Energy Star criteria changes for gas storage water heaters

The first planned increase in Energy Star water heater criteria went into effect on Sept. 1, 2010, increasing the minimum Energy Factor (EF) for gas storage water heaters from 0.62 to 0.67. The criteria for all other Energy Star water heaters remain unchanged. What does this change mean for you?

The first planned increase in Energy Star water heater criteria went into effect on Sept. 1, 2010, increasing the minimum Energy Factor (EF) for gas storage water heaters from 0.62 to 0.67. The criteria for all other Energy Star water heaters remain unchanged.

Although it's obvious an increase in criteria means an increase in efficiency, as a plumbing contractor you may be wondering how this change will affect you and your business. What does the criteria change mean for you?

The Energy Star program keeps its product criteria relevant by keeping pace with changing technologies. The market has continually evolved since the Energy Star label for this product category was originally introduced in January of 2009, and higher efficiency storage water heaters have gradually become more available. With higher efficiency models entering the market, it may be time to think about what to do with 0.62 gas storage models in your existing inventory.

Out with the old
The increased criteria for high efficiency gas storage water heaters applies to units manufactured on or after Sept. 1, 2010. If you or your suppliers still have Energy Star labeled 0.62 EF models in stock, these units can be sold as Energy Star compliant as long as they were manufactured before Sept. 1, 2010.

However, local energy incentive programs, such as those from utilities or the state, may change along with the new criteria, possibly reducing the types of available rebates and making the older 0.62 models less desirable to your customers. It's important to stay in contact with your efficiency program administrator and wholesaler and sell the older stock as quickly as possible.

Increasing Energy Star awareness
Recent research shows consumers are becoming increasingly more aware of high-efficiency appliances and the Energy Star label. Today, 77% of households recognize the Energy Star label, up from 41% 10 years ago, according to the Consortium for Energy Efficiency’s 2009 Energy Star Awareness Survey. Seventy percent of households demonstrated high understanding of the label's meaning, up from 37% 10 years ago.

Because more consumers have a higher awareness of the Energy Star label than ever before, you will need to be knowledgeable in energy efficiency to answer your customer's questions. It's important for you to recognize the implications of the criteria change in order to discuss them with your customers.

What does the criteria change mean for your customers? As a plumbing contractor, your customers view you as their hot water expert. With the arrival of the first planned increase in Energy Star water heater criteria, consumers may seek you out with their questions about the change. Make sure you are well versed in the information you share.

Higher efficiency technology
Your customers may ask you how the changes in technology will affect them. In order to meet the increased criteria, manufacturers have to utilize higher efficiency technologies. To achieve an EF of 0.67, many high-efficiency gas storage water heaters must use electricity, which means there will need to be an outlet handy. Some models can use existing atmospheric venting systems, which typically require no extra installation costs unless electricity is needed and no outlet is nearby. Other models can be power vented, so they can vent either horizontally or vertically using PVC, ABS or CPVC. It's best to make sure you familiarize yourself with the manufacturer instructions for installing these new models.

As high-efficiency water heating technology is improving, some manufacturers offer 0.67 EF water heaters that can be commonly vented with other gas-fired appliances. These Energy Star models can simplify the installation process. No matter which 0.67 EF model your customers choose, it's important to talk through the related costs, savings and any large installation changes with your customers.

A significant benefit of a higher minimum EF is that it allows Energy Star gas storage water heaters to help your customers save more — in some cases almost twice as much — than they would have with a 0.62 EF model.

Gas storage water heaters with a 0.62 EF help homeowners save 7.3% more energy annually than a conventional gas model. Water heaters with a 0.67 EF offer your customers even greater savings, providing up to 14% higher savings than a standard unit. According to Energy Star calculations, 0.67 EF models only consume 224 therms per year compared to the annual 242-therm consumption of a 0.62 EF unit. This results in up to $51 in annual savings.

Your customers can start saving today. Several gas storage water heaters with a 0.67 EF are available on the market now, including many new models developed in preparation for the upcoming change. Ask your wholesaler when these products will be available in your area to help your customers start saving energy and money.

In addition to high-efficiency gas storage models, the Energy Star label also covers other water heater categories, including heat pump, solar thermal and tankless units. Energy-conscious manufacturers such as A. O. Smith, Bradford White, Rheem, and Rinnai — sponsors of the Consortium for Energy Efficiency’s (CEE) Coalition for Energy Star Water Heaters — offer many of these models.

Your customers can cover some of the cost of a new Energy Star water heater with federal, state and local utility incentives. Visit the Coalition online for more information about local utility rebates or incentives at www.eswaterheaters.org, or ask your local efficiency program administrators about what rebates are available in your area. Help your customers make an environmentally friendly and wallet friendly choice today.

Established in 1992, Energy Star is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy designed to save money and help address climate change through energy-efficient products and practices at home and at work. Additional information is available at www.energystar.gov or call 1-888-STAR-YES.

Kara Rodgers, Natural Gas Senior Program Manager, is responsible for guiding and growing the Consortium for Energy Efficiency's initiatives focused on natural gas savings. These programs include a Residential Heating Initiative, a Residential Water Heating Initiative, and the exploration of program opportunities for gas packaged unitary rooftop heating and cooling equipment, commercial boiler systems and commercial water heaters. Rodgers directs CEE's three-person natural gas team. She has an undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Biology as well as an M.B.A. from Yale University.