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Minnesota residential code compliance

Do stringent energy codes actually decrease energy use in homes? We find out.

Residential building code is updated every three years with more advancements, but are those new code guidelines adopted and enforced? Are new and renovated homes following the latest code and producing decreased energy usage? We conducted a field study of 100 Minnesota homes that were either newly built or substantially renovated to establish a baseline level of energy use. To take a more realistic approach to our research, we interviewed the homeowner, not the builder. We also collected data on these homes after they were completed instead of under construction like code officials do. Why? We wanted our data to reflect actual energy used and savings potential instead of projections. 

We modeled the energy consumption of each home to point out specific measures for energy efficiency programs. These measures included:

  • Ceilings
  • Above grade walls
  • Foundations
  • Air leakage
  • Windows
  • Heating/cooling (including heat pumps)
  • Duct sealing
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Water heating (including heat pumps)
  • Lighting

We then created a baseline that will help a utility determine where they can have the most influence on energy savings. Is it enforcing a measure demanded by codes or pushing a measure that goes beyond a code requirement? 

Stay tuned for our methodology, findings, and recommendations in the final report.