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At Long Last, a Truly Final 2021 Energy Code

Efficiency gains will be significant but builders and industry groups quashed the most progressive proposals

The 2021 International Energy Conservation Code is now complete, but builders and industry groups managed to scuttle proposals that would have advanced the electrification of residential and commercial buildings. Photo courtesy paulbr75/Pixabay.

It’s been a long time coming, but we now have a final 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) for new residential and commercial buildings, following the uncertainty created by appeals that sought to overturn more than 20 of the proposals voted into the code by governmental officials.

While there will still be significant energy efficiency gains—including options for constructing zero-energy homes and commercial buildings—builders and industry groups were successful in getting the most innovative and forward-looking proposals overturned, which means higher consumer costs and carbon emissions.

The appeals process, brought on by those builders and industry groups unhappy with the increased efficiency of the code, has concluded nearly 10 months after voters cast their ballots. Of the 21 proposals that were appealed, 17 will remain in the final code, which will substantially increase the efficiency of new homes built to the 2021 IECC.

However, the International Code Council (ICC) Board of Directors voted to overturn proposals related to residential electrification readiness (i.e., constructing a home so that it is easy to replace gas appliances with efficient and lower-carbon electric options at a future date), electric vehicle readiness for homes and commercial buildings, efficiency requirements for residential water heaters, and a prohibition on continuously burning pilot lights.

My colleague Kim Cheslak at the New Buildings Institute has a more detailed look at the challenged proposals here, and the final appeals outcome here. Taken together, these energy-saving proposals would have moved the code toward a more climate-friendly future. A better energy code requiring such steps as improved insulation and tighter windows lowers utility costs, reduces power plant pollution and makes homes more comfortable and safer. This is especially important for consumers with limited incomes and higher energy burdens.

Including these proposals in the 2021 energy code should have been a no-brainer—and for thousands of local government officials who voted in favor of them, it was. Preparing buildings for the future that we know is coming—where people drive electric vehicles and electrify their homes to reduce carbon emissions—is just common sense.

Investing in future-proofing technologies at the time of construction means avoiding costly and disruptive retrofits at a later date, when the work is orders of magnitude more expensive to complete. It’s a shame that the ICC, which prides itself on helping the building industry stay ahead of trends in technology and policy, took such a narrow view here. Buildings, their occupants, and our world will be worse off because of it.

The process broke down

The International Code Council’s (ICC) process to develop the energy code is wonky—but it’s crucially important to ensuring our new buildings are efficient and help save energy and reduce carbon. New buildings will be around for 50-100 years or more, and it’s cheapest and easiest to build a building right the first time around.

Developing an updated ICC code involves submitting proposed changes, technical committee review and approval, public hearings, a comment process, and voting by members of the International Code Council. Voting members must be employees of state or local governments, as these local governments are ultimately who adopt and use the code.

The ICC has an extensive process to validate voters and the voting process. The ICC prides itself on administering a fair and balanced process, leaving the contents of the code ultimately up to the governmental officials who will eventually adopt and use the code in their jurisdictions. That’s how it’s advertised to work, at least. But this appeals process has left governmental voters in the lurch.

The decisions by the ICC board are troubling for a number of reasons. Each of the ultimately-overturned proposals was overwhelmingly approved by the ICC’s voting membership. Technical decisions of the code are supposed to be left up to the voting membership, while the board’s role should be limited to reviewing whether the procedures were properly followed. But here the board overstepped its role, given that there were no irregularities in the way the code development process was conducted.

In fact, the board’s decisions are in direct opposition to thousands of votes—and the rationale used to justify these decisions is flimsy at best. The board claimed that proposals related to electrification and electric vehicle readiness were outside the scope and intent of the IECC, but to date has provided absolutely no justification of this decision, either substantively or procedurally.

The scope and intent of the code are purposefully broad, and the board should have deferred to the interpretation of the thousands of voters who felt these proposals belonged in the code—not to the will of builders and their vested financial interests.

A conflict with federal law?

