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California Home Prices To Rise Under New Rules

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CALIFORNIA HOME PRICES
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SAN FRANCISCO -- The cost of building a new home in California is expected to go up under tighter energy efficiency rules that follow in the state's long tradition of aggressive environmental standards, including a requirement that all new homes have roofs equipped for solar panels.

The California Energy Commission said the rules it approved unanimously Thursday will raise the average cost of a new home by nearly $2,300. At the same time, the more efficient homes will save owners thousands more in energy costs, as well as add to the value of their homes, the commission said.

The energy-efficiency standards also will apply to new commercial building construction.

The cost increase for homes likely will vary depending on the climate of the part of the state where the residence is built.

Under the new rules, homes in hotter regions will face stricter requirements, since they use more energy due to higher air-conditioning use, Energy Commissioner Karen Douglas said. But she said the new energy-efficient additions, such as whole-house fans, also will lead to greater savings.

"Every measure has to be cost-effective," Douglas said.

Requirements that apply to all new homes statewide include insulated hot-water pipes and roofs equipped for solar panels. Other new standards include windows that allow increased sunlight while decreasing heat gain, as well as independent air-conditioning installation inspections to confirm efficiency.

Commercial buildings also will be required to have solar-ready roofs, as well as so-called high-performance windows and lights controlled by sensors.

Supermarkets, computer data centers and other businesses will be required to have more energy-efficient equipment.

The new standards were backed by environmentalists, major utilities and the California Building Industry Association. Critics included the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association, which questioned the accuracy of the commission's analysis of increased costs.

The commission says the rules set to go into effect January 1, 2014, will increase the energy efficiency of new homes by 25 percent compared to homes being built today. New commercial buildings will see an increase in efficiency of 30 percent, the commission said.

Douglas called the new rules the nation's strongest and said that while the commission focused on the best measures for California, it kept in mind the state's reputation as a precedent-setter for energy standards.

"We're always very conscious of the fact that our standards could have implications beyond California," she said.

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