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Make a List, and Check it Twice…New Energy Code Updates are Coming to Town

December 23, 2019

Make a List, and Check it Twice…New Energy Code Updates are Coming to Town

by Jennifer Tung 

It’s that time again—no, not time to commit to the latest New Year’s resolutions. Time to get ready for the newest Energy Code updates.

On January 1, 2020, the 2019 updates to the California Energy Code (Title 24, Part 6 of the California Code of Regulations) will come online.  These new standards—which the California Energy Commission (“CEC”) must update, adopt and implement every three years—will replace those adopted in 2016.  These latest standards are applicable to newly constructed buildings (including, for the first time, new healthcare facilities), as well as additions and alterations to existing buildings.  The Energy Code sets minimum requirements for energy efficiency, water efficiency, and indoor air quality.

So what’s in the 2019 standards? 

For one, they require solar photovoltaic systems (in other words, solar panels) for new homes.  They also encourage demand responsive technologies, including battery storage and heat pump water heaters, to lower residential energy consumption at specific times of the day.  The 2019 standards also focus on improving a residence’s thermal envelope through high performance attics, walls, and windows. 

In non-residential buildings, the 2019 standards seek to maximize the use of LED technology by updating indoor and outdoor lighting requirements. 

According to the CEC, single-family homes built with the 2019 standards will use 7-percent less energy compared to those built under the 2016 standards.  That number climbs to as high as 50-percent less energy once rooftop solar electricity generation is factored in.  The CEC states that non-residential buildings will use about 30-percent less energy due mainly to lighting upgrades.

The CEC, however, acknowledges that the new standards will increase the upfront cost of constructing a new home by about $9,500.  Homeowners, however should expect to save $19,000 in energy and maintenance costs over 30 years.  In other words, while it will cost approximately $40 extra dollars a month to build a new home, the CEC says the new standards will save homeowners approximately $80 a month on heating, cooling, and lighting bills.

What does all this mean?  In general, it means that the Energy Code is both continuing to shift towards electricity (and away from gas) while also trying to harmonize the grid by doing things like requiring right-sized photovoltaic systems.  Given the State’s Zero Net Energy goals, California consumers and builders alike should expect continuing further along this path in future Energy Code updates.

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