For the proposals related to water heating and pilot lights, the board’s justification to uphold the appeals was that these proposals are “potentially preempted” by federal law, meaning states and localities can’t implement regulations that are stricter than the national-level ones.

Preemption is a complex issue that, first of all, is dramatically outside the expertise of the ICC Board of Directors—and should have been left up to the legal experts who work with local governments to adopt the code. Second, this decision belies the title of the code, which begins with the word “International.” There is absolutely no pre-emption outside of the United States.

The ICC’s own Appeals Board, which first evaluates any appeals filed to the code adoption elements, recommended the appeals be denied, yet the Board of Directors decided to ignore the Appeals Board and grant the appeals.

To close on an uplifting note, this isn’t the end of the road for these worthy proposals that didn’t make it into the 2021 model energy code. Many cities and states have already signaled that they want these policies to be part of their next energy code, regardless of the ICC decision. NRDC is ready to help however we can, to ensure a low-carbon future for all.


-Lauren Urbanek is Senior Energy Policy Advocate in the  Climate & Clean Energy Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council. This post was originally published at the NRDC Expert blog and is reposted here with permission.

41 Comments

  1. PBP1 | | #1

    From nbi: "it’s probable that a gas water heater installed today will not be allowed to be replaced with a gas water heater in 15 years". Not sure if anyone has driven through Big Spring, TX or considered the LNG Export Project, Port of Brownsville, TX. The amount of NG being flared off due to transport issues is substantial, hopefully it will be eventually captured and utilized responsibly (electric Boeings and Airbuses are not coming anytime soon). I remember the 1973 crisis quite well, there's more work to do and fewer exaggerations (on both sides) would sure help.

    1. Andy S | | #6

      The "flaring off" is actually part of the issue. The amount of gas that is released into the atmosphere is orders of magnitude higher than most anyone would guess. Think entire industries footprint big.
      There's been more pushback on NG as a fuel source for residential use in large part because of the awful track record of the NG industry when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. Near me Bellingham WA has banned NG for new residential construction. It's likely we'll see this more and more over the coming years.

      1. PBP1 | | #8

        I've heard the volume of NG flared is enough to power all of residential TX. In frigid zones residential NG is must, utility companies are not the best when it comes to electrical reliability and ice storms/animals do compromise the grid quite often. Capturing, transporting and processing the NG will help and, for the foreseeable future, society will need the oil (better from US than elsewhere - let's not be a NIMBY country).

      2. John Clark | | #11

        As I understand it low demand results in maximum storage capacity which forces excess gas to the flare.

        Now refineries and chemical plants also have flares. They act as a safety measure.

        1. PBP1 | | #13

          There's a shortage of tanker trucks and a pipeline is under construction, which is intended to supply the to be built LNG port Port of Brownsville, right next to Elon Musk's space operations. I lived in the Rio Grande Valley 2017-2020 and traveled through Big Spring often. Why buy more tanker trucks if the pipeline is coming (not to mention the current price of oil/NG).

        2. Granular | | #20

          No, not accurate. Problem is natgas prices fell so low due to great success in new fracking technology that smaller oil fields/remote oil fields couldn't justify building collector pipelines - was cheaper to flare the associated natgas and just make money on the oil production.

          1. John Clark | | #21

            We're talking about the same thing which is a lack of storage capacity. The why is another story.

  2. John Clark | | #2

    I can understand why there's no reason to make EV-ready a code requirement. What I can't understand is the push back for allowing electrical hookup for water heating. Production builders for years have provided this option for residential laundry room and kitchen ranges..

  3. PBP1 | | #3

    How about no more dryer vents? Require heat pump clothes dryers or other "ventless" dryers. I had to pay for two dryer vent runs even though I said I will never install a dryer that vents to the exterior. I feel like spray foaming both of them. Time to pick code provisions for lobbying carefully. Lay off EV for the moment and save lives today. The white goods mfgs need to get onboard with the latest standards (e.g., EU?). My 2 cents: "It’s probable that a vented dryer installed today will not be allowed to be replaced with a vented dryer in 15 years".

