The American Energy Manufacturing Technical Corrections Act (H.R. 6582) was passed unanimously in the Senate recently. Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of it: it received no fanfare in the media. Still, this understated little bill could do a lot of energy efficiency in the United States.
More U.S. households use natural gas to heat water than any other fuel source, and about 40 percent use electricity. It takes a large amount of either fuel to create enough hot water to satisfy the average size family, however. Heating water accounts for approximately 15 percent of a home’s energy use. The new legislation will create consistent rating system for all water heaters and will require the Department of Energy to develop a test method to accurately determine the descriptor for all types of water heaters, including new advanced technologies introduced over the last several years. It’s hoped that this will make it easier for consumers to compare energy efficiency of different water heaters.
The current standard for water heaters is over 20 years old, and quite confusing. As explained here, “when the original standards were put in place, smaller water heaters were rated using an “energy factor,” while larger units were rated based on ‘thermal efficiency.’ Adding to the confusion, each of the two ratings required its own testing methodology, and manufacturers were not allowed to substitute ratings on different water heater models.”
Rapid advances in efficient water heater technology over the past few years, including tankless water heaters, and those warmed by a heat pump or solar energy, have rendered this old system obsolete. Surprisingly, the bill was sponsored by a Republican, endorsed by industry, and approved by a 398-2 vote in the House of Representatives. It now awaits the Presidents signature to become law.