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Changes are coming this year for California’s Green Building Code and Energy Code

Technical jargon for this article: 
– Title 24 Part 11, CalGREEN, and California’s Green Building Code are all the same thing.
– Title 24 Part 6 is the Energy Code.

California’s Green Building Code and Energy Code are being updated this year. Both codes will go into effect on January 1, 2026. The time for public comment is ending soon. CalGREEN supports the Energy Code by providing language for Cities and Counties to adopt as their own in local laws. 

Several proposed changes to the Green Building Code are being discussed, but the one that has generated the most debate is air conditioner changeouts. The current proposal requires all air conditioners to be replaced with heat pumps in locations that have adopted this requirement. (There are exceptions for electrical panel sizing or when heating loads would require the air conditioner size to be increased by more than one ton of cooling). 

ARGUMENTS FOR: Those in favor of this potential new rule call it a “no regrets strategy”. A recent contractor survey showed that replacing an air conditioner with a heat pump only costs $900-1,900 more than reinstalling an air conditioner. By installing a heat pump instead of replacing a burned-out air conditioner, the customer can electrify their space heating now and leave the existing furnace in place until it fails if they want to. There are incentives and tax credits available for homeowners who switch to heat pumps, which could make the installation cost-neutral for many homeowners.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST: Arguments against this requirement cite the increased operational costs of using electricity for heating, even highly efficient heating. In most parts of California, using natural gas for heating is currently cheaper than a heat pump. So, customers will not only pay more for the system up front, but they will also pay more to heat their homes. Potential installation costs and difficulties not accounted for in the contractor survey can also increase the price of the system. 

Most of Calgreen’s requirements are already being met by manufacturers. Guidelines change all the time, but are they really as impactful as the policy makers intend? Enforcement is key. The changes and implementations are only as good as the follow up and quality control.  We need good enforcement for these changes to make an impact. The policy makers often have good intentions but with poor implementation they do little to shift the industry or have the influence they want. The bottom line is we need good quality control, follow up and enforcement. 

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD: The comment period for the upcoming code changes will end on July 1, 2024. NOW is your opportunity to speak out for or against these requirements. While not all jurisdictions will have to follow these rules, any requirements that are part of CalGREEN now are more likely to become part of the statewide requirements in the future. Using your voice now can shape what the next code cycle will look like!