Prepare for 2017’s new Title 24 regulationsSeptember 7, 2016
Every three years, the California Energy Commission (CEC) revisits its energy efficiency standards, augmenting the building code to align with recent technological advancements and the state's new efficiency goals. The commission underwent this process again this year, identifying areas for improvement in both new construction and retrofits for residential and nonresidential properties.
With this most recent set of revisions, the commission is striving toward a pair of new state efficiency targets: achieving net zero energy for new residential construction by 2020 and for new commercial construction by 2030. Referred to as the 2016 version, these standards will go into effect January 1, 2017, which gives contractors just a few months with which to become familiar with the new building requirements.
Before we dive into what's new for 2017, let's take a step back and review the overall goal of these standards.
What is Title 24?
"Title 24" is the short name for the California's Building Energy Efficiency Standards Title 24, Part 6, which exists to conserve electricity and natural gas consumption throughout the state. Among the many benefits of reduced consumption, Title 24 specifically seeks to prevent the state from having to build additional power plants to supply unchecked demand, according to the CEC. To manage consumption, Title 24 sets efficiency regulations on building features such as materials, lighting and appliances.
"Title 24 has helped eliminate more than 250 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions."
The regulations have certainly helped curb California's per capita electricity use since they've been in place. While the rest of the nation's consumption climbs every year, California has managed to stay relatively consistent for the last 40 years, the commission reported. Such significant reductions do more than simply keep the state from having to invest in new generation efforts. So far, the standards have saved California residents billions of dollars on their energy bills. Plus, they've served to protect the environment by eliminating more than 250 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. That's the equivalent of taking 37 million cars off the road, according to the CEC.
What are the changes?
As we mentioned above, the latest code updates support the state's goals of achieving zero net energy use in new residential buildings by 2020 and in new commercial spaces by 2030. Here's what's new in the building code for 2017:
The updated building requirements for new residential construction is predicted to cost homeowners about $2,700 in additional hardware and installation costs. However, the CEC expects this initial expense will result in savings of nearly $7,500 over the life of the home's 30-year mortgage. The changes affect the following areas:
- Lighting: All lighting in new homes must be highly efficient, according to the 2017 Title 24 standards. By installing these fixtures alongside controls that can adjust output, homeowners can cut their energy usage on lighting in half.
- Walls: 2017 regulations require builders to use high-performance wall materials, featuring additional insulation to keep heat out during the summer and keep heat inside the home in the winter. This passive feature can save heating and cooling energy year-round.
- Attics: With limited ventilation, attic temperatures can skyrocket on hot days. Adding insulation to roof decks and ceilings can curb these temperature spikes by as much as 35 degrees and adding insulation to ceilings helps keep this heat out of the house, according to the CEC, reducing cooling loads on already strenuous summer days.
- Water heating: Installing tankless water heating technology and improving water distribution systems could help reduce energy usage by as much as 35 percent in new homes, the CEC reported.
"Energy efficient features could make homes more valuable."
Not only will these efficient features help save electricity and reduce energy spending, but they could also make homes more valuable – a benefit for homeowners and builders alike. Homeowners cite energy efficient upgrades among the most desirable features when shopping for a home, a National Association of Home Builders survey found. In fact, prospective homebuyers are even willing to pay more to get them.
Proponents of a more strict energy code say this trend should come as no surprise. "Average homeowners are the biggest beneficiaries of more energy efficient building codes," Daniel Bressett of the Alliance to Save Energy told the publication EECoordinator.
The 2016 Building Energy Efficiency Standards for nonresidential buildings are five percent more stringent than the previous version set out in 2013. While that's far less than the 28 percent improvement in the residential sector, commercial buildings' relatively high consumption means that achieving even five percent savings will have a large impact on California's energy consumption.
Here's how the 2016 regulations seek to make this goal a reality:
- Doors and windows: When doors and windows are left open, costly heating and cooling systems end up pumping air outside, having little effect on the actual temperature inside the building. Newly required sensors would adjust thermostats when doors and windows are left open for more than a few minutes, turning climate control measures off until the room gets sealed back up.
- Digital controls: Achieving energy efficiency on a large scale requires building managers to have fine control over their heating, cooling and ventilation systems. Newly required digital control units gives users this more precise level control by linking HVAC operation directly to building energy management systems.
- Elevators: There's far more to elevator systems than cars and pulleys. The new code requires efficient elevators that include high-performing lights and fans that turn off when the elevator is empty.
- Escalators: Whether they're in use or not, escalators run at the same speed and consume a similar amount of energy. New regulations stipulate that escalators and moving walkways run at more efficient levels when unoccupied.
- Outdoor lighting: 2016's Title 24 updates reduce the general power allowance for outdoor lighting on commercial properties. Builders can meet these demands by using more efficient lighting sources.
Adjusting your building practices to become compliant with these new code changes can be difficult, especially when the specific energy requirements are so nuanced. Many organizations and consultants throughout the state are providing trainings to help keep you up to date and help you comply in 2017.