US Department of Energy Announces Stricter Efficiency Standards for Water Heaters

water heater tanks photo

Photo: Wikipedia, CC
"Carbon dioxide emissions will be cut by 164 million metric tons over 30 years."
Heating water is one of the most energy-intensive (and thus polluting) things that takes place in the average house or apartment building. There are two main approaches to make it greener: We can use less hot water in the first place (shorter showers, making sure the dishwasher is full, wash clothes in cold water, etc), and we can improve the water heaters themselves so they're more efficient.
hot water danger water heater photo

Photo: Flickr, CC
Beginning in 2015, New Water Heaters Will Have to be More Energy-Efficient
The second option is exactly what the U.S. Department of Energy is trying to do. It has just announced stricter energy efficiency standards for water heaters that can hold 55 gallons or more.

The new regulation will require electric water heaters to use 47% less energy starting in 2015, and gas water heaters will need to be at least 30% more efficient.

"Over three decades, DOE says the new rules will save a total of $10 billion and prevent up to 164 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions -- the equivalent of taking 46 million cars off the road for one year."

Looking Forward: Heating Water Without Heating the Planet
I'm happy that these new rules are stricter than those that were proposed late last year, but I wish the DOE had look a bit farther out in the future. It would've been great to have progressively more stringent targets for 2015, targets for 2020, 2025, etc. I also wish the same rules applied to units under 55 gallons (they'll need to reduce energy-consumption too, but not as much), which is what a lot of houses have.

The greenest course of action is probably to progressively use more and more solar water heaters and on-demand (aka tankless) water heaters (even better if you can combined the two, though you'd require a tank to hold the pre-heated water so you' lose some of the benefits of the on-demand unit).

Via DOE (pdf), USA Today
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