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New Building Efficiency Standards Take Effect in California

Home builders and contractors building new homes or remodeling existing homes in California are now required to adhere to several new lighting standards designed to help consumers save up to 75% on lighting costs.

The change in these comprehensive requirements comes as California's demand and consumption of electricity continues to grow at a record setting pace. These new requirements were initially proposed and developed by Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s codes and standards department and are mandated by the California Energy Commission, under the Title 24 energy code. Title 24 energy codes meet the minimum building requirements.

The codes were first implemented in 1978 following a legislative mandate to develop energy efficiency standards for new businesses and homes. They were updated in 2001, to assist customers following California’s energy crisis in order to reduce energy bills, increase reliability of energy delivery and contribute to an improved economic condition for the state.

Under the 2005 California Title 24 Energy Efficiency Standards for Residential buildings, new or remodeled homes -- after October 1, 2005 -- must integrate the new lighting standards in nearly every room of the home (the only exception is closets under 70 square feet). These rooms include the kitchen, dining room, living room, bedroom, bathroom, hallway, utility room, garage and outdoor lighting (porch).

The fundamental difference in the new mandates is the installation of more energy efficient (or high efficacy) lighting throughout most of the homes including outdoors. The upgrades are designed to save energy and lower lighting costs for the homeowner. Under the previous standards, new homes were required to have a minimal amount of energy efficient (fluorescent) lights or motion sensors in only the kitchen, bathrooms, garage, laundry and utility rooms.

The new 2005 changes will now require that more than 50% of the wattage in kitchens must be high efficiency. The ratio of incandescent lights to the high efficiency lights must be four to one. At least one high efficiency (or high efficacy) light fixture or vacancy sensors will be the minimum requirement in virtually every room. Outdoors, lighting that is attached to a building, such as a porch light, must be energy efficient or controlled by a motion sensor with a built in photo control unit that detects as dusk arrives.

Another significant change is the type of energy efficient bulb. The bulb or lamp is a compact fluorescent that can not be replaced with a conventional incandescent light bulb. It includes four-pins that cannot be replaced with a screw-in light bulb. The new four pin bulb also must be what is called in the industry, high efficacy. This terminology means that the bulb has a higher lumen or light output. The high efficacy florescent bulb -- with state-of-the-art coatings -- closely resembles the light output and color of an incandescent light bulb.

A vacancy sensor can be used instead of a high efficacy light in all rooms except the kitchen to meet the new standards. These sensors are new in the industry because instead of illuminating when someone enters a room like an occupancy sensor, this light is turned on manually and turns itself off when there is no one in the room. It is designed to turn itself off automatically when the room is left vacant for intervals of 15 or 30 minutes. A vacancy sensor is estimated to reduce lighting costs by 30%.

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