California builders who carefully install duct systems soon will receive energy efficiency credits that provide flexibility and reduced building cost.
The change comes after the California Energy Commission voted to adopt revisions to the residential energy efficiency building standards at a meeting held Wednesday in Sacramento.
"The new credits provide an incentive for builders to significantly improve the quality of design, installation and sealing of ducts," explained Energy Commission Chairman William Keese. "The credits rely on field testing and certification of the ducts by the installer, with independent, third party inspection of a sample of homes in each building tract."
The revisions were supported by the building industry as a means of improving construction practices, and of providing a safeguard against potential construction defect litigation. By providing a credit for improved duct systems, builders have more selection of what energy efficiency features can be installed in new homes. Studies by the building industry conclude that installation and testing of improved duct systems is a less expensive way to comply with energy efficiency building standards than other options that have been available.
"Field research in California has indicated that, on average, the energy required to heat and cool new homes can be reduced by 10 percent by sealing leaky ducts," Keese said. "When it comes to the quality of home duct systems, the opportunities for improvement are substantial, and the monetary rewards can be great."
To receive duct efficiency credits, heating and air conditioning contractors must certify that the home's duct system is tight. In addition, builders must have duct systems tested by an approved, third party testing agency. To earn the credits, builders must have a third party test 15 percent of the certified homes in each tract. The test using duct-pressurizing equipment must result in leakage of no more than six percent.
The building code revision allowing duct credits is expected to take effect in May 1999.
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