US plans water heater standards, says they will save consumers $11 billion

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Energy on Friday proposed energy efficiency standards for water heaters that it said would save consumers $11.4 billion on energy and water bills a year.

The efficiency standards for residential water heaters, mandated by Congress, have not been updated in 13 years. Water heating is responsible for about 13% of annual residential energy use and utility costs, the DOE said.

The proposal would require the most commonly sized electric water heaters to achieve efficiency gains through heat pump technology and gas water heaters to achieve efficiency gains through condensing technology.

The standards, which will take effect in 2029 if finalized, are expected to save nearly $200 billion and reduce more than 500 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over 30 years, roughly equivalent to the combined annual emissions of 63 million homes, or about 50% of homes in the United States, the DOE said.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the proposal “builds on the unprecedented steps already taken by this administration to reduce energy costs for working families.”

A group including water heater maker Rheem, environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council and efficiency and consumer advocacy organizations issued a joint statement welcoming the new standards.

Tankless water heater maker Rinnai, however, said proposed standards for its products were “technologically impossible” and would reduce consumer choice.

The administration of President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has released proposed or final efficiency standards for 18 product categories so far this year.

Former President Donald Trump, a Republican, complained about the showerheads’ efficiency standards, saying they got in the way of rinsing his hair. Its energy department has relaxed energy standards on these devices. The Biden administration overturned the rule on showerheads in 2021.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner in Washington and Nichola Groom in Los AngelesEditing by Alison Williams and Matthew Lewis)

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