    From JLC: The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (cpsc.gov) estimates that in 1998 . . . there were 15,600 clothes-dryer fires, resulting in 20 deaths, 370 injuries, and $75.4 million in property damage.

    And, for the pollution associated with venting a clothes dryer outdoors, from Oct 2020: Kapp KJ, Miller RZ (2020) Electric clothes dryers: An underestimated source of microfiber pollution. PLoSONE 15(10):e0239165. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0239165

    How often do you smell your neighbor's dryer exhaust? That should stop.

    1. John Clark | | #4

      Missing the "sarcasm" at the end of your post?

      1. PBP1 | | #5

        "That" being me having to smell my neighbor's dryer exhaust ;-) Brian

        1. John Clark | | #22

          Btw..your concern over clothing sourced micro-plastics in the environment doesn't begin/end with dryer vents. These plastics also come off in the washing machine and enter the environment via waste water.

      2. PBP1 | | #10

        I'm a scent avoider, can smell the dryer sheets, wish most products were unscented :-)

    2. Vlad Shpurik | | #7

      What dryer do you have? I am about to install a dryer vent, but would be happy to go the unvented route if I could find reasonably priced dryer that works reasonably well.

      1. PBP1 | | #9

        I have a Blomberg (DHP24412W, w/matched washer) and would have gotten a Miele but the Miele heat pump dryer was not yet available in the US. Heat pump dryers operate at lower temperatures, generally with longer cycles. In Europe (worked for P&G Europe, Middle East & Africa running banks of Miele machines), many like some amount of moisture in the clothes coming out of the dryer as ironing (e.g., roller irons) is still common (at least early 90s). Front load washers and lower temperature dryers help clothes last longer, though there is some small offset due to longer cycle length/mechanical motion in dryers. Also, people tend to wash some items less often than in US (generally better quality/more expensive clothes in Europe). The "cook" water setting on high temp front loaders gets jeans super clean (wash once a month or less?). In any washer, however, there will always be some residue remaining on the clothes (e.g., body oils chelated with calcium/magnesium). And, don't forget, Euro front loaders spin at high rpms such that moisture in clothes coming out of the washer is much less than a top loader. Some iron right out of the washer. So, if you are going to get a heat pump dryer, have a high rpm front load washer. Miele is probably the best at washers/dryers, people expect them to last a lifetime. Miele also has a good software policy (not like some mfgs that make few promises to maintain).

        1. John Clark | | #12

          There are a couple of issues with FL washers in the US.

          No 1: "Hot water" is not hot enough. Why?

          A: In the US the distance between the hot water heater and the laundry room can be long. Consequently a comparatively larger volume of cold water must be flushed from the pipe.

          B: FL washers by design use a lower volume of water.

          Result: By the time "hot water" reaches the machine, the machine itself has almost reached the designed volume of water.

          Solutions: Existing home, buy a FL washer with a hot water booster setting (reduces efficiency btw). New construction, design house were water heater as closer to laundry and other plumbing fixtures OR install some sort of re-circulation system.

          No 2: Mold. Why?

          A: Use of liquid fabric softeners provide a food source and inherent low water usage during rinse cycle results in more residue being left behind.

          Solution: Don't use liquid fabric softeners and/or use citric acid cleaners monthly and keep washer door ajar if possible to aid drying.

          No 3: Walking washer. Why?

          A: Most washing machines are located on second stories. These second story floors can have more deflection (especially an older home) and as a result the washing machine can walk due to vibrations created by a slightly unbalanced load.

          Solution: Can be difficult to remedy on existing construction. Manufacturers have gotten better are auto-load balancing and dampening within the unit.

          No 4: Comparatively short service life vs. traditional top loaders.

          Issue: The design and they're chock full of electronics result in repairs at the 5-10 yr mark that are almost as expensive as a new machine.

