New WA Energy Code would deliver significant energy savings for HVAC systems

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With the help of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and City of Seattle, NEEA has introduced a proposal in the 2018 Washington State Commercial Energy Code to increase the energy efficiency of HVAC systems. The code update would require building designers to evaluate HVAC systems on whole-system performance rather than on individual HVAC components, which would significantly increase energy savings for buildings.

Current codes do not typically require the use of the most efficient or cost-effective systems. By evaluating HVAC systems holistically, the proposal would encourage building designers to incorporate higher-efficiency HVAC systems into their projects.

The proposed requirement includes an approach for engineers to calculate the efficiency performance of HVAC systems, called the Total System Performance Ratio (TSPR). TSPR is a methodology to establish relative whole-system efficiency for commercial HVAC systems, rather than their individual components, which would level the playing field for efficient technologies, promote more efficient design approaches and help buildings save more energy. Engineers will also have the option to use a free software tool to model the efficiency of a building’s HVAC system to demonstrate compliance.

The benefits of this code update extend beyond HVAC systems. The requirement would educate engineers on HVAC efficiency and associated energy savings while reducing operating costs once a building is finished and occupied. Utilities could also use the same metric and tool to design and implement the incentive programs that promote HVAC system efficiency.

The rest of the region stands to benefit from this proposal, too: with one of the most stringent building energy codes in the country, Washington is often the model for the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) that is adopted by many states, including other Northwest states like Idaho and Montana. The IECC establishes the minimum design and construction requirements for energy efficiency, making it easier for states who utilize it to keep current with the most recent building practices and technologies.

The Washington State Legislature is expected to approve this proposal in mid-April 2019.