Can Old Buildings Meet New Energy Standards?

The California Energy Commission’s Energy Efficiency Standards, commonly known as Title 24 Part 6, have saved Californians more than $74 billion via reduced electricity bills since 1977. The success of these standards and other energy efficiency efforts has played a significant factor in keeping California’s per capita electricity use flat over the past 40 years while the rest of the country’s use continues to rise.

COMM PA Blog Image 2014 01The problem for the Sierra Nevada is that a significant percentage of the buildings in this region were built prior to 1977, when the first Energy Efficiency Standards took effect. This means these buildings consume significantly more energy for lighting, space heating, water heating and air conditioning, and therefore cost residents more to live in and businesses more to operate. Furthermore, these increased energy costs act as a vacuum pulling money out of our communities: For every excess dollar spent on energy, there is one less dollar that can be spent within the local community.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey provides estimates of the existing housing stock by the decade built. In the Sierra Nevada almost half of all houses were built before 1980 (48% or 267,609 homes). An additional 202,589 houses (36%) were built between 1980 and 2005 with varying levels of energy efficiency, since the California Energy Efficiency Standards have continually improved since 1977. This doesn’t include the millions of square feet of commercial and public facilities that were built before the California Energy Efficiency Standards reached their current levels of efficiency.

At Sierra Business Council, we see this as an opportunity to help residents, businesses and public agencies in our communities save money through energy efficiency measures. SBC not only works directly with business owners and public agencies to determine cost effective energy efficiency measures through our Sierra Nevada Energy Watch program but also provides consulting services to our local government partners to help develop outreach, education, incentive and regulatory programs to promote energy efficiency within local communities.

In future blog posts, I’ll discuss some of the programs we are working to develop with our local government partners, several of which will address the limited standards for buildings built before 1977. For now though I’ll leave you with this thought: if your home was built before 1977 and hasn’t been retrofitted, how much money is that taking out of your pocket via too-large energy bills?