Home Water Heaters in Hot Water

More government rules proposed as crackdown on home appliances continues

By Andy Kriege YSN

The Department of Energy (DOE) unveiled a regulatory proposal late last Friday targeting water heaters. It is the latest in a series of energy efficiency proposals targeted at cracking down on home appliances. This proposal targets the tightening of efficiency standards for new residential water heaters. It comes on the heels recent new efficiency standards for other appliances, such as gas stoves, clothes washers, refrigerators, and air conditioners.

See: Appliance Makers Enflamed by Gas Range Regs

The DOE said its proposal would ultimately “accelerate the deployment” of electric heat pump water heaters, thereby saving consumers billions of dollars while “vastly reducing” carbon emissions. If finalized, the new proposed standards would force less energy efficient, but cheaper, water heaters off the market.

The regulations — which would take effect in 2029 — would require electric water heaters to use heat pumps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and purportedly save consumers $11.4 billion a year in energy costs.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm released a statement that said in part, “Today’s actions, together with our industry partners and stakeholders, improve outdated efficiency standards for common household appliances, which is essential to slashing utility bills for American families and cutting harmful carbon emissions.”

Under the rule, the federal government would require higher efficiency for heaters using heat pump technology or, in the case of gas-fired water heaters, to achieve efficiency gains through condensing technology. Non-condensing gas-fired water heaters, though, are far cheaper and smaller, meaning they come with lower installation costs. 

Traditional electric storage tank heaters typically cost between $400 and $600 and are often replaced every 10 to 15 years. The cost of the newer heat pump water heater (not including installation) is $1,500 to $3,000. They may also not work as efficiently as advertised in cold climates according to a Complete Guide to Heat Pump Water Heaters in Forbes magazine. 

According to the DOE, water heating accounts for 13% of annual residential energy use and consumer utility costs. 

In addition to water heaters, over the last several months, the DOE has unveiled new standards for a wide variety of other appliances including gas stoves, clothes washers, refrigerators, air conditioners and dishwashers. 

See: DoE Proposes New Dishwasher Regulations

As part of its climate agenda, the Biden administration is moving forward with rules impacting additional appliances, including furnaces, pool pumps, battery chargers, ceiling fans and dehumidifiers.

Critics of the proposal have been vocal over the administration’s aggressive energy efficiency campaign. They argue the new regulations will reduce consumer choice and increase costs for homeowners. Manufactures however may have a different point of view: the last time the rules were updated, they backed the proposed changes. 

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