Anyone paying close attention to their recent hydro bills will know that energy costs have soared over the past years. These escalating costs have put a real financial strain on many, with GTA homes being hit harder than most. There are simple and effective ways to make your home more energy-efficient, however, which don’t require you having to break the bank.
Invest in Your Home’s Green Future
While these alterations have an up-front cost, the long-term savings on your energy bills will more than offset your investment. In addition, making your home more eco-friendly will have obvious ramifications should you decide to sell further down the line.
Data from the Canadian Home Builders’ Association reveals that the average home built in Ontario today uses half the energy as one the same size built in 1985. That can be attributed to a number of factors, including refined technology in heating, HVAC systems and windows.
Even Older Homes Can Go Green
Those living in an older home, but want to make the property more eco-friendly have plenty of options explains Kevin Royce, owner of ECO Building Resource, which supplies home owners, contractors and builders with environmentally sound and sustainable building products. That includes everything from sealants and adhesives, to insulation and finishes, whether you are building or renovating a home.
“In cutting your energy costs, you have to make sure your whole building envelope is tight,” he says. “You need appropriate windows that are sealed right around. You need to keep an eye on the whole installation and material process. Proper sealing around your windows and other outlets to reduce drafts is first and foremost, as well as ensuring you have proper insulation in your attic.”
Avoid Cutting Corners
In choosing materials, those on a tight budget may elect to go for the cheapest possible options, but this is extremely short-sighted in Royce’s view. There are solid reasons why certain products cost more than others, and while going green is usually a little more expensive, in the long run it certainly balances out.
“Absolutely it adds value to your home,” he says. “You have higher indoor air quality, and lower energy bills. We have more and more people now with asthmas and allergies, and why is that? There are so many toxins in an indoor environment – the adhesives and finishes being used on floors, fire retardants in the furniture.”
Toronto Lagging in Green Housing
Canada’s largest city is not exactly blazing a trail in this regard, says Royce; quite the opposite in fact. Toronto clearly has some work to do when it comes to changing its environmental reputation, with home building a clear area it can make improvements.
“Our society has come to use the cheapest, easiest materials they can get their hands on at a big box store,” says Royce. “Most of those products are not sustainable and have a short lifespan. If you go to different areas around the planet, there are people that have a lot more awareness. In North America, British Columbia, Colorado, California are way ahead. Toronto is nicknamed the Big Smoke for a reason.”
The reason Toronto lags behind cities like Vancouver on green issues isn’t due to any particular moral or ethical failing. Rather, it often comes down to simple economics.
“In BC they get a lot more access to products coming up from California,” says Royce. “Canada does not manufacture enough green products – we are not a manufacturing country. Most of the products I buy are American made.”
Buyers Are Willing to Pay for Green Upgrades
In a recent survey conducted by Royal LePage and The National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB), 62% of homeowners said they were willing to pay between $5,000 and $20,000 for green features in their home, while 8% were willing to pay $20,000 or more for a home that is deemed green.
The same study revealed that 72% of Canadians would look for a green-approved property for their next purchase, while 63% were willing to pay more for an environmentally friendly home. When you consider that 14% of respondents said they already lived in an eco-friendly home, it is clear that the tide is turning in Canada, albeit slowly. Cost concerns certainly have a bearing on just how green people are willing to go, but it’s clear that simply doing nothing is not an option many would subscribe to.
Selling Green Homes a Learning Curve for Agents
Elden Freeman is the founder of the NAGAB, which now has 31,000 members across Canada. It is the country’s largest non-profit group for real estate agents dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing energy efficiency and overall sustainability. The association provides a training program for its members, which leads to commercial and residential Accredited Greenagent™ and Accredited Greenbroker™ designations.
In Freeman’s opinion, being able to identify and articulate to home buyers and sellers how a property is eco-friendly is a useful tool for any broker or agent.
“If a home is more energy efficient, then an agent needs to know that and know how to properly promote that. Most agents will know how to talk about the nice granite on the counter top, but they don’t know how to talk about the energy efficiency of a home.”
Those who gain the Greenagent or Greenbroker designations therefore differentiate themselves from the crowd, in what is a highly competitive marketplace.
“Saving electricity, saving water, which has become very expensive – these are all very important things to learn how to manage,” says Freeman. “Agents that learn how to present this information will be able to sell a house for more money, which is in the best interests of their clients.”