Codes Update

Help Your Homes Meet New Energy Code Requirements AND Receive Financial Incentives

Participating in the Pennsylvania Energy Efficient New Homes Program will help your projects meet new code requirements AND receive financial incentives.

Under the new code adopted in 2018, all new construction homes with contracts signed or permit applications submitted on or after October 1, 2018, are subject to the following new standards:

  • Blower Door Testing is now a mandatory requirement for all new homes in PA.
    The maximum air leakage rate for all new homes is 5.0 ACH50 – an amendment of the 2015 IECC of 3.0 ACH50 made by the UCC Review & Advisory Council (RAC). New code requires homes to be tighter than the 7.0 ACH50 under 2009 IECC testing. the maximum air leakage rate in Pennsylvania will be a mandatory requirement, meaning it is a hard cap for all compliance paths, with no tradeoffs allowed. The prescriptive air barrier and insulation installation criteria are also mandatory for every home.
  • Maximum duct leakage limits reduced by two-thirds.
    Like the 2009 IECC, the 2015 IECC requires duct leakage testing for any HVAC system with some portion located outside the building thermal envelope. In addition to the reduction in maximum duct leakage allowed by the 2015 IECC, the new standards eliminate the leakage to outdoors option and required a maximum of 4 cfm25/100 sqft of conditioned floor area, down from 12 cfm25/100 sqft in the 2009 IECC. PA amended duct requirements by allowing building cavities to be used as return air ducts.
  • Thermal Envelope R-values Increased
    The most significant thermal envelope R-value increases come in Climate Zones 4 and 6, with the prescriptive above-grade wall R-value in CZ4 increasing from R-13 to R-20 or 13+5 (cavity + continuous insulation), and increasing in CZ6 from R-20 or 13+5 to R-20+5 or 13+10 or 18+6.5. (The 18+6.5 is a Pennsylvania-specific amendment.) In most cases, this change will mean upgrading from 2×4 to 2×6 walls or adding exterior rigid foam in CZ4, and adding exterior rigid foam in all cases in CZ6.
  • 75% High-Efficiency Lighting Required
    High-efficiency CFLs, LEDs, or T-8 or better linear fluorescents must be used under the 2015 IECC, with the option to have 75% of fixtures containing only highly efficient lamps. This allows more flexibility when a lighting design calls for one or more fixtures containing many lamps, like a chandelier.
  • Energy Rating Index (ERI) Compliance Alternative allows for flexibility
    Items like reduced envelope and duct leakage rates and increased equipment efficiencies can offset reductions in thermal envelope R-values and other provisions. This flexibility is limited by the requirement that all items designated as “mandatory” (e.g. maximum envelope leakage of 5.0 ACH50) are still met and by a provision stating that envelope R-values may not be reduced to below 2009 IECC prescriptive values.
  • Additional changes
    Other minor changes include an increase of the minimum R-value for return ducts in attics from R-6 to R-8 and a decrease in maximum window U-factors from 0.35 to 0.32.

Builders who are unfamiliar with blower door testing or duct leakage testing, or who are unsure what changes to their construction practices will be needed to achieve the maximum leakage rates, should begin working with a RESNET-certified Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Rater now. These trained energy professionals will be able to provide consulting on envelope and duct sealing techniques, proper insulation installation, and many other energy-related practices.

To get started, find a program participating HERS Rater.  HERS Raters can also test homes completed prior to October 1, 2018, to increase confidence that future homes will be energy code compliant.