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Intl. Code Council Eliminates Exception for Duct Leakage Tests  

Codes + Standards

Intl. Code Council Eliminates Exception for Duct Leakage Tests  

By Peter Fabris May 6, 2020
Installing ductwork
Photo:  Benjamin Clapp

The International Code Council (ICC) passed a proposal to mandate more duct testing in order to reduce duct leakage, conserve energy, and reduce utility bills. Previously, the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) included an exception that waived the need for duct leakage testing when ducts and air handlers are located completely within the building thermal envelope. The exception will be eliminated when the 2021 code takes effect. One exception will remain: “A duct air-leakage test shall not be required for ducts serving heat or energy recovery ventilators that are not integrated with ducts serving heating or cooling systems.”
Opponents of the new mandate questioned how and when such testing would need to be done. Localities may differ in how they implement the measure. Some opponents also questioned whether the requirement is necessary, especially for contractors seeking an energy ratings score, a process that already includes significant testing protocols.
Backing proponents of the change was a study that compared previously exempted homes in Pennsylvania with homes that had been tested because part of their ductwork was outdoors. Samples from the exempted homes averaged 30.95 cfm per square feet of leakage. By contrast, samples at the ones that had been tested averaged 17.95 cfm per square feet of leakage.
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