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The Online Code Environment and Advocacy Network

Best Practices for Homebuilders and Energy Codes

Home Buyers Demand Energy Efficiency and Comfort
Energy codes put dollars in consumers’ pockets and protect
consumers into the future by reducing utility bills, increasing
their buying power, and improving home comfort. Energy
savings derived from the energy code increase the buying
power of citizens. Dollars not spent on energy are available
for better, more affordable housing, particularly for those
from lower income brackets who tend to get “stuck” in aging,
inefficient rental housing. Home Buyers can access affordable
mortgage products, including energy efficient mortgages that
enable either lower payments, or payments that remain the
Courtesy of DOE/NREL, Credit—Tierra Concrete Homes
same but allow greater home buying power.

Fewer Customer Callbacks
Builders want to reduce callbacks which decrease the profitability of their business. Following the IECC requirements
for duct construction, sealing and insulation can reduce operating costs, increase customer comfort, and eliminate
callbacks from those areas. The requirements also improve indoor air quality and reduce moisture problems associ-
ated with poor duct construction; a major source of callbacks for builders.

Reduced Liability
Air Sealing requirements in the IECC, if fully understood and adhered to, are additional examples of how energy
codes can help lower liability. These requirements provide guidance for improving a home’s resistance to air leak-
ages and moisture problems, and for lowering mold, mildew and rot problems caused by indiscriminate air leakage
and moisture movement into a buildings enclosure system.

Builder-Friendly Training
Implementing current nationally-recognized energy codes and standards enable designers, builders, and code offi-
cials to participate in training opportunities and use implementation materials developed by the US Department of
Energy and other national entities. The builder-friendly REScheck™ system for residential buildings is the system of
choice for many builders, including those in New York, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Indiana, Ohio, and dozens of
other states.

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Best Practices for Homebuilders and Energy Codes
Increased Attention from Lenders
An energy efficient statewide code is more likely to attract national lenders, such as Fannie Mae, to design financial
products geared to raising the debt/income ratio, thus enabling more working families to afford their first homes.
Compliance with a statewide building code that includes current nationally recognized energy standards may enable
more homes to qualify for FHA, VA, or RHS financing, since federal mortgages require that new homes be built in
compliance with the national model codes.

You can Lead the Way
Builders can take a leadership role in this nations fight against high energy prices and Global Warming. The NAHB
estimates that barely half of the homes needed by 2030 have been built. The energy and dollar savings over this
span are huge.

Best Practices
Insulate Properly - Make sure you use the IECC required insu-
lation levels at a minimum, and more insulation as cost-
effectiveness allows. Most importantly, make sure that insu-
lation is installed properly to manufacturer’s specifications.
Insulation with gaps and voids will not perform properly,
causing energy and comfort problems later on. Try combina-
tion systems that utilize high performance foam and loose-fill
insulation, taking advantage of the best properties of both.
Duct properly sealed and installed to register Create air barriers at soffits and other vents and behind knee
walls to prevent air from reducing insulation effectiveness.

Infiltration Control - One of the most misunderstood code requirements. Air sealing the building enclosure can be
one of the two biggest energy savings practices, and it helps prevent a myriad of other problems too. Air leakage
through the building enclosure can cause severe degradation of insulation loose-fill and batts. It can also carry mois-
ture to that insulation, further degrading it and potentially causing mold and rot issues. Thoroughly seal all of the
“big holes” like kneewall areas, chimney chases, attic hatches, recessed lighting, and common walls in multifamily
units. Think about creating an “air barrier” as one of the primary enclosure design goals.

Duct Construction/Sealing - Another misunderstood code requirement; duct installation, sealing, and design. Ducts
are often built improperly, located in unconditioned spaces, unsealed and generally dealt with poorly. It is essential
to air seal, with Mastic, all joints in all kinds of ducts and air handling distribution elements. Leaky ducts can also ac-
count for 1/3 of a homes heat loss, result in comfort issues, and can create home depressurization issues that can

BCAP 1850 M St. NW Suite 1050 | Washington, DC 20036 | www.bcap-ocean.org
Best Practices for Homebuilders and Energy Codes
cause appliance backdrafting (and CO poisoning). Be sure to seal everything in the duct system from the air handler
out. Use only UL-181A/B rated Mastic or tapes. Size your duct system properly using ACCA Manual D or equivalent,
and by all means, try to get the designer to design space inside the building enclosure for the ducts. You’ll save
money by not having to insulate them, and have a better, more callback free system that conditions the home bet-
ter.

HVAC Sizing Calculations - Required by Code, but often not done properly; The IECC and the IRC require it, and good
design practice encourages it, ho ever too often our HVAC systems are poorly sized for the application. Often times,
rules of thumb are used, leading to oversized equipment and distribution systems. Oversized equipment leads to
higher first costs, poor comfort and excessive energy use, and can often lead to poor dehumidification in the case of
Central A/C systems, with all the related problems that can stem from excessive humidity. The codes require ACCA
Manual J or equivalent for systems, and ductwork should be sized using Manual D for best results. If your sub does-
n’t know these methods, teach them or find another one.

Additional Resources
Efficiency for Builders:
www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=new_homes.hm_index
www.nahbrc.org/technical/index.aspx
www.resnet.us/builder/default.htm
www.resnet.us/ratings/overview/default.htm

Builders and the Tax Credits:
www.resnet.us/taxcredits/faq-builders.htm
www.energytaxincentives.org

Energy Efficient Mortgages:
www.energywisemortgage.com/handcrafted2.asp?run_init=
www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/housing/energy_mort/energymortgage.htm
www.energy-mortgage.com

Best Practice Programs:
www.huduser.org/research/path.html
www.eere.energy.go/buildings/building_america/
www.eere.energy.gov/buildings/building_america/for_builders.html

OCEAN is an online resource of the Building Codes Assistance Project
For more information, please visit us at: www.bcap-ocean.org
A joint initiative of the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE), the Natural Resources Defense

BCAP Council (NRDC), and the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE)
1850 M St. NW Suite 1050 | Washington, DC | www.bcap-ocean.org