Water heating by US homes and businesses can account for up to one third of their energy use. To cut energy use and carbon emissions drastically from heating water, the US Department of Energy (DOE) announced a nationwide campaign spotlighting heat pump water heating (HPWH) technology, which is two to four times more efficient than conventional options. Transforming the water heater market in favor of heat pumps would save enough energy to power 25 million homes each year. The Advanced Water Heating Initiative (AWHI) will work nationally to drive increased manufacturing, sales, installations, and operation of HPWHs.
Since water heaters have a 10-14 year life, replacing the current inefficient water heating equipment could occur by 2035. In apartment buildings a central heat pump system can be installed. Heat pump water heaters are electric; they draw heat from the room into the tank to help warm the water and cool the space it is in, like a refrigerator in reverse. In addition to the benfits of energy and carbon reduction, HPWHs offer grid connectivity for demand response, where the equipment can communicate with the electric grid to manage energy use and shift the times it uses energy to periods during the day when demand is lower. Another benefit of HPWHs will be to help lower the energy burden of low income residents who pay a disproporionate percent of their income on energy compared to the general population.
Training installers and the supply chain and educating consumers will be important, especially in the Midwest that is comfortable with natural gas hot water heaters. States like California and Washington are adopting amendments to their energy codes and banning sales of natural gas equipment in a few years to spur the transition. This national coordinated effort through US DOE will help bring the cost of the technology down and advance the US workforce to manufacture and install heat pump water heaters. (see photos of the month: Heat Pump Water Heater – Going Electric)