News Brief

2021 Energy Code Prioritizes Electrification of Residences

Electric outlets must be placed by parking spaces and combustion-based appliances to allow for easy conversions.

A map of the United States showing six states have adopted the 2018 IECC: Washington, Oregon, California, Florida, Texas, and Delaware.

The majority of states are still using the 2009 IECC, though some of the most populous states keep more current.

Image: Department of Energy
Final results for the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code were recently released and will be published for cities and towns to adopt this fall.

The updated code is estimated to improve efficiency in both residential and commercial buildings by at least 10%, according to the New Buildings Institute. For commercial buildings, these gains come from increased efficiency standards for lighting, higher levels of required insulation, and increased thermal efficiency for water heating equipment.

For residential buildings, some more unusual proposals were passed. There is an optional code for net-zero-energy residential buildings, which lays out more aggressive energy-efficiency targets, as well as criteria for renewable energy systems. There are also some specific measures aimed at electrification. For example, if a combustion-based water heater, dryer, or stove is installed in a residence, an electric outlet must be installed within three feet. This requirement ensures that a homeowner can easily switch to electric appliances “should natural gas become less affordable or even unavailable over the life of the building,” according to the proposal.

Residential buildings must also have at least one parking spot that is electric vehicle (EV)-Ready or EV-Capable. Both involve installing the basic electrical infrastructure needed for electric vehicle charging stations: the former indicates that the parking space as a 240-volt charging outlet, whereas the latter means a branch circuit has been run to the parking spot. When this proposal passed by 71% of the vote, opponents tried to defeat it by arguing that vehicle electrification does not belong in the scope of a building code. Yet the International Code Council Board of Directors unanimously upheld the vote.

To date, six states have adopted the 2018 IECC for residential buildings, while 29 states are currently using the 2009 IECC, according to the Building Energy Codes Program.

 

Published July 8, 2020

Pearson, C. (2020, June 19). 2021 Energy Code Prioritizes Electrification of Residences. Retrieved from https://www.buildinggreen.com/newsbrief/2021-energy-code-prioritizes-electrification-residences

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