          1. PBP1 | | #14

            Great points: (1) "New construction, design house were water heater as closer to laundry and other plumbing fixtures OR install some sort of re-circulation system". I have a 2.5 gal Stiebel between my NG on-demand and washer, all within a 6 ft span (also internal heating on the FL). (2) Agreed, many Germans completely against liquid fabric softener (Blue Angel/EU)*. (3) Agreed, my FL washer is right above a concrete foundation wall (crawlspace wall), load balancing tech is important. (4) People in the US are used to buying junk. Junk that's networked to Big Data/Big Advertising so companies can learn how to conveniently sell them more junk.

            * from EU: It should be explicitly stated that fabric softeners should not be included in the scope of laundry detergents. Fabric softeners do not have any cleaning properties and are not needed in the washing process. In addition, they may have a high level of ecotoxicity to aquatic organisms and they are poorly biodegradable. Besides, it remains difficult to differentiate the formulations of the existing products and to identify the best environmentally performing formulation

          2. Expert Member
            Malcolm Taylor | | #19

            Get a square drain-pan made up to set the washer on. It reduces the chances of floods and stops the machine walking.

    3. User avater
      BlueSolar | | #18

      Why no more dryer vents? Because of the fire statistic you cited? 20 deaths in a nation of 300 million is extremely faint to the point of being hard to distinguish from zero (I'm a social scientist and statistician). I would never care about any sort of "problem" based on such faint effects. People need to always remember that they live in a huge population where there will be a non-zero rate of everything. (We actually have 330 million people now, but I used 300 million because your stat is so old, bring from 1998.)

      You really have a stance like that based on an incredibly faint stat that is 22 years old? If 20 alleged deaths per year is your threshold, then *everything* will be a problem and cause for you. 20 deaths is less than just about anything I can think of. Lightning is usually good for over 50 in the US. Lots of extremely rare diseases kill more than 20. Merely looking at sugary drinks might kill more than 20 people a year. The only stat I know of that is for sure fainter is the number of black people murdered by police in the US, which is apparently 0 to 8.

      As far as the alleged pollution goes, nothing matters unless it matters. Meaning that we should need to see realistic effect sizes pertaining to how dryer vents actually impact people's lives. I would bet the effect is essentially zero. Pollution is a dose response phenomenon. The universe is full of all manner of stuff, and none of that stuff is inherently harmful to any arbitrary species, like ours – it depends on dose and all sorts of contextual factors, sometimes including personal variables.

      In general I think people should have a baseline level of resilience and toughness. Life can be needlessly stressful if people worry about everything around them. Americans used to worry about nuclear war. It's strange to see them worrying about dryer vents.

      I also don't want to see all sorts of personal preferences converted into coercive dictates, like in building codes. Those of us who love to optimize and solve problems can easily sort of morph into utopian central planners if we're not careful. I don't think we have the right to tell other people how to live, especially not something as trivial as dryer vents. And monoculture is risky. Plus, every little requirement increases the cost of housing, and lots of people really can't afford the end result, as evidenced by the present state of California. Forcing everyone to buy high-end heat pump dryers is ridiculous, even if we thought that the prices would come down. Not everyone can afford Miele.

      1. PBP1 | | #24

        "In 2010-2014, U.S. municipal fire departments responded to an estimated 15,970 home fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines each year. These fires resulted in annual losses estimated at 13 civilian deaths, 440 civilian injuries, and $238 million in direct property damage. As a percentage of all home fires and associated losses, fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines accounted for 4% of fires, 1% of civilian deaths, 3% of civilian injuries, and 4% of direct property damage."

        Hmm, why mandate fire alarms or fire extinguishers or egress windows or fire barriers? A fire in a complex, where one unit takes down twenty? Worry about my dryer vent or my neighbor's?

        So you say forget about that "4% of fires, 1% of civilian deaths, 3% of civilian injuries, and 4% of direct property damage"? Didn't you say "I would never care about any sort of 'problem' based on such faint effects."?

        "Data scientists" (McNamara school of ethics?) are not the best when it comes to product liability. Data scientists seldom take a systems' approach. When a company's product kills people, the repercussions are profound. Data scientists (maybe actuaries are the true data scientists, at least they're trained well) provide info, they don't make decisions.

