California Approves New Energy Efficiency Rules

Better Windows, Whole House Fans, Solar-Ready Roofs Considered

California officials unanimously approved amended energy efficiency standards for new homes and commercial buildings that officials are describing as the toughest in the nation.  The Energy Commission’s 2013 Building Energy Efficiency Standards are 25 percent more efficient than previous standards for residential construction and 30 percent better for nonresidential construction. The Standards, which take effect on January 1, 2014, offer builders better windows, insulation, lighting, ventilation systems and other features that reduce energy consumption in homes and businesses.

Some improved measures in the Standards include:


  • Solar-ready roofs to allow homeowners to add solar photovoltaic panels at a future date
  • More efficient windows to allow increased sunlight, while decreasing heat gain
  • Insulated hot water pipes, to save water and energy and reduce the time it takes to deliver hot water
  • Whole house fans to cool homes and attics with evening air reducing the need for air conditioning load
  • Air conditioner installation verification to insure efficient operation


  •  High performance windows, sensors and controls that allow buildings to use “daylighting”
  • Efficient process equipment in supermarkets, computer data centers, commercial kitchens, laboratories, and parking garages

On average, the Standards will increase the cost of constructing a new home by $2,290 but will return more than $6,200 in energy savings over 30 years. Based on a 30-year mortgage, the standards will add approximately $11 per month for the average home, but save consumers $27 on on monthly heating, cooling, and lighting bills.

Two energy policy goals are driving the design of the current standards: The Loading Order, which directs that growing demand must be met first with cost-effective energy efficiency and next with renewable generation; and “Zero Net Energy” (ZNE) goals for new homes by 2020 and commercial buildings by 2030. The ZNE goal means that new buildings must use a combination of improved efficiency and distributed renewable generation to meet 100 percent of their annual energy need.monthly heating, cooling, and lighting bills.

Within the first year of implementation, the Standards are projected to add up to 3,500 new building industry jobs as well as save million gallons of water per year. After 30 years of implementing the Standards, California will save nearly 14,000 megawatt hours or enough electricity to power 1.7 million homes and avoid the need to construct six new power plants.View the California Energy Commissions 2013 Building Energy Efficiency Standards here.Image: The Sacramento Bee,; California Energy Commission News