3 consumer trends influencing how new homes are built

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For one home builder, building sustainable homes that leverage connected home technology is simply the right way to respond to a changing market. “As energy costs rise, today’s home buyers are focusing on purchase price, operating costs and functionality,” says Conrad Ehr, president of Ehrenburg Homes and chair of the Saskatoon and Region Home Builders Association. They’re looking for “affordability not only in the purchase price, but in the longevity of the home and how it performs over time, both in summer and winter.”

The homes Ehrenburg is building in the Brighton residential community on Saskatoon’s east side are designed to appeal to buyers who are feeling a little more cautious now, especially about long-term, ongoing costs and climate change. Ehrenburg’s approach — has began to incorporate smart, connected devices for energy efficiency along with positioning resilient electrical system solutions to clients — dovetails with recent consumer trends.

Connected Home

1. Most consumers like working from home, and they need reliable power

Almost 4 out of 5 Canadians (78%) prefer working from home, according to a 2022 survey on attitudes to the changing nature of work [1]. An online quantitative survey was conducted between Nov 30, 2021 and Dec 6, 2021 through the Angus Reid online panel amongst a sample of 1,523 nationally representative Canadian homeowners over the age of 18, offered in both French and English

This remains true, even as pandemic restrictions have eased. To meet that requirement, forward-looking builders recognize that a resilient electrical system is key. “The heart of the home is the electrical panel,” says Saskatoon electrical contractor Scott Kerslake of Jesk Electric. As he explains in a video series profiling Ehrenburg’s work in Brighton, homeowners need reliable protection for home electronics and electrical devices.

Whole-home surge protection devices, installed at the panel, assure consumers that the electrical devices they need for remote work are safe. “Homes often have up to $15,000 of electronic devices to protect,” says Kerslake. A surge protector, he explains, will help prevent damage that can be caused by a lightning strike or a sudden change in power consumption when, for example, air conditioning cycles on and off.

2. Canadian homeowners value energy efficiency

In a study conducted by Schneider Electric, 89 per cent of Canadian homeowners say it’s important to have energy efficient appliances or devices when buying, building, or renovating a home. Energy efficiency can come from major upgrades to home systems, but savings can also be found by incorporating connectivity in devices that consumers use every day, such as switches and receptacles.

These devices have proven appeal to consumers: 63 per cent of Canadians are interested in bringing smart switches into their homes to help combat rising energy costs. In the Brighton development home, Ehrenburg is using Square D humidity- and motion-sensing fan controls, which maximize the efficient use of bathroom exhaust fans. Because these controls “detect occupancy and vacancy in one device,” Kerslake says, fans run when they’re needed — but not more than they’re needed — and homeowners can remotely adjust fan and light operation.

3. Homeowners want to monitor their energy use

If the electrical panel is the heart of the system, a home energy monitor is the brain. Energy monitors can help homeowners track and predict power usage, compare usage with similar homes, and adjust their habits to save on energy costs. For example, an energy monitor can flag the high power consumption of a little-used fridge in the garage, or track the power production of solar panels or a backup generator.

Consumer awareness of the benefits of home energy monitors is high. Most Canadian homeowners (71 per cent) are interested in integrating energy monitoring systems into their homes, and 76 per cent agree that smart home technology would make it easy to manage energy efficiency.

With increased homeowner interest towards energy monitors and smart devices, the residential construction sector has begun to respond. Ehrenburg, for example, has installed the Wiser Energy management system in some of their homes including this Brighton home and continues to offer innovative solutions such as these to prospective buyers. “Customers can make their homes smarter and save energy — I help them save money in the long run,” Kerslake says, and the system “allows me to differentiate and expand my services.” For electrical contractors, training opportunities such as the Wiser Approved Installer program help them meet consumer demand.

Some homebuilders offer additional connected devices as an upgrade option to clients, and when these devices are easily integrated into the electrical system, they are even more cost-effective. “As a home builder, we start with Schneider Electric products as a foundation for a connected home. Then, our clients can choose to add additional devices – at a very minimal cost to us and no interruption in our workflow,” says Ehr.

4. Market interest in energy efficiency and smart devices has an impact on sales

Energy efficiency in home building isn’t a new concern. “Because Saskatchewan experiences extreme winter cold,” says Ehr, “the province has long been a leader in home building technology research and design, for innovations such as heat recovery ventilators, blower doors to measure home airtightness, and the R2000 program.”

What is new is technology that allows better monitoring and control than ever. An energy monitor, says Ehr, “lets you see — in real time — exactly where your home is using electricity and how much it’s costing you. Understanding energy use is the first step towards reducing consumption and saving money.”

Homes featuring smart home products, surge protectors, and similar electrical-system enhancements sell faster, in Ehr’s experience, because buyers want the automation, energy savings, safety, and protection these devices can provide. “Customers see real value in choosing a home builder who’s focused on sustainability. And we like knowing that our clients are well protected.”

Learn more about homes of the future from Schneider Electric.

  1. An online quantitative survey was conducted between Nov 30, 2021 and Dec 6, 2021 through the Angus Reid online panel amongst a sample of 1,523 nationally representative Canadian homeowners over the age of 18, offered in both French and English

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