There is lots of talk in NH energy circles right now about Energy Codes. There is a bill to upgrade the energy codes in the legislature, and I for one favor it.
For full disclosure, I administered NH’s Energy Codes from 1999-2006 and was appointed to the first codes review board by Governor Lynch.
The energy code is a building code . It establishes the minimum energy efficiency of a structure allowed by law, and in NH that minimum standard is ten years out of date.
Based on my experience as an energy auditor and administrator of the Energy Code, it is my firm belief that most new houses built in the State of NH today do not even meet the minimum energy code.
Case in point. Last week I met a realtor who sent me the following photos of a brand new home she sold which cost over $400,000 dollars.
She gave me these photos. They are of the floor joists holding up the ‘great room’. She says that when you walk on the great room floor it vibrates which opens a door on the other side of the house. I am not a structural engineer, but I can tell you that this is not what an expensive brand new house should look like.
I have a bit more knowledge about insulation and I can tell you, for sure that the fiberglass insulation is not properly installed and, as is, is virtually useless for insulation purposes.
The split floor joists may be an aberration, but the way the fiberglass is installed is quite common. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard, “my house is new so it is energy efficient” . It just isn’t so and this was recently confirmed by a long-time auditor friend who concurred with my statement that most houses don’t meet the energy code.
What is wrong with the NH Energy Code?
1. The NH Energy Code is based on the 2009 energy code with amendments. The amendments adopted ten years ago along with the code weakened the code so it would be passed. A key sticking point, then and now is a requirement to limit the number of air changes per hour and in some cases require to add mechanical ventilation systems to the tightest houses.
Here is an interesting article about the attempt to upgrade the code.
Why is it that even this ten year old code is so often not met?
A key point to understand about the NH Energy Code is that the Public Utility Commission administers the code, and THE TOWNS ENFORCE the energy code. Or, don’t enforce it.
A study done by GDS while I administered the Energy Code showed that less than 5% of the building inspectors actually compared what was built to what was in the application. I recently spoke with a building inspector who is spreading and inspecting based on bad building science.
Home building in the Live Freeze and Die state remains the Wild West. There is no required training for building inspectors. Unless a blower door test is done on a house, you cannot tell how tight it is, unless someone inspects insulation installers unbeknownst to the homeowner may do a poor job and never be called on it.
If the energy code is only the minimum standard, what can I do if I want to build or retrofit to the ‘gold standard’?
Watch the NH Energy Geek’s video series Net Zero Energy Homes. The first video was released on April 1 2019, with others being added weekly.
Contact your town officials and tell them that enforcement of the energy code matters. Contact your legislators and tell them that you want the code upgraded.