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Title-24 HERS Rater Verifications

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A user friendly explanation of the HERS Rater Verification Process...

HERS Verification Explained...

HERS Feature Summary on CF-1R-PRF-01E

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A little background so you can better understand the whole picture... (12 minute read)

Building codes are important and are essentially “laws” that one must follow when constructing buildings.  Building codes are enforced by the local building departments. There are building codes specific to all of the construction features in a building, including but not limited to, electrical, plumbing, mechanical, and energy. While most of the United States adheres to what is called the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), the State of California has their own energy code. The California Energy Commission (CEC) is responsible to authoring the energy code and it is commonly referred to as Title-24, Part 6. Every 3 years, the CEC updates the Energy Code requirements in its effort to make California more and more efficient. 

California prides itself on having stricter guidelines for energy as compared to the other states who follow the IECC. Simply put, we are a more energy efficient state because of our strict guidelines.

The Process...

When you build a home in California, you usually work with a designer (an architect) who creates a set of blueprints for the structure to be built. The building plans are organized into sections: Architectural, Structural, Electrical, Plumbing, Mechanical and Energy Compliance.

After the blueprints are complete, they need to be filed and approved with the local building department so a building permit can be issued. Within the building department, there is an individual that is dedicated to reviewing the blueprints and is called a “Plan Checker”.

The Plan Checker reviews the entire Blueprint set for completion and adherence to building codes.

With respect to the Energy Compliance, the Plan Checker looks for what is called a Title-24 Report.

What is a Title-24 Report & How is it Created?

Simply put, it is a set of documents that demonstrates how the proposed home (or building) will comply with the Energy Code.

The Title-24 report can be prepared in one of two ways. It can be done through a Prescriptive Approach or a Performance Approach.

The Prescriptive Approach

The prescriptive approach is one of two ways to comply with California’s Title-24 Energy Efficiency Standards for new and altered residential projects. Basically, it’s a ruleset that you can follow- like a specific recipe. It is the least flexible option and if you take this prescriptive path to compliance, you will have to use the minimally allowed efficiencies defined by Title-24 for each building component with respect to energy.

The Performance Approach

The performance approach is the other method you can use to comply with the Energy Code. This method is much more flexible. It requires the use of a software commonly referred to as an Energy Modeling Software. (There are only two softwares approved for compliance modeling by the CEC, Energy Pro, and CBECC.)

The modeling software allows the user to create an Energy Model. The energy model is created by an Energy Consultant who inputs all of the building features and their respective efficiencies into the modeling software.

The software then allows the user to calculate the building which will produce the calculation results. The software requires an internet connection as it relies on “engines” hosted by the CEC. It sends the “Proposed” building out to the engines, which in turn will determine if the building is complying with the “Standardenergy code. 

Energy Pro Summary showing building complies

(Snippet from Energy Pro showing Building Complies)

What is a HERS Rater?

A Home Energy Rating Systems (HERS) Rater- is a certified professional that is trained on the principals of Building Science. HERS Raters have specialized training on how to evaluate the efficiency of a home. We perform specific diagnostic testing and provide performance measurements for HVAC systems, insulation, water heating equipment, and how heat is lost in a home.

HERS Raters use certain testing instruments to evaluate a homes efficiency. 

HERS Raters are independent third party inspectors. Building Departments consider HERS Raters as “Special Inspectors” and rely on the compliance documentation produced by the HERS Rater to Final a Building Permit.

1, 2, 3, Compliance Proces...

The Title-24 compliance documentation comes in the form of 1, 2, 3.

The energy consultant, often referred to as “The Documentation Author” produces the Title-24 Compliance Documentation as described above. This compliance document is called the “CF-1R report” or the CF-1R-PRF-01E.

The CF-1R report is the Title-24 report and can typically be found within the building plans or may be a separate document included. This report has multiple pages and details all of the proposed energy efficiency features for the home or building to be constructed- Including the HERS FEATURE SUMMARY.

The 2nd part of the compliance documentation process involves the responsible contractor- the “installer” and requires them to document that they installed equipment meeting or exceeding the efficiencies as specified on the CF-1R. The Installation Certificate is referred to as the CF-2R.

The 3rd piece of the compliance documentation process requires a form that can only be produced electronically through a CEC approved registry that is maintained by a CEC approved HERS Provider; the form is called the “CF-3R. This is the HERS CERTIFICATE that the building department will require in order to finalize and close an open building permit.

HERS Feature Summary on CF-1R-PRF-01E

(Pictured Above: The HERS Feature Summary from the CF-1R-PRF-01E. Typically Page 3 of your Title-24 Report)

Mandatory HERS Requirements vs HERS Credits

There are mandatory HERS requirements and HERS Credits. A mandatory HERS requirement is just that… mandatory and there is no way around it. An example of a mandatory HERS measure is for the home to have an indoor air quality (IAQ) ventilation system. Another mandatory requirement is when there is a forced air system with air distribution ducts, the ducts must be checked by the HERS Rater for minimal leakage and when air conditioning is present, the HERS Rater also must check the airflow of the fan and the Watt draw of the fan motor.

A HERS Credit is an additional HERS measure that the Energy Consultant can use within the energy modeling software to help achieve energy compliance on the home being modeled. 

