skip to main content

→ Top Stories:
Clean Power plan
Safe Chemicals

Lane Burt’s Blog

DOE On Target With New Water Heater Standard

Lane Burt

Posted April 1, 2010

, ,
Share | | |

Remember when I asked you to take action and tell the Department of Energy to set a better standard for residential water heaters?  Well, just shy of 10,000 of you responded and it made a difference.  DOE heard all of us and improved their proposal for the water heater standard.  These standards will not only boost the total national energy savings, but help create a bigger market for advanced water heater technology that will eventually make all of our showers much cheaper (but just as hot).

Don’t discount the significance of this win just because water heaters don’t seem that important.  The new standard will net consumers $10 billion over the next 30 years!  Hot showers for everyone!

The big improvement is a switch to a higher efficiency level for water heaters with more than 55 gallons of storage capacity that would essentially require advanced technologies to be used.  Condensing gas technology and heat pump water heater technology in the largest units are cost effective now and will eventually become cost effective across the board.  DOE found that a large heat pump water heater in particular could save over $600 dollars over the lifetime of the water heater.  I wrote about how these units work last year.

According to DOE the standard will save 2.8 quads of energy, enough to power 15 million American homes for a year and avoid the need for three new 250 megawatt power plants.  The standard will attain CO2 emissions savings of 164 million metric tons and keep a half a ton of mercury out of the air from power plant emissions.  

DOE has now laid the ground work for water heaters to move from the simple tanks and burners that have been around for decades to the much more advanced units that will make all of our showers cheaper and more sustainable in the future.  With this new standard and the increased use of solar hot water where it makes the most sense, we are going to slash the third largest use of energy in our homes while giving up nothing but wasted energy.

Share | | |


Maios EliadesApr 3 2010 06:22 AM

The new standards will not save any money for the consumers. Condensing gas technology is far more costly than DOE contends. for a 125k btu/hr heating unit the premium is almost $2000 in retail($3200 for a 94% efficiency vs $1200 for a 84% conventional unit). When one extrapolates these costs to gas water heating units will conclude NO benefit to consumer, especially since most units have a maximum life of 10 years or less. The DOE analysis is based on theoretical costs for the new technology and an unrealistic product life. Consumers will not purchase a product that is uneconomic. Since the condensing technology is mandated for water heaters above 55 gallons, consumers will buy smaller storage units that a higher recovery rate to compensate for the prohibitively expensive condensing units.

Ilse FunkApr 9 2010 10:47 AM

When do these new water heater efficiency standards go into effect?
Thanks for all your work on this issue.

LaneApr 9 2010 01:20 PM

These standards take effect in 2015.

No need to worry about DOE's estimates on costs not coming to fruition. In many ways the estimates err on the conservative side (projecting energy price stagnation, no technological innovation, and no benefits assessed from reduced electricity demand or prices). If the standard proves not to attain energy savings that are "technically feasible and economically justified" as required by the statute, then the rule will be challenged and overturned. Generally speaking, NRDC and other advocates challenge the rules and they are overturned for not being aggressive enough.

Comments are closed for this post.


Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit

Feeds: Stay Plugged In