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Energy rules increasing cost of new Central Valley housing
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The cost of building a new home in California is expected to go up while energy costs are projected to fall under tighter energy efficiency rules that follow in the state's long tradition of aggressive environmental standards.

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 home values, the commission said.

The cost increase will likely vary depending on what the climate is like in region where the home is built. New homes in the state's inland desert regions and Central Valley will tend to see higher building costs, while new construction along the northern coastal region will have fewer requirements, according to commission figures.

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

The energy efficiency standards will also apply to new commercial buildings. Such structures will also 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, which are set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2014, will increase the energy efficiency of new homes by 25 percent over 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.