ENERGY CODE UPDATE
THE NEXT MASSACHUSETTS ENERGY CODE IS COMING SOON
BUT IT’S MOSTLY MINOR TWEAKS FOR HOMEBUILDERS AND REMODELERS
By Guy Webb EO, HBRACM
Every three years, builders in Massachusetts, get a new, updated
Energy Code. The next Massachusetts Energy Code will go into effect
on January 1, 2020, which is based on the 2018 International Energy
Conservation Code (IECC) with Massachusetts Amendments. The good
news for residential builders and remodelers is that the changes are
minimal this time around and overall, things will not be very different
from how you’re currently complying with the code. Furthermore, the
Stretch Energy Code doesn’t change, at all. But let’s take a look at the
more significant changes that you will be dealing with.
While the Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) did
approve Electric Vehicle (EV) charging station requirements for this
version of the MA Energy Code, they do NOT apply to one- and twofamily
Homes. However, if you develop multi-family properties you will
need to comply with this Massachusetts amendment.
High Efficacy lamps
The new code requires that not less than 90% (currently 75%) of the
permanently installed lighting fixtures shall contain only high-efficacy
lamps (typically LED). This is another change that most of you are already
in compliance with, but one that building officials will be looking for
during your final inspection, so be careful.
Window U-factor goes from .32 to .30 for Climate Zone 5 in the
2018 IECC. However, this has been a Massachusetts requirement since
the adoption of the current MA Energy Code so there is actually no
change unless you’re building in Climate Zone 5 or higher outside of
Heated Slab Insulation
R-5 insulation has been added as a requirement for heated slabs in all
climate zones. This is just common sense and I’m not sure why it took
the ICC so long to include this in the IECC.
Buried Ductwork in Attics
Ducts that are tested to have a maximum leakage rate of 1.5
cfm25/100 sq. ft. to the outside, are insulated with ≥ R-8 insulation,
and have at least R-19 insulation above and to the sides of the ducts,
count as being in conditioned space. This addition to the code should
make compliance easier in cases where it’s advantageous to keep all
ductwork within conditioned space but difficult to do so.
Additional Efficiency Packages
This is new to the residential section of the code but is something
the commercial building folks have had to deal with for some time now.
For you, this means you’ll need to select from three available efficiency
packages provided in the code. However, most of you are likely already
doing one or more of these provided options and this section applies
to you ONLY if you’re using the residential prescriptive path. But if you’re
using the Energy Rating Index (or “performance path”) either voluntarily
or as mandated in Stretch Energy Code communities, this section
doesn’t come in to play.
The three efficiency package options read as follow in the 2018 IECC:
1. More efficient HVAC (select one)
• Gas, propane or oil-fired furnaces with a minimum AFUE of 95%
• Gas, propane or oil-fired boilers with a minimum AFUE of 95%
• Closed-loop ground source heat pump with a minimum COP of 3.5
• Air-source heat pump with a minimum HSPF of 10
2. Heat recovery ventilator or energy recovery ventilator (HRV or ERV)
3. High efficiency water heater or solar thermal hot water (select one)
• Natural gas/propane water heating with a minimum Uniform
Energy Factor (UEF) of 0.87. On-demand natural gas/propane
water heaters shall not include any buffer tank or hot water
storage capacity outside the water heater itself
• Electric heat pump water heater with a minimum UEF of 2.2
• A solar thermal water heating system with a minimum of 40
square feet of gross collection area. The solar water heating
panels shall have a total solar resource fraction that is at least 75%
The majority of new homes in Massachusetts have featured
equipment that meets at least one of these three options in recent
years. For those who do not yet incorporate these features in their
home design and construction, you should be aware that installing
the above equipment may help these projects qualify for incentives
through the Massachusetts Residential New Construction Program.
With performance-based incentives, the more efficient the home, the
greater the incentive.
Again, section R407 will not affect Stretch Code Communities
or ERI users in any way.
ERI Maximum Score
ERI scores will be somewhat relaxed with the maximum going from
the current 55 up to 61. Where on-site renewable energy is included
in the ERI calculation, buildings must meet or exceed the thermal
envelope requirements as prescribed in the 2015 IECC.
While every project is different, I believe these are the changes that will
affect the most residential projects. There are, of course, other changes
that you’ll need to know of and surely you will all have questions once
January 1st rolls around, so I strongly recommend that you attend one
of the seminars that will be offered by your HBA around the state in the
Guy Webb is the Executive Officer of the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Central Massachusetts. He attends
all BBRS meetings on behalf of all our members to help ensure that the regulations promulgated by the Board of Building
Regulations and Standards are fair and equitable to the builders and the general public.