Co-ops ask DOE to consider larger water heaters

In 2012, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced energy-­conservation standards for all water heaters – gas or electric, storage or instantaneous – and set specific ­efficiency levels based on fuel type and size.

For tank-type electric water ­heaters, 55 gallons or smaller, the new standard set the minimum energy factor at .96 (or 96% energy-efficiency). However, the DOE standard required electric water heaters with storage capacities of more than 55 gallons to have a 2.057 energy factor. This standard can be met only with heat pump water heaters, not conventional water heaters with resistance heating elements.

For two years National Rural Electric Cooperative Association has been in conversations with DOE explaining how this standard for large water heaters will disadvantage electric cooperatives and their ­member-owners, especially for those cooperatives using water ­heaters for load management. Because of these concerns, DOE recently issued a request for information about its standards’ impact on utility demand response programs that use electric storage water heaters for load ­management or electric thermal ­storage (ETS).

To allow 55-plus gallon water heaters to be manufactured and sold after 2015, DOE would need to classify them as “grid-interactive storage water heaters.” Electric cooperatives are proposing that the DOE should allow the manufacture and sale of grid-interactive storage water heaters that:

• Are 55 gallons or larger in tank size;

• Have (or are able to be equipped with) a switch capable of receiving communication from the utility that provides real time control of the water heater’s heating element; and

• Have a member-owner agreement in which the consumer agrees to be enrolled in the utility’s demand response (load management) ­program.