For instance, the mandatory minimum requirement (the prescriptive requirement) sets a maximum percentage of window area on a new home. But, in your new custom home, that sets atop a hill with views to a nice green pasture with cows grazing, there is a nice big window overlooking that pasture. Unfortunately, that window [when combined with the other windows] is over budget for the window to wall ratio. Your wife under no circumstances will allow that big window with a beautiful view to be removed, what do you do? 

You can take a HERS credit! These third party special inspections, such as Quality Installed Insulation where a HERS Rater comes out to your home and verifies that the insulation was installed properly, or Refrigerant Charge Measurement Credit where the HERS Rater comes out to check that the HVAC installer properly charged the air conditioning system- will give your Title-24 a boost, and contribute to the overall compliance goal.

You can look on your CF-1R, page 3 for the HERS FEATURE SUMMARY which will identify all of the HERS Measures on your project.

HERS Rater Verified Measures (not an exhausted list)
  • Quality Installed Insulation (QII) :: This is a 2-part inspection where the HERS Rater visits the project before the insulation is installed to make sure proper air sealing was implemented. This includes sealing gaps greater than 1/8th of an inch in the exterior framing, and also sealing the joints between exterior wall framing- at the top plate. After the air sealing inspection passes, insulation is installed and the HERS Rater will return to make sure the insulation was installed to the QII protocol. This includes making sure the insulation is in contact with the air barrier on all six sides (front-back, top-bottom, left-right). The Rater is also checking to make sure there is no excessive compression and that 90% of the surface area of the insulation is in full contact on all six sides. Additionally the Rater is checking to make sure that the insulation was installed properly around obstructions such as plumbing pipes and electrical wiring. If your HERS Feature Summary shows that you have “Quality Installed Insulation” IT IS CRITICAL THAT THE HERS RATER VISIT THE PROJECT BEFORE DRYWALL.
  • Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) :: Title-24 has a mandatory HERS measure requiring that homes have a fresh air ventilation system. Systems can be either exhaust only (most typical) or balanced. An exhaust only system relies on an exhaust fan (typically located in a bathroom or a laundry room) that continually operates. As the fan pushes air out, the building draws air in- thus creating an air exchange. A balanced system uses two fans. One fan that exhausts air outdoors, and another fan that draws fresh filtered air from the outdoors. On the Title-24 report, there is a section that specifies how much air (in CFM) the IAQ system must meet to pass. This is calculated according to a standard called “ASHRAE 62.2“.
  • Kitchen Range Hood :: Another mandatory requirement is for kitchen range hoods that are installed to be HVI Certified or AHAM Certified. Before purchasing your kitchen range hood, make sure you can find the make/model on one of the listed directories.
  •  Minimum Airflow :: Air conditioning systems are required to demonstrate a minimum amount of airflow. Airflow is measured in Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM). One CFM is about the size of a basketball. AC’s are sized in “tons” and each ton equates to 400 CFM of airflow. Title-24 minimally requires that the blower fan, including the air filter, can achieve 350 CFM per ton. (i.e. A 3-ton system would need to demonstrate 1,050 CFM of airflow). The HERS Rater uses an instrument called a balometer or flow hood to measure the air at the return side of the AC system.
  • Verified EER & Verified SEER :: Air conditioner efficiency is expressed in two metrics called Energy Efficiency Rating and Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. When the energy consultant uses efficiencies higher than the minimally allowed, it triggers a HERS inspection where the HERS Rater verifies the EER and SEER values of the equipment. The EER and SEER values must come from the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) directory.
  • Fan Efficacy Watts/CFM :: In addition to the Minimum Airflow requirement, there is also a requirement to make sure that the fan, while providing the 350 CFM/ton is not using too much electricity to do so. The HERS Rater uses a Watt meter to measure the Watt draw of the fan while in cooling mode and records the value. With simple math, Watts divided by Airflow CFM, we can determine what each CFM is using in Watts. The requirement to pass is ≤0.45 Watts per CFM.
  • Duct Leakage Testing :: Another mandatory requirement for systems that have ≥ 40 feet of air ducts is that the ducts be sealed properly by the installer so that 95% of the air moving through the ducts is delivered and not leaking into unintended spaces. For this measurement, the HERS Rater uses an instrument called a Duct Blaster System. The Duct Blaster System uses a fan and a gauge called a manometer. The duct openings (wall register grilles) are temporarily sealed off and the duct blaster is connected to the return side of the duct system. The HERS Rater uses the fan to pressurize the duct system and then uses a tool called a manometer to measure the amount of leakage.

After the HERS Testing is complete...

After the HERS Testing is complete, the HERS Rater records their measurements and data to an online HERS Registry. CalCERTS is the California Energy Commission Approved HERS Provider.

The HERS Rater will work with the energy consultant to request a specific file (.XML) that is created through the energy modeling software (CF-1R). Then the Rater uploads this file to CalCERTS and has the authority to share the project electronically with the installing contractors. The installers complete their portions of the reporting process which establishes the CF-2R form.

Finally, and only after all CF-2R’s are filed, the Rater will report the verification data and produce the CF-3R’s.

Your building official has access to a special portal on CalCERTS called the Project Summary Report (PSR) where- at a glance- they can see if the project is complete with respect to all three form sets. Some inspectors are different in what they require, and some do ask for hard copy printed reports.

Assuming the HERS Compliance Documentation was the last item for the building department to final your permit, you should be issued your Certificate of Occupancy after providing the CF-3R’s.

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