Both California law and Federal law apply to locally adopted reach codes. California law sets out the process that local governments must use to adopt a reach code and also establishes certain requirements for these types of ordinances. Federal law sets the standards for building appliances, and, among other things, prohibits local ordinances from preempting those standards.

Disclaimer: This webpage is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Local government staff should discuss any legal questions with their city or county attorneys.

California Law and Reach Codes

Energy efficiency reach codes are similar to other local ordinances, but there are special requirements for reach codes. These requirements are set out in Section 10-106 of the Building Energy Efficiency Standards and in Public Resources Code Section 25402.1(h)2 

Key requirements of these laws include:

  1. A reach code must be at least as stringent as the statewide code.
  2. A reach code must be cost effective.
  3. A reach code must be approved by the California Energy Commission.
  4. A reach code needs to be re-approved with each Energy Code update.

Reach codes must be at least as stringent as the state wide code

Local governments cannot adopt a local energy code which is less stringent that the statewide code. The law requires the Energy Commission to find that any local energy standards will require buildings to be designed to consume no more energy than permitted by the Energy Code.

Reach codes must be cost effective

In order to adopt a reach code, a local government agency needs to make findings on the cost effectiveness of the proposed local energy standards. Most energy efficiency measures cost money to implement and save money by reducing energy costs once the measure is in place. To be cost effective, the money saved from the reduced energy costs needs to be enough to cover the initial cost within a reasonable period of time.

Reach codes must be approved by the California Energy Commission

The California Energy Commission (CEC) approves all local energy codes at its bimonthly business meetings. Information on how to apply for CEC approval is provided on the CEC’s webpage at:

Reach codes need to be re-approved with each Energy Code update

The California Energy Code is updated every three years, and the code usually becomes more stringent with each update. Because local energy codes must be more stringent than the statewide code, each local code needs to be re-approved whenever the statewide code is updated to ensure that the local energy code is still at least as stringent as the statewide code.

Reach Codes & Timing for Local Governments

Because local codes need to be re-approved when the Energy Code is updated:

  • Adopting a local code to take effect early in the code cycle will be most efficient. When adopted late in a code cycle, a local reach code may only be in effect for a few months.
  • If a jurisdiction has a reach code in effect and would like to continue it into the next code cycle, the local process needs to be completed early enough that it can be approved by the CEC before the start of the new code cycle, usually no later than September in the year before the updated code takes effect.

More information on reach code timing issues, including three options local governments can consider in terms of timing, can be found following the Generalized Timeline here.

Federal Preemption and Reach Codes

Much of the energy used in buildings is used by appliances, such as heating and cooling systems and water heating equipment. Standards for these appliances were first set by the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act in 1975, and the federal government continues to set appliance standards. States and local governments are prohibited from setting more stringent energy conservation requirements for appliances, either directly or indirectly. Local reach codes therefore cannot require the use of more efficient appliances than federally mandated.