Energy code amendments recently approved by the Austin, Texas, City Council will increase the energy-efficiency of each newly constructed home starting this summer by 1,650kWh of electricity a year, saving $165 annually (based on a 2,300-sq-ft home). Combined with energy code amendments adopted three years ago, the efficiency of new homes will increase by 31% since 2007 and save each homeowner 3,630kWh of electricity and $363 annually.

The series of amendments move Austin closer to the goal of the Austin Climate Protection Plan to make new homes built in 2015 65% percent more efficient than those constructed in 2007. The increased efficiency of the new homes due to the code amendments also will make them Zero-Energy Capable in 2015. Zero-Energy Capable is defined as being so energy efficient that it is cost effective to install enough on-site renewable energy collectors to make the homes truly net-zero energy homes.

Key amendments include requiring a duct blaster and blower door test of each new home to check for duct leakage and leakage from within the structure of the home. Additional amendments include increasing the high-efficiency lighting in the home from 25% to 90%, which can be achieved by installing Energy Star-rated compact fluorescent bulbs, light emitting diode (LED) technologies, indirect lighting, and other high-efficiency lighting that replaces incandescent bulbs.

Furthermore, the insulation value of walls was increased from R-13 to R-15, and the thermal efficiency of windows was improved to reduce heat that windows allow into the house. Hot water pipes also will be insulated with higher energy-efficiency standards than in past codes.

This second series of code amendments also increases the efficiency of new commercial buildings by between 13% and 17% over the current code. New significant commercial amendments include requiring timers for electric water heaters in multifamily properties, heating and air-conditioning shut-off switches when overhead doors are open, and commissioning of heating and air-conditioning systems. Commissioning is the process of verifying that systems are installed as designed and that they function according to design and manufacturer’s specifications.

Source: Austin Energy