Your appliances proudly bear the Energy Star label. You always carry a re-usable grocery bag, just in case. You even switch it all off for earth hour … and watch hockey by candlelight on your computer. Green is definitely your colour.

But what about your home? Whether you're looking to buy, build or renovate here's help making sense of all things green to make sure you don't get yourself into the red. Don`t despair if you`ve never heard of Energuide, Passive House, LEED, ZEB, CGBC and Novoclimat -- a quick read will make you an expert energy saver in no time.

If you want your energy report card, you’ll want to get out your Energuide. Homes rated by Energuide are given a score displayed on the energy box or furnace, so you probably have one in your basement. It seems that an average Energuide rating is 66. How does your home compare?

Build Green

To be a real energy star and achieve a higher than average score, ventilation, insulation and efficient climate control must be taken into account. Because a big part of energy efficiency means taking advantage of the winter sun for warmth, careful planning before construction is key. and the combination of all these elements incorporated into a single building is what we call a Passive House. With an astounding 90% energy reduction, it's no wonder the Passive House is an attractive investment in a time of growing energy uncertainty. The bottom line: higher quality building materials will set you back 14% more than the average new home—an investment which will ultimately be offset by energy savings and protection from future increases to energy costs.

Another standard that has garnered lots of attention is LEED or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design: a U.S. initiative which operates in Canada under the CGBC, the Canadian Green Building Council. LEED Canada can be credited with finding innovative ways to make buildings more environmentally friendly. Pushing for obvious reductions by using compact fluorescent lights as well as using more novel strategies like drought resistant plants in beatification projects to minimize watering, LEED is at the forefront of green design. Recently, after undergoing an inspection and upgrade, the Bell Centre was added to the list of over a dozen prominent LEED certified buildings in Montreal.

If you begin by investing in quality materials and positioning them in such a way as to benefit from the longest exposure to winter sun, then add renewable sources of energy like solar or wind, you could end up with a ZEB or Zero Energy Building. While this sort of building is not technically off-the-grid, combining a super efficient Passive House with renewables allows you to offset the remaining electrical costs so you end up producing as much energy as you consume. While this may seem ambitious, MaisonProductiveHouse, Montreal's first Zero Energy residential building shows us just how eco-friendly urban design can be

Renovate Green

Suppose you already own a home and you want to reduce your carbon footprint while saving money down the line. In Quebec, Novoclimat would be a good place to start. An initiative by the Ministère de ressources naturels du Quebec, Novoclimat includes a list of inspectors for pre-existing homes and you might even qualify for credits in their Rénoclimat program which encourages environmentally conscious upgrades. Even low income households can benefit from free assessments under the Econologis program.

As you plan your construction or renovation projects, there is something else you can do (besides candlelight hockey) to save money and the environment. A home energy monitor is a device which tells you how much electricity you are using and even translates the figure into estimated greenhouse gas emissions. A home energy monitor will also help you reduce you MELs or Miscellaneous Electrical Loads by showing you how much you can save just by unplugging common household appliances when not in use. In a time of growing energy costs it is truer than ever before that if you take care of your MELs your dollars will take care of themselves.