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Biden administration announces water heater energy standards

An expert says the new rules will save the average family $170 a year in energy costs.
A person presses buttons on a hot water tank.
Posted at 12:37 PM, May 01, 2024

New water heaters sold in stores must meet new energy requirements starting in 2029.

The Department of Energy announced this week that the new standards for residential water heaters will more than double the efficiency of electric storage water heaters relative to today.

The Energy Department says the new rules will save Americans $124 billion on energy bills and reduce 332 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

The government estimates that 50% of the newly manufactured electric storage water heaters will utilize heat pump technology, compared to 3% that use it now. These electric storage water heaters are expected to use about half as much energy as today's tanks, experts say.

“Almost every U.S. household has a water heater, and for too long outdated energy efficiency standards have led to higher utility bills for families,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “The Biden-Harris Administration is continuing to put American consumers first with new, effective rules — supported by industry — that save both energy and money.”

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Congress

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Justin Boggs
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The updated energy standards are among several new rules put in place by the Biden administration. Last year, the Department of Energy announced a proposed new rule that would cut the maximum amount of energy new gas stoves could produce. After a period of public comment, the department issued a less stringent rule earlier this year.

The proposed changes set off a firestorm in Congress, with Republicans proposing legislation to stop new appliance standards.

Last year, Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Arizona, introduced the Hands Off Our Home Appliances Act. The bill would eliminate the Energy Department's requirement to periodically update standards and instead update them on an as-needed basis. It would also establish a new process for the public to petition conservation standards that should be revoked or revised and amend the criteria for determining whether an energy conservation standard is economically justified.

Lesko said changes to energy standards, like the one proposed for gas stoves, are part of President Joe Biden's "radical agenda."

But advocates for new standards say current rules are outdated.

“The technology for water heaters has advanced dramatically, and the standards have not kept up," Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, said. "Stakeholders came together and recommended efficiency levels that will reduce energy use significantly and yield big cost savings. This is going to move much of the electric market from decades-old technology that costs a lot to run to heat pump units that use less than half as much energy.”

Margie Alt, director of the Climate Action Campaign, estimates that the new rules will save the average family $170 a year in energy costs.