Energy Efficiency & NC Codes: What to know about sustainability
In recent years, many companies and grassroots efforts have focused on energy efficiency and sustainability in order to take better care of our environment so it provides us with what we need to survive. These changes toward efficiency allow savings on utility bills, reducing your expenses, and improving air quality inside your home.
Legislation attempts to keep up with current practices and anticipate future changes, using newer codes to encourage builders to put sustainability features into their designs. The US Green Building Council uses LEED to promote green building practices to improve sustainability. As a member of the North Carolina USGBC residential committee, I lobbied with other organizations for getting these and other changes passed.
Sustainability simply means to maintain something at a certain rate; with reference to the environment, it means the capacity to endure: to last into the future beyond our lifetimes.
Energy efficiency refers to using the least amount of energy possible to power homes – and creating newer technology to reduce the amount of energy required, which improves sustainability.
The 2006 and 2009 residential and commercial codes established parameters for insulation in walls and ceilings, while allowing for updates as new technology emerges. In 2012, the NC legislature used a $500,000 Federal grant to pass a group of amendments, raising previous standards. The changes focus on where to put insulation and what type to use and apply for additions, alterations, renovations, and repairs to your home. The amendments aimed to use newer testing measures to improve efficiency by 30% over the 2006 minimum standards.
The codes cover every area of your home where something causes a temperature difference –ductwork, vents, and HVAC system; recessed lighting and permanently installed light fixtures; windows, skylights, and exterior doors; fireplaces; programmable thermostats; and piping and circulation of hot water systems.
So what does this mean for you?
If you are building a new home, know how your builder is certified. Some programs certify the entire house and some the actual components. Look up LEED, Energy Star, or NGBS to find out more about how they use “green” measures.
If you make renovations to an existing house, you have the opportunity to bring your space up to current codes so you don’t lose heat from inside the home.
If you rent or buy commercial or residential space in a building that undergoes a change in occupancy (an old warehouse refitted for multiple stores or converted into condos, for instance), these codes can also apply, since refitting the building likely means an increased use of fossil fuel or electrical energy than before.
Added benefits include cleaner air inside your home and better seals on your windows and doors, reducing your energy costs by keeping the cold winter air or sticky summer humidity outside. All of this saves you money over time, while preserving the outside environment.
Also explore the possibility of Federal or State energy efficiency rebates and tax credits. Installation of some features like solar panels, certain hot water heaters, and many other EnergyStar Certified appliances or products can benefit your taxes when you file.