New National Water Heater Standards Give Efficiency a Major Boost

April 1, 2010

Media Contact(s):

Andrew deLaski, 617-390-5334, Executive Director, Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP)
Steven Nadel , 202-507-4011, Executive Director
Liz Judge, 202-667-4500 x 237 , Earthjustice
Ronnie Kweller, 202-530-2203, Alliance to Save Energy


Washington, D.C. — New efficiency standards released late yesterday by the Obama Administration’s Department of Energy (DOE) will deliver huge energy savings nationwide by making each of the millions of new water heaters installed more energy-efficient, according to a coalition of energy efficiency, consumer, and environmental organizations.


In addition, for the very largest home water heaters, the new efficiency standards will for the first time require advanced technologies (heat pumps for electrically-powered products and condensing technology for gas products), paving the way for even bigger future savings.


"From washing hands to hot showers to clean dishes, we all rely on water heaters for our daily needs,” said Steven Nadel, Executive Director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). “These new standards will deliver big national energy savings, reduce consumer energy bills, and cut pollution.”


According to DOE, for most product sizes sold, the new standards can be met with modest changes, such as adding more insulation to today’s conventional tank-style water heaters. For the most common size electric water heater (50 gallons), the standards will save 4 percent while for the most common size gas water heater (40 gallons), the new standards will save 3 percent. These per unit savings add up to big national impacts since more than nine million home water heaters are sold every year and water heating accounts for some 12 percent of the typical home’s energy use.


However, for the biggest products (those with over 55 gallons in storage capacity, which is about 9% and 4% of the electric and gas water heater markets, respectively), the new standards can only be met with heat pump and condensing technology. Heat pump electric water heaters save at least 50 percent and gas condensing water heaters save about 25 percent relative to today’s conventional storage water heaters.


“In the long run, a shift to electric heat pump and condensing gas water heaters is absolutely essential if we are to make deep cuts in household energy use and costs,” said Jeffrey Harris, Vice President, National Programs, of the Alliance to Save Energy. “DOE deserves tremendous credit for kick-starting this transition with its new standards.”


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).


Based on DOE analyses, ACEEE estimates that a transition to electric heat pump and condensing gas products in all sizes and applications that make sense would save about 10 quads of energy and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 0.5 billion metric tons.


Last year, President Obama committed to accelerate DOE’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 Andrew deLaski, Executive Director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP). “DOE’s new standards prove again that the cheapest and cleanest energy is the energy we save.”


Condensing and heat pump technologies are common in space heating but have only a toehold so far in the water heater market. More than 40 percent of U.S. furnace sales are of condensing products, and about 8 percent of U.S. homes are warmed with heat pumps. Several major water heater companies have brought these technologies to the water heater market and other major manufacturers are working to develop and introduce competing products.


“The Obama Administration has demonstrated again its strong commitment to an energy-efficient future with these standards. These standards are a big step toward improving the efficiency of U.S. homes," said Tim Ballo, Associate Attorney for Earthjustice. "We are encouraged to see the Obama Administration make the right choice and give energy efficiency the boost that it deserves. We hope this decision signals the Administration's future choices on energy efficiency standards, which have the ability to put money back in the American people's pockets, spur innovation, create jobs, and lift our economy, while at the same time reducing harmful air pollution from power plants."


A broad coalition of consumer, energy efficiency, and environmental groups as well as utilities, state officials, and more than 17,000 individuals wrote DOE urging adoption of the standards announced today.


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.


The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing energy efficiency as a means of promoting economic prosperity, energy security, and environmental protection. ACEEE was involved in the legislation establishing federal efficiency standards, and has been active in all rulemakings since then. For information about ACEEE and its programs, publications, and conferences, contact ACEEE, 529 14th Street N.W., Suite 600, Washington, D.C. 20045 or visit aceee.org.


The Appliance Standards Awareness Project is dedicated to increasing awareness of and support for cost-effective appliance and equipment efficiency standards. Founded in 1999, ASAP is led by a steering committee that includes representatives from energy efficiency organizations, the environmental community, consumer groups, utilities, and state government. See standardsASAP.org.


The Alliance to Save Energy is a coalition of prominent business, government, environmental and consumer leaders who promote the efficient and clean use of energy worldwide to benefit consumers, the environment, the economy and national security. See ase.org.


Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. Earthjustice brings about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations and communities. More information on Earthjustice is available at its Web site: earthjustice.org.