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New energy efficiency codes expected to save money for homeowners

Published: Wednesday, March 6 2013 3:17 p.m. MST

A three-year push to revise energy conservation codes for new home construction in Utah is on the brink of being successful, with the revisions expected to increase energy efficiency by up to 10 percent.

Gregory Bull, Associated Press

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SALT LAKE CITY — A three-year push to revise energy conservation codes for new home construction in Utah is on the brink of being successful, with the revisions expected to increase energy efficiency by up to 10 percent.

Utah Clean Energy has been pushing the Legislature to adopt the newest standards in residential construction by updating the latest provisions incorporated into the International Energy Conservation Code.

HB202, sponsored by Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, would help prevent homebuyers from falling victim to subpar construction through requiring improvements in the tightness of air ducts, as well as testing and inspection for air leakage.

"While the residential provisions of this bill are far from perfect, it does represent a step forward for improving energy efficiency of new homes in Utah," said Kevin Emerson, senior policy and regulatory associate with Utah Clean Energy.

The organization has been urging Utah lawmakers to update the state's 6-year-old energy conservation codes, and last year, the Utah Uniform Building Code Commission unanimously voted that the Legislature adopt those revisions.

Wilson's HB202 passed the Utah House of Representatives on a 64-8 vote and is slated to pass the Senate on Friday.

After mortgage and insurance, energy costs are the biggest expense of home ownership, according to advocates pushing for the measure.

"Building homes energy smart from the start saves money," said Kathy Van Dame, policy coordinator with the Wasatch Clean Air Coalition. "It costs five times more to repair energy leaks and inefficiencies of homes not built to the updated code."

The measure also updates commercial construction codes, which Utah Clean Energy said will cut energy costs in new offices, schools and other commercial buildings by as much as 18 percent more than the current code.

Because Wilson's bill addresses one narrow aspect of energy conservation construction standards in new homes, he wants more study done and recommendations to come forward from the Uniform Building Code Commission. A report on that issue is due in October to the Legislature's Business and Labor Interim Committee.

"It still keeps a lot of energy savings off the table," Emerson said, pointing out that it does not address efficient lighting or boost efficiencies in wood-framed walls or foundation insulation.

"From my perspective, efficient lighting is the cheapest way to get the greatest amount of dollar savings for individual homeowners," he said.

While new homes in Utah are now built with the requirement of having a minimum of 10 percent of their lighting energy efficient, Emerson said the new but not yet adopted standard would boost that to 75 percent.

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com, Twitter: amyjoi16

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