The Energy Code Inspection Process
Municipal Energy Code Inspection is required for all improvements, remodeling, additions and new construction on Commercial and Residential property if they affect the building envelope or involve an energy-related construction component. Some cities perform their own Energy Code Inspection while other cities use approved 3rd party Energy Inspectors, such as A Closer Look Inspection Service. The inspection process is generally the same regardless of who performs the Municipal Energy Code Inspections (city inspectors or 3rd party inspectors).
The Municipal Energy Code Inspection replaces the old building code Insulation Inspection with a more detailed inspection of all the energy related components within the construction project. We offer two separate ACL Energy Handouts (Residential and Commercial) with excerpts from the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) to help inform you about the specific requirements for each component. Hyperlinks are included in this document to take you to our website where specific forms and documents can be downloaded. Otherwise they can be located on our website at www.DallasGreenBuilding.biz.
Requirements for the IECC are now pretty much standardized across the DFW Metroplex, however some different cities (most notably Dallas, Texas) have added some other program requirements that may also need to be inspected before obtaining a permit or your Final Building Inspection. Those requirements will be included in this document so it can be used as a comprehensive guide through the energy inspection process. If your project is not located in Dallas, then you can skip these Green requirements and move to the next requirement to complete the process.
Obtain your Building Permit
All cities require that plans be submitted to the city to obtain your building permit. These plans should include the specific insulation R values for your walls, floors and ceilings as well as the U values and SHGC values for your windows. This information is generally indicated in a Res Check, IC3 or HERS Energy Report. If not then the energy component values must be indicated on the building plans. Once you have your permit from the city, then you are cleared to start construction under your building permit. Your first Municipal Energy Code Inspection is scheduled after the exterior walls are insulated and before the sheetrock is installed. Call 24-48 hours ahead if possible to schedule your inspections. Same day inspections are available if necessary.
The City of Dallas has an additional set of Green Building Program requirements if your Residential project has a bathroom or kitchen included. The Green Building Program was designed to limit water usage on toilets, shower heads and bathroom sink faucets and improve water consumption on commonly used appliances. A Green Building Application is required and there is a GB Checklist to inform you what components need to be inspected. A Plan Review Affidavit is required by your inspector to get your Building Permit and another Inspection Affidavit is required to get your Final Building Inspection. If A Closer Look needs to perform the Plan Review and generates the Plan Review Affidavit and Green Building Inspections, then additional charges will apply ($100.00 minimum).
Pre-Drywall Energy Inspection
Before the Drywall is installed, the Building Envelope insulation must be inspected. The Building Envelope is the area between the conditioned air on the interior of the building and the unconditioned air on the outside or attic of the building. All penetrations in that boundary area MUST be sealed to get the higher energy efficiencies that this code compliance can provide. Please refer to the ACL Residential Handout for required energy values for construction components in the Dallas / Ft Worth area. The cost of the Pre Drywall Energy Inspection is based on the size of the property ($175 – $700). The fee for the Pre Drywall Energy Inspection for all projects under 3,000 sqft is $175.00.
At the Pre Drywall stage, the wall insulation is typically the only insulation components that can be installed unless you are using spray foam on the roof decking or you are using batt insulation on the ceiling joist in the attic space. The Building Envelope Air Sealing is the other primary energy component that is inspected at the Pre Drywall stage. Sealant (typically single expanding foam or caulk) must be installed between the framed rough-in opening and the trim around all doors and windows. Other required sealant application areas include between the bottom of the exterior framed walls and the foundation as well as on the vertical framing corners of all exterior walls, recessed lights and HVAC registers.
Failure to have the Pre Drywall inspection before the sheetrock is installed, triggers an additional requirement in the 2009 IECC for a Blower Door test on the structure. It is required for renovations and new construction projects if the Pre Drywall inspection is not performed. This test will not be performed on additions only because the results of the Air Leakage test that a Blower Door performs would be made useless because of the general leaky nature of the existing structure that was not renovated or improved. The exterior walls will be scanned with an Infrared Camera to assure insulation placement. If A Closer Look Inspection Service needs to perform a Blower Door test ($200.00 minimum) or Infrared Scan ($100.00 minimum), then additional charges will apply.
