If there is anything that will throw a contractor in a tizzy, it is delays or additional costs. Nowhere is this time factor more of an issue than with production builders. Not only can that delay throw a monkey wrench into that one house’s schedule, but others as well. Well ENERGY STAR ® (ES3) did something really nice in their latest revision (7) that might just push a few of those sitting on the fences to go – that works for me.
|As you may recall ENERGY STAR had to upgrade their program standards last January (2012) due to the codes catching up to the program. From the initial conception & when it went live it was actually ES3 version 4. Version 5 was released barely a month after the release to help smooth out some wrinkles. Version 6, I didn’t really bother mentioning as most of its 41 changes / clarifications were mostly in regards to who, what & how verifications were to be done.
A game changer?
One of the staples of ENERGY STAR & many other programs is the “leakage to outside test.” Needless to say as this is required to be completed after the whole house is almost completed and can cause major issues for many HVAC contractors who are not used to sealing their ducts. That is one reason why we recommend that for at least the first few times that they are going through the process that we test them at rough in also. Yeah… that goes over real well sometimes
Welcome to change #35 – Section 4.1 of the HVAC System Quality Installation Rater Checklist: Addition of alternative option to test total duct leakage at rough-in. “Rough-in: ≤ 4 CFM25 per 100 sq. ft. of CFA with air handler and all ductwork, building cavities used as ductwork, & duct boots installed. In addition, all duct boots sealed to finished surface, Rater-verified at final.”
|Ok, if you are like me, I probably would not want a rater popping all those register covers & reinstalling them… so I would recommend scheduling the final inspection before the register covers are installed / have them hold off on the install. This should dramatically reduce the issue with “the more times something is handled, the more chances it will get damaged” and issues with touch up’s.
So now your routinely hitting 3% & this is also what is required by the 2012 codes anyways.can run this test when they are there for the pre-drywall / insulation inspection and help make sure everything passes before the drywall covers everything and makes fixes near impossible. The two caveats – the duct leakage must be less than 4% & the rater must verify that all the duct boots are sealed to the finished surface at final. I don’t see the 4% being a big issue as I have some companies
To add to this, with so many programs like LEED, Earth Craft, NGBS, etc… requiring that the houses meet the specifications for ENERGY STAR, this change should apply to them also. With that though, that is up to each program & their interruptions, so it would definitely be worth discussing with your programs rep.
More HVAC changes:
But wait according to section 4.2 they still required a duct leakage to outside test… Well actually they don’t as they have two exemptions listed & the big one reads “Alternatively, testing of duct leakage to the outside can be waived if total duct leakage is ≤ 4 CFM25 per 100 sq. ft. of conditioned floor area…” Yep, you got it, we already had to hit that number above, so no testing required. Now there is one small caveat which I didn’t mention above – but you actually can pass at 6% rough-in until the end of 2013, however if you take that out, you still need to do a leakage to outside test.
|If you are like some that believe that smaller is better, well ENERGY STAR agrees with you & actually will allow you 5% leakage to outdoors (instead of the 4%) for homes smaller than 1200 SF. There is just one small issue with this & that is if you are required to meet the 2012 codes as it is 4% – (no exception)
One of the other interesting twists is “Registers atop carpets are NOW permitted to be removed and the face of the duct boot temporarily sealed (e.g., with a foam block, by taping the boot to the subfloor) during testing. When this occurs, the Rater must visually verify that the gap between the boot and subfloor has been durably sealed to prevent leakage.” (#36 – see below for link) One thing I have got to note is that it says the face, not that you can shove a foam plug into the boot.
Some other notable changes:
To see all 71 changes, revisions & clarifications: Tracking Document
- No longer national, well we knew before that this did not apply to Hawaii and that California & Florida locked others out of the market – well now all three of them and Guam, Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, & the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana) now have their own version. (multiple areas)
- Now that the Indoor airPLUS program has been fully aligned with ENERGY STAR – they cleaned up numerous areas (multiple areas)
- Thermal Checklist – no air barrier required for walls under 24” in an attic if certain R-Values are met (#18 — R21 for CZ 1-5 & R30 for CZ 6-8)
- New Sill Plate & slab edge insulation alternatives for existing homes (19, 22) There are also a few more tweaks for capillary breaks, drainage… (47, 49 – 51)
- Who knew that kitchen exhaust could be so difficult? Alternative now for PHIUS+, flow rate & sones (37-39)
- One Bacharach combustion analyzer for sale… Clarification has now been provided that CO testing is not required for gas ovens – isn’t it amazing though that they still allow naturally vented (CZ 1- 3) & unvented appliances in the house??? (41)