Talking to homeowner clients about improving their home’s efficiency through better insulation, roofing, windows, lighting, and more? Know about the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Published by the International Code Council (ICC) and based on goals set by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the 2009 code will produce 15% in energy-efficiency gains over the 2006 version, according to the DOE.

In the alphabet soup of residential building energy code requirements, the 2009 IECC includes such phrases as R-factor, U-factor, SHGC, ACH, and AFUE. As remodelers know, these refer to shorthand specifications for how much heat is allowed to transfer through insulation or glass, and how much fuel a furnace uses, among other things. The IECC has been adopted at the state and local levels in 39 states and Washington, D.C., and in those places it is the baseline standard for everything it covers, subject to modifications (additions as well as omissions) that the adopting jurisdictions may make.

But regardless of whether your state or jurisdiction is among those 39, it’s in your best interests to be familiar with the 2009 IECC, particularly if you intend to take advantage of remodeling-related provisions of the economic stimulus package (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA). For one thing, the ARRA includes $3.1 billion for energy assistance grants to states for adopting and administering advanced model energy codes. If your state wants some of that money, your state must meet or exceed the IECC.

Not Business as Usual

In addition, some of the homeowner energy-efficient tax credits made possible by the ARRA require the improvements to meet the IECC. For the insulation tax credit of 30%, up to $1,500, for instance, the sum of the resulting “insulation material used in layers” must meet the R-values prescribed by the IECC. And those R-values are considerably tougher than the previous version of the IECC, particularly in colder parts of the country -- as high as 21 for wood-frame walls, 38 for floors, and 49 for ceilings and attics. “The new code requirements make it tough for builders to do thing as usual and still meet the code,” says Bob Burgess, president of Accurate Insulation, in Upper Marlboro, Md., whose 65 installers work all over the mid-Atlantic region. This is especially true in remodeling, when insulation is sometimes compressed into small cavities, potentially compromising R-value.

We’ll go into more detail about the 2009 IECC in the June issue of REMODELING, particularly as it relates to insulation. In the meantime, we suggest you visit these sites to learn more:

Executive summary of changes in the 2009 IECC

Informal summary overview of changes in the 2009 IECC

Order the 2009 IECC or sign up for free overview webinars

Ted Cushman’s Remodeling blog, including an upcoming update of coastal states that have (or have not) updated their residential energy codes.