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Maine’s new mandatory residential energy code

The Portland Press Herald reports (Inefficient builders about to hit a wall, June 14, 2010 ) on Maine’s new mandatory residential energy code, which will take effect in December.

A few weeks ago, Maine formally adopted rules for a mandatory statewide energy code for new homes and substantial renovations. Starting in December, construction in communities with more than 2,000 residents must meet the code.

Maine had been among only 11 states without any minimum residential energy standards. A small number of municipalities, such as Falmouth, have adopted local versions.

Some large builders aren’t happy about the statewide rules because they will add to the cost of a new home. They say customers are more interested in hardwood floors and granite countertops than how much insulation’s in the attic.

This view is shortsighted, state officials say, when millions of taxpayer dollars are going to weatherize leaky homes and cut the state’s oil dependence. It’s less costly in the long run, they say, to do the job right the first time.

After years of debate and voluntary standards that were largely ignored, Maine is adopting the latest version of the International Energy Conservation Code.

The home energy rules are part of a package of new building codes coming into effect. Many builders are just getting up to speed on what’s required, and how it will change what they do today.

The new code requires a minimum of R-20 in the walls, R-49 in the attic and R-30 in the floor. It also requires sealing all joints, seams and penetrations, such as attic hatches and plumbing holes.

These steps can make a home more comfortable and cut heating bills by at least 20 percent, compared to the old-school insulating method, according to Efficiency Maine Trust, the state’s new energy agency.

Currently, implementation details are being worked out in the rule-making process in Augusta and will be reviewed at a public hearing this summer.

While the new code represents an improvement from current practices, it’s only a minimum standard, according to Rick Meinking, an energy management expert at Efficiency Maine Trust.

Nationally, many homes are being built to the EnergySmart Home Scale being promoted by building groups and the federal government. If offers a “miles-per-gallon” measurement of a home’s energy performance, so buyers can compare a house, just as they do a car. Maine’s new code could be a first step to an energy-rating system, Meinking said, to encourage builders to raise the bar.

“We have learned a lot in our building practices,” he said. “If we do these small things, we can make a big difference.”

Jerry Brown, assistant manager at Quality Insulation in Yarmouth, points out areas of a building under construction that are affected by changes in new state insulation regulations. John Ewing/Staff Photographer

Read the rest of the article, written by PressHerald.com staff writer Tux Turkel.

 

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