GE's New Water Heater Could Kill 30 Coal Plants

Discussion in 'Environmental' started by CoasterToasterXB, Apr 6, 2008.

  1. CoasterToasterXB

    CoasterToasterXB Well-Known Member

    Y'know what's dumb...until today, Energy Star didn't regulate water heaters at all. They're the most energy-hungry single appliance in the home, and are responsible for about 17% of residential energy use. But because of a lack of consensus on how they should be regulated, and resistance from industry, their efficiency went completely unregulated.

    Well, that all changed today. Along with the announcement that the new standards will save Americans hundreds of billions of dollars per year, comes two new water heaters from GE that will, of course, meet the new standards.

    The first is available now. It's a tankless heater that provides hot water only when you need it. The result is an unlimited supply of hot water, and about 25% less energy use per gallon of hot water produced.

    The second is even more exciting, though, unfortunately, it won't be available until 2009. GE is calling it a "hybrid electric" water heater, I suppose hoping to capitalize on the excitement surrounding hybrid electric vehicles. But it is a kind of hybrid. The water heater first uses a heat pump to bring the water up to the temperature of the ambient air. Then the electric water heater takes over, bringing the water up to 140 degrees F.

    This new design is more than 50% more efficient than previous water heaters. If every home in America had one right now, we would need 30 fewer coal-fired power plants! Every home that installs one will see their yearly power bills drop up to $250.

    Because the new device uses a heat exchanger, it will actually make your furnace work harder during the winter. But in the summer, and in warm climates, it will actually help cool your house!

    This is exactly the kind of technology we need to hold us over until renewables take over for coal. GE's got a video featuring the new devices online if you'd like to check it out.
  2. bestmapman

    bestmapman Fighting untruth and misinformation

    Let's not get rid of the coal fired plants just yet. We may need all the electric generation we can get if these electric vehicles come online.

    As for the new water heaters, I'm all for hypermiling the shower.
  3. worthywads

    worthywads Don't Feel Like Satan, I am to AAA

    Who uses electricity to heat their water in the US now? I've only had natural gas, there will be a need for more electricity if everyone switches to electric water heat.
  4. fieldy4krn

    fieldy4krn Well-Known Member

    I have gas....for my water heater :D

  5. bestmapman

    bestmapman Fighting untruth and misinformation

    It's all electric where I'm at. There are no gas lines.
  6. Bike123

    Bike123 Well-Known Member

    Combined Heat and Power. The central power plants throw away heat. Extract the energy you can (from natural gas) producing electricity, and use the waste heat for heating the home and hot water.
  7. diamondlarry

    diamondlarry Super MPG Man/god :D

    There are no natural gas lines in my area but we use bottle-gas heat and hot water.
  8. swoon

    swoon Well-Known Member

    This is good news for everyone. The hybrid heaters sound to be a good drop-in replacement option for those with electric heaters already. Although, where feasible, a tankless unit in conjunction with a solar hot water will pay for itself very quickly in energy savings.
  9. warthog1984

    warthog1984 Well-Known Member

    Much of central Illinois is forced hot water heated after the local utilities ran a "bargain deal" on electricity for heat back 30 years ago.
  10. hobbit

    hobbit He who posts articles

    Unfortunately, two very nice oak trees would have to come out
    of my backyard if I was to do any solar stuff... still, the
    article hints at but doesn't directly mention the benefits of
    SYSTEM INTEGRATION, where various appliances previously thought
    to as independent entities exchange energy usefully with each
    other and the surrounding environment. I'm hoping to eventually
    replace the wheezy old furnace with a nice CHP co-gen unit of
    some sort, but my neighborhood doesn't have gas yet and the Freewatt units
    don't yet have a diesel/#2 option.
    Still, even regular ol' water heaters can be made to be quite
    efficient. Did I send in this story yet?
  11. Daox

    Daox Well-Known Member

    I'm by far no expert, but I've heard refrigerators can be up to 20% of your electric bill.

    In any case, its great to hear of new and upcomming technology like this.

    I know I'm going out to look at houses later today and I can't wait to get one just to start working on it and making it efficient. Since I live in Wisconsin and its cold here over half the year, I'm quite entertained by the idea of cooling your refrigerator with outside ambient air. So, in winter you don't have to run the refrigerator at all. I also like the idea of using solar heated water to heat the house using in-floor heat. Energy use is pretty big up here, so every bit helps.
  12. fuzzy

    fuzzy Mild hypermiler

    This idea isn't new. It has been available for years, under the name 'heat pump water heater': (last updated three years ago).

