Sunday, February 24th, 2019

Evaluating the energy and CO2 emissions impacts of shifts in residential water heating in the United States

Publication date: Available online 14 January 2015
Author(s): Kelly T. Sanders , Michael E. Webber
Water heating represented nearly 13% of 2010 residential energy consumption making it an important target for energy conservation efforts. The objective of this work is to identify spatially-resolved strategies for energy conservation, since little analysis has been done to identify how regional characteristics affect the energy consumed for water heating. We present a first-order thermodynamic analysis, utilizing ab initio calculations and regression methods, to quantify primary energy consumption and CO 2 emissions with regional specificity by considering by considering local electricity mixes, heat rates, solar radiation profiles, heating degrees days, and water heating unit sales for 27 regions of the US. Results suggest that shifting from electric towards natural gas or solar water heating offered primary energy and CO 2 emission reductions in most US regions, but these reductions varied considerably according to regional electricity mix and solar resources. We find that regions that would benefit most from technology transitions, are often least likely to switch due to limited economic incentives. Our results suggest that federal energy factor metrics, which ignore upstream losses in power generation, are insufficient in informing consumers about the energy performance of residential end use appliances.

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