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Energy Efficient Homes: Understanding the Labels & Differences in Each Build

Updated: Feb 13, 2023

Aren’t all new homes energy efficient?

How can I tell how energy efficient my home is (or could be)?

What makes a Net Zero home more efficient than an R-2000 home?

If I can’t renovate my home to reach Net Zero status, should I even bother with energy efficient upgrades at all?

If these are some of the questions that have been bouncing around your nogging lately, read on!

All new homes are NOT created equally

New homes are built to a specific building code, sure, but not all are required to meet the rigorous standards required of a truly energy efficient home.

So, what makes an energy efficient home different than a regular new build?

While most homeowners will agree that exceptional comfort and greater long-term affordability are at the top of that list, the major differences in energy efficient builds really come down to the details.

1) They should be built by a Registered Energy Efficient Builder. To be officially energy efficient, a builder should have the necessary qualifications to build a home to their specific energy efficiency standards.

2) The appliances used throughout the home are usually ENERGY STAR® certified. Appliances must carry this symbol to be classified as energy efficient. Energy efficient appliances use 10-30% less energy than regular appliances, and ENERGY STAR® ventilation fans use 70% less energy.

3) They have specific building standards and features that help the home to not only perform optimally, but to do so by consuming less energy in the process. This includes:

  • Building methodology

  • Installing a high-efficiency HVAC that delivers the best performance and keep operating costs low

  • Furnaces and water heaters that vent outside to reduce the risk of mold

  • Using programmable thermostats to optimize energy use

  • Energy efficient ventilation that filters out air pollutants and improved overall air quality within the home

  • Energy efficient windows that keep heat in

  • Insulated wires and pipes to prevent heat loss

  • Airtight building envelopes to prevent drafts and retain heat

  • Energy efficient lighting

  • Angled water drainpipes and graded landscaping that directs water away from the home

  • A moisture-resistant foundation that prevent groundwater from seeping in

New homes built to the standard code typically do not contain all of these features, making them more susceptible to issues like drafts, inconsistent heating and cooling, lower air quality, water leaks and mold issues.

Determining how energy efficient your home is (or could be)

Energy efficiency is ranked on an EnerGuide scale.

To determine how energy efficient your home is, or what upgrades could make your home more efficient, contact a Licenced Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN) Service Organization to conduct an energy audit on your home today!

Understanding the different levels of energy efficient homes

The following diagram illustrates the different levels of energy efficient homes, along with their corresponding energy performance in relation to a home built to the standard national building code:


ENERGY STAR® certified new homes built to the new standard are on average 20 percent more energy efficient than those built to code. They are constructed by a trained ENERGY STAR® builder, licenced by Natural Resources Canada.


R-2000 is a Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN) program that was developed in partnership with the Canadian Home Builders' Association in 1981. R-2000 certified homes are best-in-class energy-efficient homes with higher levels of energy efficiency than ENERGY STAR® certified new homes. Homes built to the new R-2000 Standard are on average 50% more energy-efficient than typical new homes built to code. They are constructed by a trained R-2000 Builder, licenced by Natural Resources Canada.

Net Zero Ready

CHBA Qualified Net Zero Ready homes are built to the exact same efficiency requirements as Net Zero Homes. The only difference is that the renewable energy system (i.e., solar panels) have not yet been installed. Up to 80% more energy efficient than typical new homes, think of Net Zero Ready homes as wired for its future renewable energy system, and therefore “ready” to be fully Net Zero. They are constructed by a trained Net Zero Ready Builder and must be registered with Natural Resources Canada and Canadian Home Builders’ Association.

Net Zero

CHBA Qualified Net Zero homes are defined as homes that produce as much clean energy as they consume annually, using on-site renewable energy systems. Ranking at 100% efficiency, Net Zero Homes are extremely well built with extra insulation, high-performance windows, and excellent airtightness to minimize heating and cooling needs. Appliances, lighting, and mechanical systems are all as energy efficient as possible. They are constructed by a trained Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) Net Zero Builder and must be registered with Natural Resources Canada and Canadian Home Builders’ Association.

Similarly, CHBA Qualified Net Zero Renovations are homes that have been renovated to the exact same requirements as Net Zero Homes. They can either be full Net Zero, or Net Zero Ready (if the renewable energy system has not yet been installed).

Remember, pursing energy efficiency at ANY level makes a difference

Our planet is in trouble due to climate change. By making our homes as energy efficient as we can, we can lower our dependence on the fossil fuels that power our homes and reduce the greenhouse gases we emit into the atmosphere that cause harm to the environment.

Remember, the CHBA Net Zero Home Labelling Program was designed so that a home could still qualify for Net Zero Ready, R-2000, or ENERGY STAR® status, even if Net Zero isn’t achievable. Talk with a Registered Energy Efficient Builder to find out which solution is best for your needs and budget.

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