Tuesday, July 03, 2012Print

Understanding Energy Law Loophole

 

Understanding the Loophole in the  New Florida Energy Law

Background:

On March 15, 2012 the New Florida Energy Law went into effect. 

“FS 553.909 (4) Residential swimming pool filtration pumps and pump motors manufactured and sold on or after December 31, 2011, for installation in the state must comply with the requirements of the Florida Energy Efficiency Code for Building Construction.”

Pretty simple and straight forward right? …Not so fast.  Shortly thereafter, special interests complained long and loud to the Governor’s office.  By the end of March 2012, the Florida Building Commission’s Energy TAC had found a loophole buried in the Florida Statues. 

The loophole is a convolution of a 1979 law passed to grant relief from upgrading to the current Florida Building Codes for small renovations to the HVAC system of your home.  Specifically the law defines a renovation to your home as work done at a value over 30% of the homes assessed value.  If you “renovate” your home, than you need to upgrade to current laws and codes, your heating, ventilation, or air conditioning.  (FS 553.902 (3)).  

So the inverse of this law work is being expanded to mean that if you do not exceed 30% of the assessed value (of your home or pool in our case) your project is not defined as a “renovation” and therefore does not need to meet new laws and codes for HVAC, windows and pool motors. Of course, the 1979 law only applied to HVAC systems and work on your home not pool when written but who’s really paying attention in Tallahassee?  (FS 553.903)

The loudest voices screaming about the new energy law were the window installers because new energy efficient windows are sometimes four times more expensive than regular windows.  Pool retailers, and some pool contractors screamed too because they didn’t think you the consumer would want to pay more for an energy efficient motor that would pay for itself in the short term and save you money in the long term.  So pool motors got added to this convoluted ruling. 

In essence a bureaucrat from the FBC with the stroke of a pen changed a law our representative legislators enacted in 2008, after it had been vetted in the court of public opinion and debated for over three years before it was enacted.  Clearly another blog could be written on that subject.      

What does it mean to you?

This loophole gives consumers a choice:

1.       Follow the New Energy Law (FS 553.909(4))

2.       Follow the loophole in the Florida Building Code (FS 553.906)

If you follow the New Florida Energy Law you will be installing, for more money upfront, an energy efficient pool motor or pool pump and motor which will save you the extra money you spend while under warranty and start saving you money on your energy bill thereafter.  As a Florida Contractor I would recommend this choice in almost all situations to our clients.  I suggest you follow the law. 

If you go the loophole route, a contractor must Permit the job, have the Permit Office verify that the job is below 30% of the assessed value of your pool, and then have the work done and inspected (FS553.908).  This step gives you an old technology energy inefficient motor that makes the cost of operating your pool the second highest energy user at your home; it opens your property to inspection and potential fines and reassessment for taxation purposes if there has been any work done not previously recorded by the inspectors office.  I do not recommend this scenario and I have not been able to imagine a situation where this would make sense for a client. 

 

Beware of very bad advice:

There are companies telling customers to ignore both laws- saying that you can simply put in an old technology motor.  This is not true!  They are encouraging you to break both the new Energy Law and the Florida Building Code.  The 1979 HVAC loophole does not say you do not have to permit small jobs, just that they are not defined as renovations! You need to pick one law or the other you can’t disregard both.  Further, the loophole does not supersede the Federal VGB (drain cover) law nor does it affect the new plumbing hydraulic efficiency codes if you change motor sizing. 

Beware of:

·         Companies advising you to break both laws- you must pick one to follow

·         Telling you that you don’t need a new drain cover on single main drain systems

·         Companies not addressing the new FBC hydraulic issues on your pool if you are changing pump size

Please call our office if you have questions.  We will not steer you wrong, we will not encourage you to break the law, and we will help you save money.  It also makes sense to be good stewards of our community by being energy efficient but that’s just a sideline; new technology motors save you money and meet the requirements of the LAW.

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