Pennsylvania leaps forward in efficiency
For the first time in nearly a decade, Pennsylvania is ringing in the advent of a new statewide energy code. On May 1, 2018, Pennsylvania advanced both its commercial and residential energy codes to the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), while incorporating some select improvements from the 2018 edition. Before last week, Pennsylvania’s energy code had not been updated since 2009.
In addition to the 2015 model residential energy code being about 25 percent more efficient than the 2009 code, the new state energy code includes the Energy Rating Index (ERI) compliance option, which adds additional flexibility for builders. Pennsylvania modified the ERI scores to reflect the 2018 version of the IECC. Pennsylvania builders must meet the provisions of the new energy code on Oct. 1, 2018. Pennsylvania joins the ranks of 14 states and municipalities that have adopted the IECC ERI option as a compliance option to their state energy code. The states that have incorporated the ERI into their energy code are:
The ERI option of the IECC — based on the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET)/International Code Council (ICC) ANSI Standard 301 — is a measure of the home’s efficiency on a zero to 100 scale where zero is equivalent to a net-zero energy home (meaning its annual energy use is offset by things like energy efficiency and solar energy) and 100 is equivalent a home compliant with the 2006 version of the IECC. Homebuilders choosing this path to show they meet the energy code would have to meet or exceed a specific ERI score, in addition to meeting minimum envelope requirements and other mandatory measures, such as insulating hot water pipes.
The RESNET Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index is the most common demonstration compliance method to the IECC Energy Rating Index. More than two million homes in the United States have now been rated with a HERS index score, which establishes a uniform estimate of a home’s energy consumption and provides buyers and owners with a reference point for how energy efficient it is as compared to other homes. Heating, cooling and water heating constitute the largest cost of homeownership outside of the mortgage loan, and the HERS index score can help homeowners outline the energy features of the home and the expected cost of utility bills.
Last year, more than 206,000 homes received HERS index scores, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by over 905,000 tons (which is the equivalent of taking more than 129,000 cars off the road each year) and achieving an annual energy bill savings of $268 million for consumers. In Pennsylvania, there were 4,608 HERS-rated homes with an average HERS index score of 60. This means that the state’s builders who have their homes HERS-rated are meeting the ERI option in the new state code.
The new codes and ERI option in Pennsylvania could spark an increased need for technology and a green workforce, which will grow with the increased need for trained code officials, home inspectors and energy raters. Solar provisions in the code will lead to the installation of more on-site generation. Homes will be more resilient and able to provide comfort from large temperature swings. To learn more about how you can meet your state energy code with the ERI option, consider becoming a certified RESNET HERS Rater. These individuals are building science professionals who commonly work with builders and realtors.
The Code Council and RESNET have also produced a video explaining how HERS can be used to demonstrate compliance to an energy code. Click here to view the video.