3 things contractors should know about new water heaters
The National Appliance Energy Conservation Act mandates that new residential and light-duty commercial water heaters meet higher efficiency ratings.
Under the new regulations that took effect April 16, 2015, water-heating options for contractors of new and existing homes will vary dramatically in terms of first cost, annual energy cost, space requirements, carbon footprint, and their ability to provide an adequate supply of hot water.
The Propane Education and Research Council summarized three key findings from research that contractors and plumbers should know when complying with NAECA.
Under NAECA, some products have changed. The shift in equipment size and type has made installation feasibility a much bigger factor. New and existing homes can include traditional storage tank units, tankless systems (condensing and non-condensing), heat pump water heaters, and systems that combine water heating and space heating.
Gas-powered storage tank models have a wider diameter to accommodate increased insulation required for a higher efficiency metric. Tanks larger than 55 gallons need to be high-efficiency condensing units or hybrid electric heat pump units. In other cases, the amended federal standards are ushering in newer technologies, such as heat pump water heaters, and will essentially make certain existing technologies — like large electric resistance storage tanks — less popular.
Energy ratings, emissions matter. Efficient water heaters are key to U.S. homebuilders’ ability to market homes with good Home Energy Ratings. High-performance water heaters, like a propane condensing tankless system, can have a significant impact on a home’s HERS Index. To builders, a lower HERS score can mean achieving energy code compliance and qualifying for utility rebates.
Another important performance metric is environmental footprint. Heat pump water heaters, while being more efficient, still consume electricity and carry carbon dioxide emissions 35 to 44 percent higher than propane condensing tankless units. Emissions from electric storage tank water heaters are roughly two times higher than those of propane tankless systems.
Cost of ownership is important. It is critical for industry professionals to consider water heater characteristics beyond Energy Factor ratings, including the hot water flow rate, the ability to properly install a unit, unit service life, and system first cost. While other “on-the-truck” units might be cheaper to install, research shows that for both new construction and replacements, a propane condensing tankless water heater has the lowest annual cost of ownership compared with competing energy sources. These results reflected the longer service life and lower annual energy costs associated with propane tankless systems.
Watch this video from PERC for more information about the changes to water heaters under NAECA.
The Department of Energy says NAECA rulings will save 3.3 quads of energy and result in approximately $63 billion in energy bill savings through 2044. PERC offers contractors and homeowners an online Energy Cost and Carbon Calculator tool to run custom pricing analyses of different water-heating systems with varying Energy Factors and energy prices.
The Propane Education & Research Council is touting new research showing the significant advantages of propane water heaters over competing energy options under the new 2015 federal efficiency standards. The study, performed by Newport Partners LLC, analyzes energy efficiency plus economic and environmental savings through 14 residential systems in 10 geographic locations. Propane-fueled condensing tankless systems outperformed comparable models using electricity or heating oil in nearly all categories.
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