Reach codes

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The 2019 California Building Standards Code and the California Code of Regulation will take in effect on January 1, 2020. The City of Menlo Park adopted groundbreaking local amendments to the State Building Code that would require electricity as the only fuel source for new buildings (not natural gas). This ordinance only applies to newly constructed buildings from the ground up, and does not include additions or remodels. Specifically, it would require:

  1. New low rise residential buildings (three stories or less) to have electric fuel source for space heating, water heating and clothes dryers. Stoves may still use natural gas if desired. Pre-wiring for electric appliances is required where natural gas appliances are used.
  2. New nonresidential and high-rise residential buildings to be all-electric with some exceptions and produce a minimum amount of on-site solar based on square footage.
    • Exceptions include:
      • Life science buildings may use natural gas for space heating.
      • Public agency owned and operated emergency operations centers (such as fire stations and police stations) may use natural gas.
      • Nonresidential kitchens (such as for-profit restaurants and cafeterias) may appeal to use natural gas stoves.
      • For all exceptions that are granted, natural gas appliance locations must be electrically pre-wired for future electric appliance installation.
    • Solar requirements: 
      • Less than 10,000 square feet requires a minimum of three kilowatt photovoltaic system
      • Greater than or equal to 10,000 square feet requires a minimum of five kilowatt photovoltaic system

The reach code ordinance was approved by City Council on September 24, 2019.

Why electrification?

Menlo Park has taken great strides in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the building sector due to its large renewable energy portfolio. The community receives energy from Peninsula Clean Energy, which provides a minimum of 50% renewable energy and 90% greenhouse gas (carbon) free electricity at a cost slightly less than PG&E. Electrifying buildings would maximize the community’s renewable power available and reduce GHG emissions by slowly phasing out the use of natural gas. Building indoor air quality and occupant health and safety will improve because all electric appliances emit very little compared to natural gas emissions and is less combustible.

As the state and the community move toward renewable and clean electricity, the local building standard is securing a GHG free future for new buildings. Addressing electrification now for new buildings avoids hardships and costs for building owners in the future.

Electric buildings have been found to be cost effective over the life of the building in upfront construction savings cost and operational costs.  To ensure continual annual savings, property owners and the building industry are encouraged learn more about the increased efficiency of electric appliances and best design practices for electric buildings. For example, heat pumps are 300%-400% more efficient than traditional gas furnaces. Solar can also significantly drive down the cost of electricity for building operations and provide help provide grid resilience. Below are a list of training guides and upcoming events.

All-electric resources for new buildings

  1. Peninsula Clean Energy partnered with TRC Consultants to create a free electrification technical assistance program to learn more about all-electric building technologies. Interested participants should fill out a participation agreement to be connected to an energy analyst. A guide to various options to help build all electric new construction system is available online.
  2. Redwood Energy compiled case studies on all electric single family houses.
  3. Redwood Energy compiled case studies on all electric multifamily dwellings (including high rise multifamily residential).
  4. Redwood Energy compiled case studies on all electric commercial buildings.  
  5. View the Berkeley resident testimonial video titled "Why Electricity Is Better Than Natural Gas In Your Home" produced by Rise (www.buildwithrise.com).

All-electric resources for existing buildings

  1. The Bay Area Regional Energy Network (BayREN) offers great energy efficiency resources, such as rebates on energy efficiency upgrades. This includes installing induction electric ranges or cooktop and heat pump water heaters for homes built in 2001 or earlier.
  2. Energy Star offers tax credits for energy efficiency appliances for primary residence, in which the resident must own and live in most of the time.
  3. PG&E offers residential rebates on qualified energy efficient products, such as smart thermostats and electric heat pump water heaters.
  4. PG&E offers business rebates on qualified energy efficient products, such as electric commercial cooking appliances.
  5. Peninsula Clean Energy offers residential rebates on installing an all-electric heat pump water heater, which is cleaner, safer and more energy efficient than a gas water heater.
  6. Redwood Energy compiled case studies on all electric retrofits for single family houses

Multifamily building resources

  1. BayREN offers incentives for multifamily property owners to replace their gas fueled space heating, water heating, and cooking appliances to more energy efficient alternatives. For more information, visit BayREN multifamily rebates website.
  2. PG&E offers several multifamily program offerings.

Induction cooking resources

  1. Frontier Energy published a study comparing induction stoves with gas stoves
  2. View the "Induction Cooktops - 5 Reasons They Are Better Than Gas" video produced by homebuilder Matt Risinger of Risinger Homes in Austin, TX.
  3. Ecology Center and City of Berkeley published a "Induction Cooking Factsheet," courtesy of Tom Lent. 
  4. View the "Nourishing Our Net Zero Future" produced by Gould Evans, a nationally recognized design and planning firm focused on meaningful design outcomes.

Heat pump water heater resources

  1. U.S. Department of Energy published an informational webpage about heat pump water heaters.
  2. Peninsula Clean Energy provides financial assistance to replace existing gas water heaters with heat pump water heaters for existing homes. 
  3. New Buildings Institute compiled a technical guide on heat pump water heaters.

