The Department of Energy (DOE) issued a final rule for new efficiency standards for water heaters on the eve of April Fool’s Day. But the energy-saving potential of these standards is no joke!
Every year, 9 million home water heaters are sold in this country and their use by most Americans for daily needs accounts for around 12 percent of typical home energy use. According to a coalition of energy efficiency, consumer and environmental organizations the new standards will mean huge energy savings nationwide.
Just How Much Energy Will be Saved?
According to DOE, with modest changes to conventional tank-style water heaters, the new standards will save 4 percent for the most common size electric water heater of 50 gallons, and 3 percent for most common size gas water heater of 40 gallons.
But the most exciting changes are in the use of advanced technologies for the first time to achieve huge energy savings in the largest of home water heating units. While units over 55 gallons represent a modest part of the market (9 percent and 4 percent of the electric and gas water heater markets respectively) the inclusion of heat pump and condensing technology will yield energy savings that are anything but! Heat pump electric water heaters will save at least 50 percent and gas condensing water heaters save about 25 percent in energy use compared to the conventional models.
Based on DOE analyses, the new standards will save 2.6 quads of energy over 30 years or about enough energy to meet the total needs of about 13 million typical U.S. households for one year. Over the same period, consumers would save about $8.7 billion and carbon dioxide emissions would be cut by 154 million metric tons (an amount equal to the typical annual emissions of 30 million cars).
Advanced Technologies to Pave the Way for Bigger Future Savings
The inclusion of advanced technologies for a segment of the water heating market paves the way for extension to the remaining portion, meaning big savings in the future.
The best part is that these technologies are already tried-and-true in home space heating application. 40 percent of U.S. furnaces sold in the U.S. use condensing technologies, while 8 percent of the country warms their homes with heat pumps.
With these ready-to-go technologies, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) used DOE analyses to estimate that a transition to electric heat pump and condensing gas products in all sizes and applications where it is cost effective would save about 10 quads of energy and reduce CO2 emissions by about 0.5 billion metric tons.
The Obama Administration’s Commitment to Advancing Appliance Standards
DOE’s launch of the new water heater standard is a larger part of the President Obama’s commitment, made last year, to accelerate the agency’s work to update many outmoded standards. These new standards are the latest in a series of more than 20 that must be completed during the current presidential term.
“Just a year into President Obama’s administration, DOE has made remarkable progress to update appliance standards,” said Appliance Standards Awareness Project Executive Director Andrew deLaski “DOE’s new standards prove again that the cheapest and cleanest energy is the energy we save.”
Today’s final rule also updates minimum standards for less common products such as tankless water heaters (also known as instantaneous water heaters), pool heaters and direct heating equipment, a type of space heater.
Want to get technical? Get the details on the DOE rule!