Editorial: Entering the era of efficient homes

Victoria has come a long way from the days of big drafty homes with thin single-pane windows

Victoria has come a long way from the days of big drafty homes with thin single-pane windows, no insulation in the walls and heated by large inefficient furnaces.

These days new homes come with low-flush toilets and double panes, energy efficient appliances and better overall construction to keep indoor environments comfortable for as low a cost as possible.

In reality, this is the tip of the iceberg in terms of home energy efficiency. Heating through oil or natural gas or electric isn’t getting cheaper and huge strides can still be made in terms of “normal” efficiency for the average home.

Provincial and federal governments need to fund continuous and much more aggressive incentive programs to actually make a dent in terms of energy savings for homeowners.

Successful provincial subsidy programs such as LiveSmart B.C., according to its website, invested $110 million into home energy upgrades and has helped homeowners cut their heating bills from 15 to 28 per cent.

Despite this, LiveSmart ended on March 31 this year (FortisBC and BC Hydro have extended aspects of the program for another year). Programs to improve homes shouldn’t be a passing fad – it’s one of the most direct ways governments can help its residents save money.

From the passive home recently built in Saanich that will likely have a heating bill 90 per cent less than an equivalent conventional home, its clear that there is a lot of room for improvement in home design, and for a price that demands a little more up front in return for utility bill savings each month.

The Eco-Sense house in Highlands too – a house made of cob, that generates its own power from photovoltaics and solar panels, and recycles its grey water and wastewater – demonstrates that homes don’t have to be outrageously wasteful and damaging entities on the landscape.

B.C. is looking to upgrade its building code  for better minimum efficiency standards. This can’t come quick enough. The technology to build affordable, highly energy efficient homes is here. Developers need to provide it, and home buyers need to demand it.