Fasten your seat belts, we may be in for a bumpy winter! Canadians brace for increasing fuel costs as crude oil prices continue on a climb that may make US $50 a barrel sound reasonable.

Canadians who own R-2000 homes may have the edge if fuel costs soar. Unfortunately, these homeowners are in the minority. According to The State of Energy Efficiency in Canada, Report 2003, authored by Natural Resources Canada's Office of Energy Efficiency: "It is usually more economical to make energy efficiency improvements during home construction than after a home is built. However, by 2010, energy-efficient houses built after 1995 will represent only about 20 percent of Canadian housing."

In Canadian homes, about 80 percent of residential energy is used to heat space and water. The goal of the R-2000 Standard is to improve the energy efficiency of all types of new homes without compromising either the interior or exterior environments. This voluntary Standard is performance-based, setting criteria for how a home must perform, rather than specifying exactly how it must look or be built. This flexibility leaves the designer and builder free to choose the most effective and economical way to build each R-2000 home.

R-2000 homes incorporate an advanced fresh air ventilation system and environmentally improved building materials and products. Technical requirements for R-2000 certification include both the performance goals and prescriptive measures that a house must meet, but provide builders with flexibility in selecting construction techniques, building products, mechanical equipment, lighting and appliances. However, only new home builders who have taken special R-2000 training can earn a licence to build to the R-2000 Standard.

R-2000 practices and technologies are increasingly being adopted in mainstream construction through increased use of additional insulation, high-efficiency windows and high-efficiency heating systems which incorporate heat recovery ventilators and high-efficiency gas furnaces. The R-2000 brand name or trademark appeared in the early 1980's when the concept of "R-value of insulation" was linked with the Year 2000 which then represented a date that was sufficiently far in the future to symbolize "the home of the future." The first R-2000 home was built in Saskatchewan in the early 1980's.

While the government encourages Canadians to build homes to the R-2000 Standard, the popularity of this continually-updated housing approach freely extends beyond our borders. The Canadian R-2000 Standard for building homes that require less energy to heat than conventional new houses has hit Japan where it is known as Super E, which is a " of="" the="" as="" United Kingdom, the first Super-E house was constructed in 2002 and another 86 Super E® homes followed at the award-winning developments in Kent, south of London. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency, R-2000 was also part of the inspiration behind the US Energy Star homes.

Build to the R-2000 Standard and your new home will achieve an energy-efficiency approximately 40 percent above building code requirements. This improvement should translate into significant cost savings as you'll use at least 30 percent less energy than those living in conventional new houses.

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