Gas storage water heaters offer even greater efficiency.

Bradford White's high-efficiency damper atmospheric vent models feature an automatic flue damper to help reduce stand-by heat loss. Additional insulation and heat traps help these units achieve 0.67 EF.

Fall is here and as the temperatures cool down, Energy Star water heater criteria are on the rise. The new season brings with it a change in criteria for gas-fired storage water heaters. As the Energy Star program continues to recognize technological developments that offer even greater energy savings, higher-efficiency storage water heaters are gradually becoming more available.

On Sept. 1, 2010, the minimum Energy Factor (EF) for gas storage water heaters increased from 0.62 to 0.67. This change is the first planned increase in Energy Star water heater criteria. The criteria for all other water heating technologies will remain unchanged.

What Makes 0.67 Models More Efficient?

“The Energy Star program seeks to keep its product criteria relevant by keeping pace with changing technologies in the marketplace,” saysSteve Ryan, spokesperson for the EPA’s Energy Star program. “We work to keep the brand meaningful by making sure it continues to indicate cost-effective savings with no loss of amenity. Storage water heaters are becoming more efficient, and this change recognizes that fact.”

Water heaters that meet the increased criteria offer homeowners significant savings in gas consumption even when compared to today’s 0.62 EF models, providing up to 14 percent greater savings than a conventional gas model. According to Energy Star calculations, 0.67 EF models only consume 224 therms per year. Gas storage heaters with a 0.62 EF consume 242 therms annually, saving up to 7.3 percent more than a conventional model. This results in up to $51 in annual savings.

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 that may require changes in installation. 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 venting systems - atmospheric venting - which typically require no extra installation costs. Other models can be power vented, which has the ability to vent either horizontally or vertically using inexpensive PVC, ABS or CPVC. It’s best to make sure you familiarize yourself with the manufacturer instructions for installing these new models.

The Effex high-efficiency water heater from A.O. Smith achieves its 0.70 EF from a patented air intake system, which creates a pressurized enviornment. Tighter baffling slows down the hot gas and transfers more heat to the water.

Switching Is Easy

If plumbers or suppliers have 0.62 EF water heaters with the Energy Star label in stock after Sept. 1, these models can still be sold as Energy Star-compliant, as long as they weremanufacturedbefore Sept. 1. Most likely, you will be able to identify these models because they will carry the Energy Star logo on the box.

The new criteria only apply to models manufactured on or after Sept. 1. Because local energy-efficiency incentive programs may change along with the new criteria, they may or may not adjust available rebates, and possibly change what is attractive to your customers. It’s important for plumbers to remain in contact with the efficiency program administrator to understand what rebates are available and how they can help make sales.

Several 0.67 EF gas storage water heaters are already available on the market. Energy-conscious manufacturers such as A.O. Smith, Bradford White and Rheem offer a variety of Energy Star gas storage water heaters, including many new models developed in preparation for the criteria change.

Plumbers can check with their distributors on the availability of new 0.67 EF gas storage models in their area and ask to have the higher- efficiency models stocked. With so many improved gas storage water heaters available, it’s easy to make the change from 0.62 to 0.67.

Rheem's PowerVent induced-draft gas water heaters are designed for installation flexibility including vent runs up to 100 feet and venting either horizontally or vertically.

A Short History

Water heaters first gained the Energy Star label in January 2009. Initially, qualifying gas storage models needed a minimum EF of 0.62 to earn the label. The Department of Energy considered this a good starting point for families to begin saving money and energy.

By starting the gas storage criteria at 0.62 EF, the DOE was able to create a foundation for the Energy Star label in the water heating market, increasing buyer awareness and demand for qualified heaters. When water heaters first gained the label, fewer 0.67 EF models were available, but as the market has evolved, manufacturers have continued to offer more 0.67 EF models.

Today, 77 percent of households recognize the Energy Star label, up from 41 percent 10 years ago. Seventy percent of households demonstrate a high understanding of the label’s meaning, up from 37 percent 10 years ago. As consumer awareness increases, it becomes even more important for plumbers to be well-versed in energy efficiency.

Helping Homeowners Save

When it comes time for these cost- and energy-conscious homeowners to invest in a new water heater, many options are available in addition to 0.67 EF gas storage models. The Energy Star label covers a variety of water heaters including electric heat pump, solar thermal and tankless units.

Sponsors of the Consortium for Energy Efficiency’s Coalition for Energy Star Water Heaters - A.O. Smith, Bradford White, Rheem and Rinnai - offer many of these models, helping homeowners make an environmentally friendly choice that saves energy and money.