At the Pre Drywall, your inspector will also check the U Value and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) Value of any newly installed windows to make sure there are no problems for your final energy inspection. The inspector will also inspect any other energy related components in the project such as the HVAC SEER rating, duct work, recessed light fixtures and air sealing to help the house achieve higher energy level. This will give you time to work with your contractors to make corrections before the final inspection. Your inspector will then generate a red or green tag for your project, provide an invoice and collect any fees due up to that point. Check or Credit Card payments are accepted.
Final Energy Inspection
The Final Energy Code Inspection occurs when all of the project energy components have been installed. For small projects using spray foam insulation or batt insulation on the ceiling, this can occur at the Pre Drywall Inspection. For most projects the Final Energy Code Inspection will occur when the ceiling sheetrock is installed and the attic insulation is installed. Failures to comply may require addition trips to the property to perform another final inspection and additional trip charges apply ($75.00 / trip).
The Final Energy Code Inspection will need physical conformation of 2009 IECC required specific test and calculations performed on the HVAC system by your HVAC contractor. A copy of the Manual J calculation is required to make sure that your HVAC system is appropriately sized for the Dallas / Ft Worth climate. This is a 1 page calculation that is required for all new construction, renovations and large additions projects that receive new HVAC equipment.
On small additions where the existing HVAC system(s) are expanded and no new HVAC components except ducting and registers is installed, a Manual J calculation is not required. These systems may also have problems cooling the new addition and if additional HVAC equipment is ever installed then the Manual J calculation is required. If A Closer Look Inspection Service needs to generate the Manual J calculation, then additional charges will apply ($50.00 minimum). The Manual J Calculation is included in the Dallas Green Building Program fee.
A Duct Blaster test is also required on all new construction, renovations and large additions where new ducting is installed in unconditioned areas. A Duct Blaster test pressurizes the HVAC duct system to make sure that the duct is reasonably tight and energy efficient to improve the energy efficiency of the project. Duct leakage in unconditioned areas can account for up to 25% of all your HVAC energy cost. The test may be performed at different phases of construction and yield different acceptable numbers so a statement reporting that a test was performed and the resulting leakage numbers from you HVAC contractor on their letterhead is acceptable. If A Closer Look Inspection Service needs to perform the Duct Blaster test, then additional charges will apply ($150 minimum).
The Final Energy Code Inspection will cover the attic insulation depth and insulation marker installation and insulation of any pull down attic stairways. Final air sealing will be inspected by the installation of gaskets on the exterior wall / ceiling outlet and switch junction boxes, doors and pull down attic stairways. Any compliance problems from the Pre-Drywall Inspection will be reinspected at this time. The property will be Red or Green tagged for compliance.
A compliance certificate will then be generated and provided at the inspection, faxed or emailed as needed to show compliance to your particular city. This inspection must take place before your Final Electrical Inspection or you will be red tagged at that inspection. The Electrical inspector will want to see the Energy Inspection Certificate before they will allow full power to the structure.
The Dallas Green Building Program water flow inspections are performed at the Final Energy Code Inspection after the plumbing fixtures and appliances are installed. If the appliances are not installed and ready for inspection at the Final Energy Inspection, an addition trip is required to assure compliance and then an additional charges will apply ($75.00/trip).
The bathroom sink fixtures and shower heads are limited to 2 Gallons per minute (GPM) flow rate. If the faucets are not labeled on the packaging at 2 GPM, then water saver rings must be installed at the aerator or shower head to limit the flow rate for the inspection to be compliant. The toilets must have a flush rate of 1.3 Gallon per flush (GPF) or less as indicated on the water tank or be a dual flush toilet. Toilets that are not compliant must have tank baffles installed to reduce the tank water volume to less than 1.3 GPF or provide for a dual flush capability. All compliance modifications must be installed before the Final Energy Inspection. If an additional trip is required to assure compliance then additional charges will apply ($75.00/trip).
The Dallas Green building program also requires an IC3 Report be generated for all new construction, renovations and additions. This report uses online software to record the energy values of construction components used in your project. Access to the website is FREE; however you will need some basic computer and construction knowledge to fill in the energy values in the online form. You can generate a passing report on your own and then provide it at the initial Plan Review stage. You may substitute any designated energy component for another energy component so long as the replacement has a better energy rating that the original component listed in the IC3 report. If A Closer Look Inspection Service needs to generate the IC3 Report, then additional charges will apply ($100.00 minimum).