Ill. residential building legislation includes new HVAC requirements

July 1, 2009
New residential buildings in Illinois will use less energy thanks to the Energy Efficient Building Act, House Bill 3987, that recently passed Illinois' General Assembly on May 31, 2009.

Chicago — New residential buildings in Illinois will use less energy thanks to the Energy Efficient Building Act, House Bill 3987, that recently passed Illinois' General Assembly on May 31, 2009.

The Energy Efficient Building Act sponsored by Representative Julie Hamos (D-18th District) and Senator Don Harmon (D-39th District), will require all new buildings and houses to conform to the International Energy Conservation Code published by the International Code Council.

New energy efficient provisions in the 2009 IECC, effecting residential construction, include a duct leakage requirement that includes a post-construction test to verify leakage rates and a requirement for circulating hot water systems, increasing insulation on pipe distribution systems to R-3. Also, all houses will now require programmable thermostats.

Out of these changes, the biggest one is the duct testing requirement, according to Bob Guenther, ICC's mechanical program director.

“There are three ways contractors may handle this,” said Guenther. “The contractor may have to purchase duct blasters to do the test themselves, the contractor may say this is not worth their time and want to contract this out — maybe HVAC professionals will specialize in this as a subcontractor, or there may be jurisdictions that will amend this if that is possible.”

However, according to Ryan R. Hoger, board member of the Illinois Chapter of ASHRAE, the impact on HVAC professionals will be minimal since the commercial provisions of the IECC, which HVAC plays a major role in, have already been in affect for a few years.

“This new bill simply adds the residential provisions,” explained Hoger. “The IECC does include some items related to residential HVAC such as duct sealing.”

Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation, including $3.4 billion in energy assistance grants for states that adopt and administer the 2009 IECC. To receive a grant, state governors must certify their state will adopt an energy code for one- and two-family homes, townhouses and low-rise, multiple-family buildings that meets or exceeds provisions in the 2009 IECC for residential construction, and the ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1-2007, as referenced in the 2009 IECC.

Findings in House Bill 3987 note that an effective energy efficient building code is essential to reduce air pollutant emissions from energy consumption, moderate future peak electric power demand, assure the reliability of the electrical grid and supply of heating oil and natural gas, and control energy costs for both residents and businesses in Illinois.

Additions, alterations, renovations or repairs to existing buildings, building systems or a portion of a building will need to follow IECC code standards, but doesn't require the unaltered portions of buildings to comply with the code.

Specifics of the bill allow a municipality, including all home rule units, which has adopted or referenced residential energy efficient building standards equivalent to or more stringent than the 2006 IECC on or before May 15, 2009, to continue regulating energy efficiency under those standards.

A recent U.S. Department of Energy study estimated that Illinois' Energy Efficient Building Code will result in at least 15% savings annually on utility bills and an average homeowner in Illinois saving more than $240 per year.

Illinois ASHRAE, the Home Builders Association of Illinois, Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance and many other organizations supported the state's new Energy Efficient Building Act.

The legislation will become effective when Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signs it. By Illinois law, the bill must be signed by the governor within 60 days of passage.

According to Barry Matchett, co-legislative director at the Environmental Law and Policy Center, Quinn has already indicated publically several times that he will sign the bill.

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