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New US Water Heating Standards Could Save 500 Million Tonnes of CO2

CRISIS - Atmospheric CO2 Levels by Kaz Greene Americas Aug 29th 20232 mins
New US Water Heating Standards Could Save 500 Million Tonnes of CO2

For the first time in two decades, American homes may face updated water heating standards. A move that aims to lower utility bills and cut down emissions.

On 21 July, 2023, the US Department of Energy (DOE) proposed long overdue changes to the efficiency standards of residential water heaters. If finalised and implemented, these new water heating standards would avoid 501 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and save Americans nearly $200 billion over the next 30 years, according to DOE. 

Water heating is responsible for roughly 13% of both annual residential energy usage and consumer utility costs, and this number can be even higher for renters and low-income households who spend a greater percentage of their income on utility bills. By increasing the efficiency of electric and gas-fired water heaters, homeowners and renters alike would save $11.4 billion annually on their energy and water bills. This would be done by requiring the most common-sized electric water heaters to achieve efficiency gains with heat pump technology and gas-fired instantaneous water heaters to adopt condensing technology. 

“Today’s actions – together with our industry partners and stakeholders – improve outdated efficiency standards for common household appliances, which is essential to slashing utility bills for American families and cutting harmful carbon emissions,” says US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.

According to DOE, consumers could expect to see an average savings of almost $2,000 over the lifetime of the appliances, which is about 10-15 years.

“This has been a long time coming, but it’s a strong proposal that will cut household bills, reduce strain on the electric grid, and help protect the climate. The department should look to finalize it promptly next year,” said Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEE). This came as part of a joint statement issued by various industry stakeholders and advisors. 

Heat pumps have gained popularity because of their ability to provide heated air and water two to three times more efficiently than traditional electric solutions. However, despite the energy and emissions benefits, this technology is sparsely used in American homes. A problem the Biden-Harris administration hoped to address with the Inflation Reduction Act, and the many incentives and tax rebates designed to “expand the accessibility and [increase] the affordability of water heaters […], making it easier for families across the nation to switch to a more efficient model when deciding to replace a water heater.”

These changes must still be accepted, and, even if implemented, they would come into effect for six more years. If the lofty goals of net-zero by 2050 are to be reached, technology like heat pump water heaters will need to be widely adopted, and at a much quicker rate than they are now. The proposal is just one of the many advanced by the Biden-Harris administration as they continue to update efficiency standards of different product categories. All in the name of energy efficiency and savings.

You might also like: Gas vs Electric Stoves: Which One Is Better for Your Health and the Environment?

Tagged: USA

About the Author

Kaz Greene

Kaz is excited about the advances in science and engineering that are used to help solve our most challenging problem as a species: a changing climate. He combines his interest in climate tech with a knack for storytelling to write about food waste, decarbonisation of the built environment, and the latest breakthroughs in space.

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