        1. User avater
          BlueSolar | | #31

          From your new stats it looks like your previous stat severely overestimated deaths. You're now saying 13 deaths in five years? That's even less significant than 20 per year. That's only 2.6 a year, and it's actually less since your new figure isn't about dryer vents specifically, but rather *all* deaths involving dryers and washing machines (are there electrical fires or something?).

          Since we're now at something less than 2.6 deaths a year in a nation of 330 million, we're definitely in zero equivalent territory. I can't overstate how absurdly small numbers like 20 or 2.6 are in the context of a population of 330 million. When people attribute such a tiny number of deaths to a cause, such estimates become extremely vulnerable to minor errors. Because we're so close to zero at that point, any random error or bias in the analysis can produce that kind of value. If you want to care about 2.6 alleged deaths a year, I don't know what to tell you. We don't normally encounter numbers that small as a purported cause of anything. I think more people die from drinking too much water (runners).

          Your percentage quotes are false as quoted. We need to clarify that this isn't "1% of civilian deaths" and so forth. It was 1% of civilian deaths from fires, or possibly 1% of civilian deaths from house fires specifically. I have no idea, but it's not of civilian deaths as such. It's still confusing though, because that would mean that only 1300 Americans died from fires in five years, which is 260 per year. That seems low given the size of the country. I'd expect one state to have such a toll, since one house fire can kill two, three, four people, so I don't know how it could only be 260 per year in entire country. Is this what you've seen elsewhere? I don't know overall fire deaths.

          Your point about a company's products killing people doesn't seem to apply in this case, since apparently hardly anyone dies in fires caused by dryer vents. 2.6 a year is the max, since it was all dryer and washer related fires, and in a population of 330 million that's not a number we can take seriously. If I'm keeping track of all the zeroes right, the true "percentage of civilian deaths" is therefore 0.00000079%.

          1. PBP1 | | #34

            Please read more carefully, "You're now saying 13 deaths in five years?" when the text is clear "These fires resulted in annual losses . . . ."

            Source: https://www.nfpa.org//-/media/Files/News-and-Research/Fire-statistics-and-reports/US-Fire-Problem/Fire-causes/oswashersdryers.pdf

            And this is Green Building Advisor:
            1. "European heat pump dryers use only 40–50% as much energy as North American conventional dryers to dry the same amount of laundry."
            2. "North American conventional dryers had peak power consumption roughly five times as high as European heat pump dryers."
            https://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/pt_awards/SEDI_Fact_Sheet_H.pdf
            3. Less conditioned air (i.e., energy cooled or heated) removed from the interior.
            4. Per Eddy: "supporting infrastructure is less (a 20Amp circuit is more than enough)".
            5. Clothes last longer.
            6. Less outdoor pollution (fibers).
            7. And, in the GBA context, banning dryer vents in new construction code may ALSO result in fewer fires.

            Why the narrow focus on "deaths" in point 7? (Dunning-Kruger?)

            See Bluesolar below, claims to be a "Data Scientist" and can't even read a table or understand "Annual Averages" - what a joke! Dude, look at the total 15,970, that's annual and corresponds to Figure I (duh!).

          2. User avater
            BlueSolar | | #35

            Yeah, your linked document says 13 total deaths in five years. Table A, page 1. Did you think it said something different?

          3. PBP1 | | #36

            Dunning-Kruger in action:

            See Bluesolar, claims to be a "Data Scientist" and can't even read a table or understand "Annual Averages" - what a joke! Dude, look at the total 15,970, that's annual and corresponds to Figure I (duh!).

            For 2010-2014:
            13X5 = 65 True (actual is 66, Table 1)

          4. User avater
            BlueSolar | | #37

            I'm confused by these numbers you're throwing out, and disappointed by your tone.

            13 divided by 5 is not 0.2.

            I always thrown by their use of "total" in the Table A, so you're right that I misinterpreted that one.

