Polar vortex? Arctic blast? Nor'easter? Bring it on

As Ontario begins 2015 in something of a deep freeze, homeowners should also brace for higher monthly energy bills. With the Farmer’s Almanac predicting seasonal temperatures cooler than average, homeowners can expect a chilling effect on their pocket books.Annual average energy bills for homes in Canada topped $2,000 last year, and, according to Ontario’s Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, almost 60 per cent of those costs go towards maintaining home temperatures. The high costs of heating our homes may seem like a necessity, given the harsh conditions of Canadian winters. But many, including Corey McBurney at EnerQuality, Canada’s leading certifier of energy efficient sustainable homes, suggest that many homeowners might be throwing money out the window.Green homeWhy? Because the average home is full of holes that allow energy to escape. “In a cold climate, the number one issue that effects utility costs is heat loss,” says McBurney. “Poorly insulated homes that let warm indoor air escape require more energy to heat, produce more CO2 and greenhouse gasses, and allow many more heating dollars to leak out the cracks.”Over the last decade, the home building industry and federal government have been working hard to implement programs that mandate tighter construction and higher insulation for new home construction. For example, almost 30 per cent of the homes built in Ontario last year were Energy Star qualified, a national standard set by Natural Resource Canada for homes that are on average 20 per cent more energy efficient than a home built to the minimum building code.Energy Star qualified homes also undergo a rigorous quality assurance process of inspection, testing, and verification to meet strict requirements, delivering better quality, better comfort and better durability.Most importantly, they cost less to heat.The success of Energy Star speaks for itself. EnerQuality alone has certified more than 59,000 homes since the program’s introduction 10 years ago. With an average reduction of 20 GJ of energy use per house, per year, the savings add up quickly.Green home2But what if you don’t live in an Energy Star qualified home?McBurney says the answer is in the details: check for air leaks around doors and window frames; ensure your appliances and heating systems are Energy Star qualified and properly maintained; and check the insulation in your attic, exterior and basement walls, ceilings, floors, and crawl spaces. Improvements in all these elements add up to a more energy efficient home.“Better yet,” says McBurney, “the next time you are making a move, make sure you’re buying a certified home. Instead of searching for leaks and holes in the construction, you only need to find the Energy Star stamp of approval.”

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