Swimming pool resources

  1. U.S. Department of Energy published informational webpages about heating swimming pools electrically either by installing heat pump pool heaters or solar pool heaters.
  2. Redwood Energy compiled several resources on pool heat pump designs.

FAQs

Where can I find the cost effectiveness study?

The statewide study covers all geographical regions in California and Menlo Park is located in climate zone 2. The 2019 cost-effectiveness studies can be found on the CA Local Energy Codes website.

Does the City have a list of consulting firms who can provide cost effectiveness reports?

The list of consultants below is provided as a courtesy only. The City does not endorse or require the use of any of the listed consultants, nor is the list intended to exclude the selection and use of any other consultants. The City shall have no liability or responsibility for the work performed by any of the consulting firms listed.

Firm Address Additional information
DNV GL Energy 751 East Brokaw Road
San Jose, CA 95112
Website
EnergySoft 1025 5th St, Suite A
Novato, CA 94945
Website

415-897-6400, ext. 304
TRC Consultants 436 14th St.
Oakland, CA 94612
Website

510-473-8421

Is the cost effectiveness study based on investor-owned utility rates or Peninsula Clean Energy rates?

Currently, the study is based on specific investor-owned utility rates (PG&E).

Why are there solar panel requirements for non-residential and high rise residential?

The new state code requires a minimum amount of solar for low rise residential. However, there is an opportunity to start to provide greater energy grid resilience and lower utility costs for non-residential and high rise residential buildings.

Does an all electric building cost more to build?

In most cases, all electric buildings cost less to build because it eliminates the installation cost of the natural gas infrastructure. These studies examine the upfront costs, maintenance costs, and operational costs of all-electric designs and support these conclusions:

What are the baseline solar panel sizing requirements for low-rise residential buildings as per 2019 Title 24 code?

The photovoltaic (PV) system offsets the electricity usage of a mixed-fuel home. An all-electric home is required to have a baseline PV system size equivalent to a similar mixed-fuel home.

Can a heat pump water heater match the performance of a gas system?

Yes, a heat pump water heater can equal the performance of a gas equivalent. For example, Rheem's 55 gallon unit can deliver 70 gallons of hot water in the first hour, enough for about four showers. For comparison, Rheem's gas equivalent delivers 79 gallons in the first hour. When selecting any hot water heater, no matter the fuel, make sure it is the right size for your use type. A home with a big family might need a larger 80 gallon tank.

Can the central heat pump water heater distribute adequate water supply temperature to multiple units simultaneously?

Yes, when designed appropriately. Many entities are supporting design guideline development, expected to be publicly available in early 2020. Redwood Energy’s Zero Emissions All-Electric Multifamily Construction Guide outlines demonstration projects and common implementation.

How reliable is the electric grid as compared to natural gas?

The natural gas grid and electric grid both go down on occasion. In fact, during California's primary natural disaster events, wildfires and earthquakes, utilities are supposed to turn the gas off. If 100% reliability is a goal for your home or project, electrification with battery and solar backup via microgrid is an effective solution.

How does the induction cooking compare to gas cooking?

Induction cooking has more specific temperature control, is much safer, easier to clean, and can vary heat settings faster than gas.

Are natural gas systems more efficient than all-electric?

In every case, all-electric systems operate more efficiently than natural gas systems.

Can reach codes promote better air quality in addition to energy efficiency?

Indoor air quality impacts are not explicitly studied, though many studies have shown that avoiding indoor natural gas combustion can result in better air quality, such as:

Does all-electric heating use a lot of energy and can it work in our cool climate?

All-electric heat pumps are highly efficient and effective in weather far colder than ours. Department of Energy studies show heat pump space heaters as highly efficient at as little as 5 degrees Fahrenheit. California Energy Commissions cost effectiveness studies also show high efficiency.

Central water heating: Aren’t central heat pump water heaters are infeasible/unavailable?

There are multiple design options for multi-family buildings including central heat-pump water heaters (HPWH) with larger tanks, central HPWH’s in parallel, distributed HPWHs within each unit, or distributed HPWHs serving multiple units. Central HPWH is absolutely an option with dozens of case studies and several practitioners, particularly in affordable housing.  Redwood Energy complied case studies and design insights with central HPWH.

How do the costs for electric space heating and water heating compare to that of natural gas-based options?

The answer largely depends on the product chosen, climate, and occupant behavior. Generally, energy costs can be treated as similar. This is because while electricity is more expensive than gas per Btu, heat pumps are more efficient. Capital costs for new construction are lower because a building owner can avoid the high cost of a new gas meter.

Doesn’t having gas appliances offer more resilience?

Natural gas appliances in general do not support resilience as most modern gas equipment depends on electricity to operate. In emergencies gas is also shut-off.

How reliable is the electric grid as compared to natural gas?

The natural gas grid and electric grid both go down on occasion. In fact, during California’s primary natural disaster events, wildfires and earthquakes, utilities are supposed to turn the gas off. If 100% reliability is a goal for your home or project, electrification with battery and solar backup via microgrid is the way to get there.

Contact us

Joanna Chen

Management Analyst
Email

650-330-6764