            However, the actual numbers don't seem to help your argument, such as it is. The dryer-specific numbers are given in Table 2, page 6. They report 0 deaths from mechanical or electrical failure or malfunction. Zero.

            They further report 4 average deaths per year from "failure to clean", and 4 deaths per year from "equipment not being operated properly". That's all the deaths they report, though their total is 9 for some reason. (They don't seem to explain anywhere how 4 + 4 = 9. It could be some sort of hidden rounding.)

            So we're at either zero deaths a year, or 4, or 8, due to dryer vents, depending on how we want to assess this data. I don't actually know how many of these are related to dryer vents, since they don't say so explicitly. What were people doing in the 4 improper operation cases? I have no idea. What I do know is that I'm not going to care about this. If I'm not going to care about dryer vents – or anything – causing 20 deaths a year in a nation of 330 million, I'm not going to care as the true numbers shrink and shrink down to 8, 4, or zero. I think it's incredibly irrational and unwise for humans to care about extremely faint "causes" of death in large populations. There are thousands of things that matter more than this.

          5. PBP1 | | #38

            But note "failure to clean" for "clothes dryers" also had 139 civilian injuries per year and $57 million in direct property damage per year (how about indirect on our healthcare system and other?). Heat pump clothes dryers (ventless), which was the focus of my original "argument", are objectively "better" for many reasons. Sorry for the tone, but "deaths" singled out, alone is an odd focus - I don't understand why? (and 0.2 shifted diagonally on keypad is 2.6, my error).

      2. Tyler Keniston | | #29

        No better way to make clear one's musings are but one brick short of a political diatribe than to throw in a completely unnecessary, out-of-context, overly reductive, insensitive, and politically charged quip about people getting shot.

        1. Expert Member
          Malcolm Taylor | | #30

          Tyler,

          I agree, although I think the whole discussion has been fairly pointless.

          1. James Someone | | #39

            Agreed Malcolm.. One of the burdens of expert status, enduring the cat fight of the commoners. Be well.

          2. Expert Member
            Malcolm Taylor | | #41

            James,

            I'm left wondering what I did to deserve that remark?

  4. James Howison | | #15

    There is a good deal of confusion about what "EV ready" means. It doesn't mean a Tesla wall charger, it doesn't mean a J charger, I'm pretty sure it just meant requiring a single dedicated circuit of 40amps with a 14-50 outlet (also useful for RVs ...). Seems a very small cost for a very convenient and key option for future homeowners. Post-construction costs on this can be in the $1,000 range ... and many jurisdictions are subsidizing their installation (which is perhaps why they were so supported by govt officials not wanting to help pay the later costs).

    1. John Clark | | #23

      Not necessarily and here's why.

      - Theoretically a builder might have to build in that access on all three sides of a garage because the charging port on the vehicle can be almost anywhere on a vehicle.
      - How does that change based upon the number of vehicles which can be parked in a garage?
      - What about vehicles parked in driveways?
      - How much capacity is enough? Charging rates are expected to improve over the years. What sort of capacity is the builder supposed to build in?

      Basically is each space required to have its own dedicated 240-AMP circuit?

  5. thrifttrust | | #16

    The vast majority, by area, of the US, populated mostly by folks of below average means, are practically and temperamentally not going to be driving electric cars any time soon. They would be greatly agitated over being forced to pay for, what is to them, superfluous infrastructure. This is something best left to the market.

  6. Kye Ford | | #17

    So just to sum up this article, of the 21 new energy proposals to the new ICC code, 17 passed and 4 did not.
    17 passed 4 did not.
    One party did not get all it wanted.
    Whine Much?

  7. Richard Melius | | #25

    BlueSolar, I truly hope that you never experience the death of a family member or friend due to a dryer fire. Perhaps if you do you might reconsider that 20 deaths is NOT insignificant. NO DEATHS are the ONLY acceptable quantity.

    1. User avater
      BlueSolar | | #26

      Richard, zero deaths is not an option for humanity. There are some basic facts and constraints about the universe that would prevent us from ever having zero deaths from all these mundane causes in a population of 330 million people.

