Natural Gas Heat Pump Water Heater Tech Under Development for US
Heat pumps are an efficient way to move heat from the air into water in a tank, and electric heat pump water heaters have been on the market for several years. Now the technology is under development for gas-fired water heaters as well.
Appliances using heat pumps typically use half the energy of their standard counterparts. Energy storage manufacturer SaltX’s, with support from water heater manufacturer Rheem, is developing the HeatBoost technology that uses salt as the transfer medium in a heat pump powered by natural gas. This alternative approach acts as a battery, storing thermal energy. It can be charged and recharged at high levels of operational efficiency, while reliably delivering hot water to consumers.
Rheem and Manufacturing and SaltX are collaborating with the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), an alliance of more than 140 Northwest utilities and energy efficiency organizations.
The goal of this collaboration is to accelerate the development and conduct a market evaluation of a residential gas water heater that offers a reduction in gas usage, potentially saving consumers up to 50% on their gas water heating bills.
Rheem and SaltX will work together to design, test and commercialize a product that operates twice as efficiently as a standard gas water heater. NEEA’s market transformation experience will support the manufacturers’ efforts by helping strategize how to best create market demand for this new product.
“This project is an important step in the commercialization of SaltX gas heat pump technology,” stated Karl Bohman, CEO of SaltX Technology. “The strong commitment from NEEA and Rheem demonstrates the potential viability of this concept - we look forward to building a long-term partnership.”
The first step in this process will be to evaluate the current U.S. residential water heating market to determine the product characteristics, design parameters, and sales potential for these high-efficiency appliances. The team will also look at what barriers there might be to consumers buying these water heaters, and what strategies should be developed to help address them.
Creating more efficient natural gas options for consumers
Natural gas heat pump water heaters are part of a portfolio of products that the Northwest is investigating as part of a five-year plan to increase consumer choices for efficient natural gas use. This is the first regional effort to drive natural gas market transformation in the country. Participants include Avista Utilities, Cascade Natural Gas Corporation, Energy Trust of Oregon, NW Natural and Puget Sound Energy.
“Natural gas heat pump water heaters have enormous potential for energy savings here in the Northwest,” said Holly Braun, energy policy and sustainability manager at NW Natural. “Partnerships like this can speed up development and testing of promising technologies that could benefit utility customers, and that’s exciting for all of us.”
As part of this collaborative effort, NEEA is currently working with utilities and manufacturers to identify and develop new, efficient natural gas technologies.
Read more about energy efficient water heaters.
Companies: Rheem Manufacturing