ACEEE: The Good News, and the Not-So-Good News, on the New DOE Water Heater Test Procedure

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The Good News, and the Not-So-Good News, on the New DOE Water Heater Test Procedure


By  Anthony Fryer, Senior Analyst, Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP)



On Friday, the Department of Energy (DOE) issued a new test procedure for residential and some commercial water heaters. The new procedure addresses a number of longstanding testing issues in order to better replicate real-world usage and to more accurately measure energy consumption across various technologies. Unfortunately, DOE missed an opportunity to ensure that one of the most energy-efficient technologies, the electric heat pump water heater (HPWH), performs as expected in cold temperatures. Regional efforts are underway to address variations in cold temperature performance, but DOE should address this issue soon so that HPWH performance can be accurately measured across the board.


The good news

The new test procedure is designed to more accurately measure the energy consumption of technologies that are becoming increasingly popular, such as tankless, heat pump and gas condensing water heaters. To better simulate consumer use, manufacturers will now be required to test their units using water usage patterns based on water-heater capacity and to heat the water to 125°F (the temperature setting at which units are commonly shipped). These new requirements have been largely derived from extensive field studies (e.g. 2011 LBNL report ).


The HPWH offers one of the largest energy saving opportunities available. A 2012 ACEEE/ASAP study estimates that savings from potential HPWH standards could reach more than 400 billion kWh in cumulative electricity savings through 2035, enough to power over 37 million homes for one year. Individually, EPA estimates that units save $250 a year in electricity bills when compared to standard electric-storage water heaters and that the higher purchase price can be recouped in about 3 years…


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About ACEEE: The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy acts as a catalyst to advance energy efficiency policies, programs, technologies, investments, and behaviors. For information about ACEEE and its programs, publications, and conferences, visit