      There are thousands of things that cause more than 20 deaths in populations this huge. Chasing after all these causes of near-zero deaths would be remarkably unwise, as the tradeoffs would be substantial. Every minute and calorie you spend on the trivial death stats is a minute and calorie that you're not spending on things that actually kill large numbers of people. For instance, getting a bunch nuclear power plants built in the US would save thousands of lives (though these are really partial lives because the deaths at issue are "premature" deaths due to pollution, so you'd probably want to weight it). Almost any kind of medical research would matter more than dryer vent activism. As would handing out mosquito nets, like Bill Gates has done.

      Think about what it would take to actually eliminate the 20 alleged dryer vent deaths per year. You'd have to do more than just ban affordable dryers in new construction. You'd have to go out and remove all the existing vented dryers installed in millions of homes across this enormous nation, presumably replacing them with new, unvented dryers. Okay, so imagine the project, all the trips by installers and so forth. You might kill more people just from the traffic accidents that would result from all the activity than you would save from dryer vent fires. Heck, the pollution alone could account for more premature deaths, at the scale we're talking about. We also know in advance that some number of women will be raped if we model millions of install events by say 15,000 male installers. When you're dealing with extremely large samples like this, we invariably get non-zero rates of trajedy of all sorts. This is the trouble you easily run into when you chase near-zero rates of death in huge populations. There will be lots of other costs in this scenario.

      The only reason humans know about things like dryer vent deaths is the emergence of mass media and related advances in communication technology. Most humans who have lived and died on Earth would never know about faint causes of death because they lived in small populations with no mass media or other information technology. They only knew about things that they either observed directly or were told by others in their tribes or settlements. Today's humans live much safer and longer lives than humans have ever known, so it's a strange time for them to be worried about faint risks. But the combination of large populations, formal research, and mass media / the web mean that modern humans can learn about the most trivial causes of death, things we wouldn't know about if not for that combination of factors. Humans will need to learn the implications of living in huge populations in combination with mass media if they want to be able to process the ensuing information flood with some measure of wisdom.

      In any case, zero deaths has never been an option in this universe. Waging war against every near-zero cause of death in a population of 330 million people would be extremely unwise, and would not produce the desired outcome, or even a desirable one. It doesn't appear to be possible for non-omniscient organisms to interact with the universe without suffering accidents, and there are deep issues that arise if you try to eliminate every possible source of near-zero deaths.

      1. PBP1 | | #27

        Interesting commentary, having worked in the nuclear industry and having moved to Europe a few months after Chernobyl, I've had to assess "risks" and seen results of the "fallout". In the early 80s, had to review 3D PIDs to assess risk of an earthquake shaking pipes loose onto other pipes/valves (in the days before widespread CAD). Given the Northern Illinois location, the risk was relatively low of an earthquake within the lifetime of the nuclear plant. But, the risk was nevertheless assessed by engineers, not "data scientists". "Data scientists" operate on data, which typically means "historical" data, which can be limited (sometimes garbage in / garbage out). Engineers have legitimate concerns as to safety and generally take a dynamic systems approach, very much advocated by architects like Bill McDonough (Cradle-to-Cradle, etc.). Most data scientists lack training in physics, biology, etc. Data scientists may spot important correlations, but underlying phenomena is not their area of expertise. The dryer vent issue is an engineering issue, we didn't even mention how many thousands of CFMs of conditioned air are wasted on a vented dryer cycle (again, systems thinking): one hour x 200 CFM = 12,000 CFM of conditioned air gone. Do the math (i.e., physics) to see how much energy is wasted in northern climates. So, mandate heat recovery on dryer vents (or concentric piping)? Or, just ban dryer vents (in new construction)?

        I was working in India at the time of the tsunami, which led to advances in early warning (why do that says the data scientist?), which saved lives and more in Fukushima. Some data scientists have interesting perspectives.

