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N.S. offers housewarming gift 

Energy-efficient homes qualify for rebates of $3,000 to $7,000

Bill Estabrooks, minister responsible for Conserve Nova Scotia, leaves after taking a tour of an energy-efficient home at 85 Viridian Dr. in Dartmouth. Estabrooks announced a series of rebates for people who build or buy homes that meet new efficiency guidelines. (Eric Wynne / Staff)Buyers of new energy-efficient homes can qualify for thousands in new rebates from the province, giving consumers a chance to offset the Dexter government’s sales tax hike, says one builder.

Under the program, homes that achieve an Energuide rating of at least 83 qualify for a rebate, ranging from $3,000 to $7,000, Energy Minister Bill Estabrooks announced Tuesday morning.

Estabrooks, the minister responsible for Conserve Nova Scotia, said benefits of energy-efficient homes include lower energy costs and greenhouse emissions. He said the rebate program should also create jobs by encouraging more new home construction.

"Quality materials and extra attention to detail do increase the cost of energy-efficient homes," Estabrooks said at a news conference in Dartmouth.

"But when all of the homeowner’s monthly costs, including principle, interest, taxes, and energy are added together, an energy-efficient home can actually cost you less to own."

The program is limited to 1,200 buyers. The province has budgeted $4 million, which works out to an average rebate of $3,333.

The rebate for a rating of 83 and 84 is $3,000, from 85-87, it’s $5,000, and at 88 or higher, it’s $7,000.

The PerformancePlus program replaces the Energuide for New Homes program, which was introduced in 2007. The previous program’s rebates topped out at $1,250, and a home qualified with an Energuide rating of 80.

Estabrooks said the province had to step up with Ottawa shutting down its home energy-efficiency incentives earlier this year.

Ottawa’s program didn’t include new homes, but it did require an evaluation by an energy auditor, and that business has slowed down considerably.

Antigonish homebuilder Gerry Connolly said he thinks the new program will be good for business.

"With the increase in the HST to 15 per cent, we needed some kind of a stimulus in the home-building industry," said Connelly, owner of Enerscope Turnkey Homes.

The province put its share of the tax up two percentage points on July 1. Connolly said he issued a flurry of invoices in June to beat the tax.

He noted the new rebates could offset the tax increase.

The tax on a $200,000 new home is now $4,000 more than it would have been before July 1. The difference on a $300,000 home is $6,000.

However, a buyer also faces the increased cost of getting the home to the 83-rating threshold.

Connolly said many new homes would already have a rating of about 80, and the cost of adding a few more points wouldn’t be exorbitant.

He said it would take a little more insulation, more detailed air-sealing, and the main issue likely would be installing an alternative heating system like a heat pump, rather than an oil-fired furnace or electric baseboard heat.

Connolly estimated the additional costs would be in the $5,000 to $10,000 range.

"People would do that, I think, if they thought they were going to get a rebate," he said.

Other rebates include $200 for homes that are ready for a solar hot water system, and $1,000 if the solar equipment is installed.

It’s the second program for buyers of new homes that the NDP has started since forming government in June 2009.

The other program was a 50 per cent rebate on the provincial portion of the HST. That program, limited to 1,500 homebuyers, ended earlier this year, with 1,469 people getting the rebate.

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