Home Renovation FAQs by Category

Do I need a permit for my upgrade?

The purpose of the permit process and related inspections is to ensure that the work on your home is structurally sound and meets provincial and/or municipal requirements for health and safety. During the planning stage of your building project or renovations, it’s important to check with the building department of your municipality directly to confirm permit requirements.

Ask your contractor to confirm the permits required for home energy improvements. Contractors committed to quality installations and good customer service will not try to talk you out of upgrading your home without the required permits.

In addition, we recommend that you contact your municipality and inquire about their permitting requirements. Generally, only extensive renovations that include modifying the layout of your home, such as adding an addition or moving walls, may require a permit. It is always best practice to inquire with your municipality before starting any work on the home.

If you live within the City of Vancouver there are additional bylaws for renovation permits. Visit our FAQ on the City of Vancouver’s permit requirements.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

What are the permit requirements in the City of Vancouver?

If you are located in the City of Vancouver (COV) and you are planning renovations in your home you might need a renovation permit to be in compliance with the Vancouver Building Bylaw. When applying for a renovation permit and the value of the renovation is more than $20,000, you’re required to have an EnerGuide evaluation and submit a Renovation Energy Upgrade Proposal to the City of Vancouver.

Depending on the total value of the project, the COV has specific energy efficiency upgrade requirements. Check with the permitting office for the Vancouver Building By-Law to confirm the specific requirements for your project if your renovation is unable to comply with specific upgrade requirements. Speak with the Energy Advisor who conducted your EnerGuide home evaluation about Alternative Upgrades to the prescribed requirements.

If you have any questions about your renovation plans, speak with the City of Vancouver directly at 604-873-7611 or submit an online contact form to confirm whether you require a renovation permit and specific upgrade requirements.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

Is the BC Home Energy Coach still available?

While the name “BC Home Energy Coach” is not being used, the same Energy Coaching service is still available through CleanBC. Visit the Contact Us page to get connected with an Energy Coach!

Buying or Selling Your Home

What is a new home?

A new home is a house that is six months old or less, based on the date of occupancy by the first homeowner.

How do I find an energy efficient home to buy?

If you’re looking to buy a new home, there are a number of ways to find an energy efficient home. Look for homes that are certified as a Passive House, Built Green, or with Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan) EnerGuide Rating System or ENERGY STAR® certificate and label (usually placed on the home’s electrical panel). An ENERGY STAR® certified home meets the ENERGY STAR® standard for enhanced energy efficiency. On average, an ENERGY STAR® certified new home will be 20% more efficient than a home built to code.

According to NRCan, typical features of an ENERGY STAR® home include:

  • Efficient heating and cooling systems that use less energy, reduce indoor humidity and improve the overall comfort of your home.
  • High-performance ENERGY STAR® windows, patio doors, and skylights that keep the heat in during the winter and out during the summer.
  • Walls and ceilings insulated beyond what is required by the building code.
  • A variety of ENERGY STAR® products that use less electricity by meeting strict technical specifications.
  • A heat or energy recovery ventilation system (HRV or ERV) that ensures your home has controlled ventilation.

Another way to gauge a home’s energy efficiency is by asking the seller if they’ve conducted an EnerGuide home evaluation. If so, ask to see the EnerGuide home label to get a better sense of the home’s annual energy consumption.  You can also ask the seller if the home has energy efficient or ENERGY STAR® products.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

How do I promote the energy efficiency of my home when selling it?

Energy efficiency improvements are not as flashy as kitchen or bathroom renovations or a new coat of paint, which usually top the list of best renovations for home value improvement at time of sale. That being said, third-party energy rating or certification systems do help homes sell for a premium.

If you have completed an EnerGuide home evaluation be sure to inform your REALTOR® so that potential buyers can see your home’s EnerGuide rating and label and learn about the energy efficient features of your home, such as:

  • Insulation levels
  • Heating and cooling systems
  • Windows and doors
  • Water heating systems
  • Appliances
  • Lighting
  • Ventilation
  • Draftproofing

If you haven’t completed an EnerGuide home evaluation, consider having one done by a program-qualified energy advisor. The EnerGuide label can be an important selling point for prospective buyers as it lets them assess the home’s energy performance and see how it might affect their utility bills. Ensure that you have a post-upgrade energy evaluation to verify your upgraded EnerGuide rating and include this on the MLS listing.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

Renewable/High Performance Options

I’m interested in solar energy. How do I find out if it’s a good option for me?

Solar energy is an affordable alternative energy source that can be used to help heat and power your home or business. The active solar technology becoming more common is Solar Photovoltaic (Solar PV). Solar PV systems use solar cells to convert sunlight directly into electricity.

Solar PV systems are comprised of solar panels, inverters, breakers and mounting equipment. The solar panel generates power by converting sunlight to direct current electricity. Inverters are then used to convert the direct current electricity into alternating current to be used in your home.


  • The potential for solar energy varies across Canada and British Columbia.
  • Before installing a solar system on your home’s roof, consider your roof’s current condition and if rework is needed in the near future.
  • Assessing how much energy your home requires on a daily, monthly, yearly, and seasonal basis will give you an idea of whether solar energy is economically viable for your home.
  • Engage an experienced and reputable solar energy installer to learn more about the right system for your home.

Rebate Programs

The BC Hydro Net Metering Program is designed for those who generate electricity for their own use. When you generate more than you need, you sell it to BC Hydro. When you don’t generate enough to meet your needs, you buy it from them. Any excess electricity is carried over to the following month and applied to that month’s consumption. If any excess power is left over a year from your net metering anniversary date, you will receive a financial credit from BC Hydro.

The Canada Greener Homes Grant offers up to $5,000 in grants when installing solar. This program also offers an up to $40,000 interest-free loan to support energy efficiency upgrades in your home. To access this program, you have to first start with an EnerGuide home evaluation with a energy advisor. Use the program-qualified energy advisor search tool to get started.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

What is a net zero energy home? How can I make my home a net zero home?

A net-zero energy (NZE) home produces as much energy as it consumes on a yearly basis and has at least one on-site renewable energy system. NZE homes are not necessarily energy autonomous or off-grid because they can be connected to the electricity grid and supply energy back to the grid when the home produces more energy than it needs. In the span of a year the energy supplied to the grid should balance the energy drawn from the grid to achieve net-zero annual energy consumption.

To make your home a NZE home, there are three steps to consider when designing and building your home:

  1. Reduce the home’s energy requirements.
  2. Include renewable energy systems to provide the amount of energy required to operate the home.
  3. Operate the home efficiently.

For more information on the steps toward a NZE home, visit CMHC’s Net-Zero Energy Housing webpage.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.

Can you retrofit a building to the Passive House Standard?

Passive House retrofit is becoming a viable and increasingly common option in Europe, especially for low-rise apartment buildings. Canadian houses are generally built without good passive design characteristics:

  • They often have inefficient shapes (i.e. high area to volume ratios).
  • They’re generally not oriented towards the sun or they experience significant winter shading.
  • They may have a lot of north-facing glass as well as serious thermal bridges, and their interior layouts may be difficult to change.
  • Often a significant part of the value of the house may be invested in exterior brick or stonework, making re-insulation from the exterior non-viable.

So, although it can be possible to dramatically cut the energy consumption of a house or building, perhaps close to Passive House levels, it may not be cost-effective to do so, depending on the state, shape, size and age of the house.

For the EnerPHit Standard criteria, visit Passive House Canada.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.