    Some units are stand-along devices on top of the water heater tank, while others tap into a central heat pump already used for home space heat.

    The market for these has been sparse, so new entries are very welcome. But I hope GE's heat pump can heat the water well above ambient before turning on the electric resistance. Otherwise, it will be a non-starter.
  13. Shiba3420

    Shiba3420 Well-Known Member

    There have been studies where tankless water heaters don't reduce costs...mainly because some people use the cooler water (as tank's hot runs out) as a signal to get out. So with tankless, they use more hot water than they would have used with tanked. People like this (or who have teenage kids) might keep that in mind when buying.

    Maybe I should invent something to mix in cold water after the shower has been on for more than x minutes :)
  14. fixedintime

    fixedintime Well-Known Member

    Somehow I don't quite trust the numbers here.

    First question is what does this new "better" heater cost to buy/install? Heat pumps don't come in anywhere near as cheap as a simple electric heating element.

    Next question is how is the $250 savings calculated. Does it include the extra cost to heat the house in the winter and the savings from the cooling effect it has in the summer?

    Inquiring minds want some answers before I jump on the bandwagon.
  15. donee

    donee Well-Known Member

    Hi Fixed,

    The heat pump pulls heat out the interior space of the house, and pumps it into the water.

    Seems like if the water heater was in an uninsulated basement, the effect would be minimul. As the basement walls would just reheat the air.

    Yea, those numbers seem off to me too. Because the heat pump is only warming the water by what 30 F (55 incoming to maybe 85 a little over room temp), and then there is another 55 F to go with the heater. So that is about 1/3 of the energy by heat pump, and 2/3's by heater. If the heat pump used no electricty, the improvement would be 150% then. But the heat pump has to use some electricty, right ? My guess is its probably in the 130 % improvement range. Unless there is something else besides the heat pump (like more efficient heat exchanger designs, and better convection - even possibly forced convection).
  16. fixedintime

    fixedintime Well-Known Member

    Hi donee,

    I think you have the idea clear. My problem is now during the winter at least I am taking the heat from the house and putting it in the hot water heater with the heat pump. Now I have to reheat the air in the house. So how I heat the house has a big impact on what kind of savings I get from using the heat pump to warm up my water.

    The 30 temp difference is typical for heat pumps. The don't like large heat differentials. But what that means is where originally I had a simple heating element in my water heater now I have to add a second system - the heat pump - and another system to control when and how the heat pump is used. Plus heat pumps don't usually come cheap but my new how water heater has to be more expensive. That cost differential between the new style and the old style water heater could eat up more that what I save money wise with the new system.

    All that makes me very concerned that I will never see any of the promised savings.
  17. Vooch

    Vooch Well-Known Member

    old news -

    There have been a number of companies selling tankless water heaters in the US for decades.
  18. fuzzy

    fuzzy Mild hypermiler

    Digging into the EnergyStar and GE press releases, I see that EcoGeek (the source of the base posting) is clueless. To get an EnergyStar label, a heat pump water heater must use less than half the energy of an ideal (lossless) electric resistance water heater -- i.e. the Energy Factor must be at least 2.0. And the GE unit is a bit better than that.

    A heat pump is not needed to heat the water to ambient air temperature. A passive heat exchanger can do that. The pump actually heats it up all the way.

    Because this particular unit appears to suck heat from the same room, it is likely not appropriate in heating-dominated climates. For cooling-dominated climates, it should be great.
  19. drimportracing

    drimportracing Pizza driver: 61,000+ deliveries

    Great plumbing story. Good pics. Still not confident about DIY plumbing for me though. - Dale
  20. ILAveo

    ILAveo Well-Known Member

    Most of the common repair stuff is pretty simple these days. It's generally easier than working on cars except that sometimes you have to squeeze into awkward spots. The place to start probably would be replacing a leaking faucet (particularly low risk if it has its own shutoff). Personally I use copper--compression fittings are handy--sweating joints is kind of fun but you probably should practice on a piece of scrap with a spare fitting first and be sure to have a fire extinguisher handy.

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