UPDATED: Big Changes for Duct Testing in MA

   If you have not been asked to complete a duct test by your local Massachusetts Inspector, it is just a matter of time before you are surprised by this stringent/updated code requirement.  Despite some push-back from Contractors  and Inspectors, all of MA is required to test new or altered duct systems.  All of MA adopted the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), enforced as of August 16, 2014.  Unlike the previous code, this makes what was considered the "Stretch Code" now the base residential code.  Also, it pays to know their permit structure, to avoid losing what could amount to be a significant part of your profit on these jobs.

Procedure with TEC Duct Blaster

     If you are working in any of the cities and towns across MA, you are required to complete a "Total Leakage Duct Test".  Unfortunately for most, the new required qualification of being a HERS Rater or BPI Certified Professional can be a stumbling block.  True, we have many certified individuals throughout the state - myself being one.  This may be an added cost to your job, one you may not have been prepared to pay for.  For New Construction, this test is typically completed by the HERS Rater as part of the building permit process.  Just imagine you are asked for the duct leakage report on a retrofit, a new duct system in an existing home.  Surprise, lost profit!

      The code is now three times more stringent than it was last week.  Gone are the days of passing a total leakage duct test by chance.  We are now required to make a whopping 4CFM / 100 SqFt., or 4% leakage rate.  One must take careful attention to seal all seams with UL Listed mastic in order to reach this goal.  The fortunate alternative is that if all ducts are in conditioned spaces, they do not have to be tested!

     Anyhow, take a look at the attached document I created, I think it will help those that are just becoming involved with Duct Testing in MA.  Also, please share your experiences with the local city and town requirements by commenting below - nobody likes to be surprised.


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Comment by j. west on September 1, 2014 at 10:44am

You're right Christopher- the trick to saving the profit margin is being in several places at one time. And you can't do that without a solid quality assurance process.  I've spoke about this this exact subject all over the country. Most savvy contractors agree the solution is a wifi gauge and well designed process to use it.

The wifi gauge allows you to support the test for as many techs as you like without actually being there. Or you can get support in the field from an expert. The rumor is that many states will ask code inspectors to leverage this sort of technology to cover more ground.

It also allows you to operate a fan from the attack/crawl space. So you don't spend your valuable time moving back and forth from the duct tester system and the work area. You can watch your progress while you fix leaks in the duct work.

There is also software that will log the data from the test so you can quickly create reports and create quality control reviews for your work and your business.

Technology is so cool.


Comment by Sean Lintow Sr on August 26, 2014 at 10:33am

4% TOTAL Ted - Leakage to outside was stripped from the codes & for good reason

Comment by tedkidd on August 26, 2014 at 9:55am

Wait!  4% total leakage or 4% leakage to outdoors? 

Comment by Sean Lintow Sr on August 25, 2014 at 6:14pm

4% can be tough up front but easily doable - The best time to test for many is on rough with the air-handler installed. Make sure for the first few that the HVAC contractor and crew is there to let them see what it takes to tighten them up. I had numerous ones easily hitting 2 to 3 leakage after the first few. It all comes down to training & nothing is better than actually seeing and doing it.

Comment by Tom Pfau on August 25, 2014 at 1:23pm

The 2012 IECC regulations "do not apply in municipalities that have adopted the Stretch Energy Code to buildings governed by the Stretch Energy Code.  For those buildings the current Stretch Energy Code (which uses IECC 2009) remains in effect until further notice." So for new homes built in the 143 towns that have adopted the Stretch Code, the 2009 IECC still applies. That means builders in Stretch Code towns are getting a break by being able to get an occupancy permit with duct leakage to outside of up to 8%. Those builders not in Stretch Code towns may find it tough to pass the 4% total duct leakage requirement.

Comment by Colin Genge on August 25, 2014 at 11:22am

I recommend your guidance be universal instead of providing specific instructions on how to operate one brand of equipment without showing others. Such as Retrotec's that has about half the current duct tester market share. We have amazing quick guides that show testers and Code officials alike how this test should be performed. They are easy to follow with pictures and check boxes for QA. Videos are available as is a free duct testing certification course.

Promoting all brands is healthy for an industry where we for example have been instrumental in innovation and in fact designed and built the first duct tester ( the duct test rig).  I appreciate your intentions may have been to facilitate duct testing and we support your effort but think you will be impressed by what we provide and how it might help to improve the uptake in effective duct testing.

I also suggest you support field calibration checks since 10 to 25 % errors are not uncommon.


Comment by Everblue Training on August 25, 2014 at 10:31am

If anyone is looking to get trained on duct testing, BPI is set to launch a new certification called BPI Infiltration and Duct Leakage (IDL). This standalone certification would speak to the exact issue that you are referring to and would meet this new requirement. It's certainly less expensive than becoming a HERS Rater or BPI Building Analyst and is especially relevant because it focuses exclusively on duct testing. We hear that the BPI IDL Certification exam will launch on September 1, but you can already get training in Boston. There's only a field exam, no written.

Comment by tedkidd on August 25, 2014 at 8:19am

 that our codes allow an installer to provide their own testing results instead of a HERS rater or equivalent is in my opinion an invitation to skewed results.

lol.  ya think?  

I guess it depends on what QC measures exist.  Also, what will be the definition of, and penalty for, lying?  Will anybody be caught?  Will public examples be made?  Or is this another hope for the best make work situation? 

Yet another example of creating hugely complex and administratively heavy cost to create rules around proxies for energy efficiency, and rewarding the best liars, rather than simply creating attractive incentives around quality and rewarding those who do the best at telling the truth:  http://bit.ly/HEREARESOMENUMBERS

Comment by Eric Sperline on August 25, 2014 at 7:53am

Hello Chris, thank you for your post on duct testing rqm'ts in MA. 

The tone of your message seems to be indicative of your position on the value of energy efficiency overall.  You use terms such as "stringent updated code requirement".  You also refer to the possible added costs associated with duct testing.  I will tell you that I have been conducting these tests for years now.  Duct losses historically have been one of the biggest contributors to heat loss in the residential sector.   The cost to test the ducts is the same whether completed by the installer or by third party.  When the installer completes the test the cost is added, it is simply not listed as a separate line item.   In my experiences the contractor definitely is adding the cost of the test onto the job total.  Usually around $200.00.  The fact that our codes allow an installer to provide their own testing results instead of a HERS rater or equivalent is in my opinion an invitation to skewed results.  Perhaps we should apply the same theory to plumbers and electricians.  We could allow them to provide their own inspection results to the building official.


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