energy-efficient than the previous building code, but not necessarily 20% more efficient than the new building code.

How do builders meet the Standard?

ENERGY STAR offers builders two paths to certify their homes.  The main difference between the paths is how the builder chooses which energy efficient features to include in the home.    

  1. Prescriptive path:  Builders construct their homes based on predetermined specifications outlined in the Standard. Builders must meet a set of minimum requirements and then choose from a series of upgrade options to which points are allocated.  The chosen features must add up to a certain number of points, which have been pre-determined based on the province and climate zone in which the house is located.  
  1. Performance path: Builders build their homes to meet the energy performance target outlined in the Standard for that province and climate zone. Under this path, builders must still meet the set of minimum requirements, but then have a high degree of flexibility in the choices they make to reach the energy target.  Once the home is built, it is evaluated using an energy simulation software to ensure it meets the required energy target. 

Both paths are equally valid methods of achieving an ENERGY STAR for New Homes label. And both paths require on-site verification by an energy advisor.  

Who are the different parties involved?

There are many entities involved in making homes across Canada certified to meet ENERGY STAR.

In Canada, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) is the administrator and manages the program and ENERGY STAR mark at the national level including developing and updating the ENERGY STAR for New Homes Standard to which homes are built.

Service organizations and energy advisors verify that homes meet the Standard prior to their being labelled as ENERGY STAR certified. Service organizations are organizations licensed to use the ENERGY STAR trademarks and tools. They also maintain a network of energy advisors. However, it is important to note service organizations and energy advisors operate as independent businesses, and are not agents, partners, or employees of NRCan.

Builders are also licensed to use the ENERGY STAR trademarks. They work with service organizations/ energy advisors to build ENERGY STAR certified homes. NRCan does not endorse any builder or services of any energy advisor/service organization, or any specific product, and accepts no liability in the selection of builders, materials, products, or performance of workmanship. In addition, NRCan is not responsible for resolving disputes, contractual or otherwise, between homeowners and third parties (such as builders), and has no role in enforcing external contracts. 

Additionally, NRCan cannot award compensation, order that a licensee take action, investigate and adjudicate misrepresentations or fraud, or otherwise arbitrate disputes or consumer complaints.

NRCan takes seriously any misuse of the ENERGY STAR name and symbol. Where misuse is suspected, NRCan reserves the right to take action to terminate ENERGY STAR participant agreements with service organizations, builders or energy advisors. 

I’m ready to buy, what are some questions to ask my builder?

Some questions you may want to ask your builder include:

  • Which energy efficiency features will be included in my ENERGY STAR certified home (e.g. insulation R-values, equipment efficiency, energy-efficient lighting or products)?
  • What should I do to maintain and operate my ENERGY STAR certified home?
  • To which version of the ENERGY STAR Standard will my home be built?  Is the ENERGY STAR Standard you are using based on the current building code or the previous one?   

I have questions about my Energy Star home. Who can I contact?

Homes certified under the ENERGY STAR ® for New Homes program undergo a process of independent inspections and testing to ensure that they meet strict requirements set by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). In cases where a homeowner has concerns about the ENERGY STAR certification of their home, we recommend they first follow up with the ENERGY STAR for New Homes service organization who oversaw the verification and labelling their home. Homeowners can locate the contact information for their service organization on their ENERGY STAR for New Homes label or Certificate. The service organization may follow up with the energy advisor or builder (depending on the situation) to look into the concerns further. The service organization, energy advisor and/or builder will work with the homeowner to determine if the procedures and requirements of the ENERGY STAR Standard were met at the time the home was evaluated and labelled, and whether further action is required.

If a homeowner is unsuccessful in resolving their concerns through their service organization or builder, they may choose to follow up with NRCan to initiate a certification review process of their ENERGY STAR home. The first step in this process requires that the homeowner completes and submits the ENERGY STAR for New Homes Certification Review Form to NRCan. The completed form must clearly outline the issues experienced, what actions have been taken to date including any contact with service organization (emails/phone calls) and if applicable, include all relevant supporting documentation (i.e. photos, emails).

Completed forms can be sent to:

NRCan takes seriously any misuse of the ENERGY STAR name and symbol. Where misuse or non compliance is established, NRCan reserves the right to terminate license agreements with participants. However, it is important to note NRCan is not responsible for resolving disputes, contractual or otherwise, between homeowners and third parties, and has no role in enforcing external contracts.


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