GE and Oak Ridge National Laboratory Collaborate on Efficient Electric Water Heater

New heater is part of the Energy Star program

The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and General Electric have collaborated to finalize, test and market the first product from a major brand to meet DOE's new Energy Star criteria for electric heat pump water heaters.

The GE Hybrid Water Heater is designed to be 50 % more energy efficient than a standard 50 gallon electric water heater, which should help reduce carbon emissions associated with standard electric storage water heaters in the average home, the company said. GE and Oak Ridge National Laboratory entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement where ORNL and GE will jointly test and market the units, which could be available in home improvement centers by late 2009.

The initiative coincides with DOE's announcement in April of the first ever Energy Star criteria for water heaters. Energy Star labels on appliances make it easy for consumers to buy the most energy efficient products available. According to DOE projections, Energy Star labels on water heaters are expected to save Americans about $780 million in utility costs and avoid 4.2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions in five years.

"The cooperation announced today is a real-life example of how the nation's public and private sectors are working together to accelerate new energy efficient technology solutions to the marketplace," DOE Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Andy Karsner said.

The new models can easily be installed by a plumber to replace an existing water heater. The installed cost will be about $400 more than a conventional 50-gallon water heater (resellers/retailers determine their own resale value), but the energy savings in about two years may cover the additional cost of purchase.

Bob Hawsey, director of ORNL's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Program said "water heating accounts for 12% of U.S. home energy consumption, and since about 4.5 million electric storage water heaters are purchased annually, literally millions of consumers each year will have the opportunity to cut their electric water heating bills in half with a modest investment that will pay for itself in a few years."

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