      2. Richard Melius | | #28

        Blue moon, While I fully understand your view and explanation, I still believe that ANY death is not acceptable. We should do what we must to prevent deaths due to inadequate systems, or try like it meant something important, no matter what must be done. It would be simple if all humans truly cared about others and conducted them selves accordingly (I know: the Golden Rule). I have always tried to pull others up to my level, not stoop to their level. I am too old and too much water has gone over the dam to change my thinking at this time - maybe too idealistic - but I will keep trying.

  8. User avater
    BlueSolar | | #32

    Yo, I don't know what you mean about all this "data scientist" stuff. You mean because I'm a statistician? I'm a social psychologist primarily and a statistician in support of that work, someone who uses regression, ANOVA, latent class modeling, etc. Correlation is regression, and is just one tool we would use.

    I served in the US Navy, in the nuclear power program. And I really like all the advances in nuclear power these days, the Gen III designs and so forth.

  9. Eddy Luttmer | | #33

    Education and market forces will cause builders to respond with energy intelligent design. Quiet, comfortable, reliable / low maintenance, resilient design is cheaper to build and easier to adapt.

    Some things cost more out the outset, like a ventless heat pump dryer. But the supporting infrastructure is less (a 20Amp circuit is more than enough), your clothes last longer (this could be a burden for some), and one's feeling of "zozobra" when drying towels on a cold winter morning and sending heat and moisture out of the house on purpose might be diminished.

    I am quite happy with the FL washer (and so was my mother in the '60's and '70s with her Westinghouse FL). Hot water is not much of an issue, I don' use it. And rinsing the detergent and fabric softener seems are not much of an issue since we don't use the fabric softener at all and generally use the laundry ball for day to day laundry. We were hesitant about the no detergent approach, but the olfactory testing method has not identified any concerns. I do think Americans are obsessed with b.o. But remember Popeye? Do you know why he ate spinach? So that Olive Oil would not turn him away. The minerals in spinach (and other leafy greens), especially zinc, seems to be a systemic bactericide. Yes, it even works with pubescent males, provided they eat the spinach.

    EV ready could just be an empty conduit. But an intelligent developer would provide a garage sub-panel and conduit sized for the circuits commonly desired. This is one the free market could be relied on to provide. A 240-VAC circuit is good for other equipment too, not just EVSEs. As for the affordability of EVs, I would venture that they might be more affordable than an ICE when all factors are considered. A used leaf seems to be more affordable than a comparably aged used Fit, but that's just a story I tell myself, so I feel better.

    A final thought. Man's pollution of the environment with stuff Mother Nature has no way to manage is accumulating in the environment and is impacting our lives. To wit increased pulmonary disfunction, histamine reactions, and many undiagnosable issues are not without cause. And some are more susceptible than others. I'd like to blame fire retardants, but there is so much more.

    We need to be mindful and responsible in all that we do. It is not easy.

    1. Richard Melius | | #40

      Eddy, I agree. Current problem in NC is that for the 2nd year in a row there is a organized push by the NHBA to ELIMINATE the 2021 IECC Energy Code from being considered by the NC Conservation Energy Board (vote to be this month and December). Supposedly all in the name of "decreased profits of $500/home built" for the builders. As a custom designer/builder (small) I am appalled to hear of such un-truths, lies, manipulation of NO DATA by the NHBA - it is disgusting that supposedly reputable builders would even consider supporting an agenda like this. It is such a dis-service to home buyers and to tax payers, municipalities and NC because they (we) will be paying in the future for public assistance to pay the energy bills for these energy hogging homes when the buyers will not be able to pay. There could be massive new tax payer funded programs to re-fit these homes to minimal energy saving systems including windows, doors, insulation, HVAC, proper air quality controls, etc., etc. It is obvious that the builders could make much higher profits by installing and advertising the energy efficiency of the homes they built to the 2021 standards - home buyers are known to want this and are willing to pay for them - and the banks are willing to fund a higher mortgage because they see that the buyers can save enough in energy costs to be able to pay for the high energy efficient systems up-front.

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