Energy Star now includes water heaters

The U.S. Department of Energy officially introduced its Energy Star for water heaters standard and listing program in January.

The U.S. Department of Energy officially introduced its Energy Star for water heaters standard and listing program in January. I had the pleasure of attending a press conference at the recent International Builders Show in Las Vegas that announced the formation of the Coalition for Energy Star Water Heaters, which intends to promote efficient water heaters to homebuilders and consumers.

Builders used to be a lost cause when it came to selling high-efficiency, but now that they've caught on to green, there are opportunities to sell them energy efficient products.

As of January 2009, five types of water heaters are eligible to earn the Energy Star label. The Energy Star water heater program marks the beginning of the transformation of the water heater market from conventional to advanced, energy-efficient technologies.

Energy Star now includes high-efficiency gas storage, whole-home gas tankless, gas condensing, solar, and heat pump water heaters in the program.

“Water heating is the second largest energy expenditure in a household behind heating and cooling,“ says Richard Karney, Energy Star program manager at DOE. “The launch of the new water heater program is encouraging news for consumers, who can cut their water heating bills anywhere from 7.5% to 55% by installing a qualified model. The new program is also good news for plumbers, who can differentiate themselves from their competitors by stocking and installing qualified models.“

The criteria offer a profitable opportunity for plumbers who want to expand into high-performance, energy-efficient technologies. Such opportunities are available now for installing and maintaining tankless and solar water heaters. Once Energy Star qualified gas condensing and heat pump water heaters reach the market, additional opportunities will arise.

Consumer demand for qualified water heaters will increase with the new criteria. As a result, plumbers will need to learn how to install and maintain the more advanced water heating technologies. Manufacturers, utilities and non-profit organizations will periodically hold training sessions to expand the number of proficient plumbers. GreenPlumbersUSA, for instance, plans to train 50,000 plumbers over the next five years. Also, the Consortium for Energy Efficiency plans to release installation guidance and tips for communicating with consumers. Once trained, plumbers will want to promote their expertise to consumers, builders and remodelers.

Additional information is available at www.energystar.gov/waterheaters.

At the Builders Show press conference, the Consortium for Energy Efficiency, a non-profit, public benefits corporation that promotes the manufacture and purchase of energy-efficient products and services, announced the formation of the Coalition For Energy Star Water Heaters, a special project of CEE comprised of industry associations, utility providers, and leading water heater manufacturers. Representatives from A.O. Smith, Bradford White, Rheem and Rinnai took part in the announcement. A.O. Smith, for example, took advantage of the occasion to announce that it has 19 models with the Energy Star label, with more in the works.

The aim of the Consortium for Energy Efficiency and the Coalition For Energy Star Water Heaters is to create a consistent message by industry stakeholders, such as manufacturers, utilities, retailers, environmental groups, and government agencies, to get people to buy more efficient water heaters.

Additional information on the Coalition is available www.eswaterheaters.com. The site includes a section for contractors that points out that consumers today are looking for energy efficiency, the Energy Star symbol is widely recognized by the public, and that carrying Energy Star water heaters can be a profitable hook to pull in more business.

As we pointed out in our January issue, mechanical and plumbing contractors who are selling green technologies are having a pretty good year so far in the midst of this horrendous downturn. Energy Star water heaters give green contractors more ammunition.