Advanced Water Heating Initiative

Document / May 8, 2020 / Building Innovation

The Advanced Water Heating Initiative (AWHI) is a collaborative, market transformation effort of over 35 organizations working to catalyze a rapid transition to high-efficiency, grid-connected Heat Pump Water Heaters (HPWH). AWHI is an initiative of New Buildings Institute and the Building Decarbonization Coalition


AWHI includes four dedicated working groups, each of whom is identifying and addressing policy, market, and technical barriers for different HPWH applications. The working groups are coordinating research efforts, developing technology road maps, engaging manufacturers, educating and advocating to policy makers and program administrators.

Why address hot water?

Heat Pump Water Heaters are a proven technology that is two to four times as efficient as the common approaches to providing hot water—and can support the growing number of policies for decarbonization by eliminating carbon emissions at the building and at the generation source. In addition to the efficiency and climate benefits, HPWHs can store hot water for later use providing load shifting and demand response capabilities that are of increasing importance and value to balancing the grid energy supply.

In California for example, where over 90% of water heating is provided by gas combustion, HPWHs must play an important role by directly reducing emissions in buildings in support of state carbon reduction goals and city climate action plans. Grid-connected HPWHs can also help increase use of surplus energy from variable output distributed renewable energy systems.

In the Northwest, where half of the homes use electricity for water heating, HPWHs directly reduce electric energy use and peak demand; additionally they avoid emissions when energy is provided from carbon-based electric generating resources.

In both regions, homeowners and building managers benefit from reduced costs of operations from high-efficiency HPWHs and the ability to take advantage of Time-of-Use rates.

Heat Pump Water Heaters are the best choice for producing hot water because HPWHs:

  • are a proven technology that has been in the market for decades;
  • are significantly (two to four times) more energy efficient than standard efficiency water heaters;
  • serve as a flexible energy storage system to offset utility peak demands or absorb surplus renewable energy;
  • support climate policies and sustainability objectives;
  • provide end-customers with significant energy and cost savings;
  • and they reduce use of fossil fuel and associated pollution

AWHI’s Market Transformation Approach

The AWHI was formed to help transform the production and adoption of HPWHs. Transformation of this market will support climate goals and reduce operational costs for consumers and grid operators. The graph below shows a theoretical model with emphasis on the next 10 years for making lower-carbon impact HPWHs the new normal for water heating.
Collaborators on the AWHI range from utilities and manufacturers, to program implementers and efficiency advocates—all interested in increasing the market share for these products. AWHI is helping installers and builders understand the opportunities for specifying HPWHs and supports the supply chain to eliminate barriers which prevent HPWHs market adoption. In addition, we are working to build better awareness and understanding of product value among consumers. The AWHI is also helping inform a policy framework that accelerates the transition to HPWHs and enables state and local governments to achieve aggressive decarbonization targets.

Specific objectives of the AWHI include:

  • Provide alignment in program design, marketing and messaging in order to coordinate efforts, which will assure manufacturers and bolster investment in the continued development of these technologies.
  • Support utilities that are developing and implementing HPWH programs. Programs will provide strategic utility investments in the HPWH market and increased program incentives in order to catalyze overall market transformation.
  • Bring all of the key stakeholders (i.e. policy makers, program administrators, utilities, manufacturers, installers, industry experts, etc.) together to share their experiences and learn from each other in order to accelerate market development.

To achieve these ends, the AWHI consortium has established a steering committee and leadership group led by NBI, which includes four working groups that are focused on market deployment of 240V unitary HPWHs, 120V unitary ‘plug-in’ HPWHs, Central HPWHs, and Connectivity and Controls of all units as shown in the below table.

The initiative and the working groups rely on the support and contributions from our supporters and partners. How can the AWHI help advance the adoption of heat pump water heaters in your service territory, project, or jurisdiction? Join the initiative, participate in a working group, or support the initiative directly to help us shape the future of the water heating market.

Join us!  To learn more, or to join the Advanced Water Heating Initiaitive or a working group, contact Amruta Khanolkar, NBI project manager, at [email protected]. Sign up here to get the latest news by email and find resources from the SMUD Workshop and Expo here.

Supporters and Partners of the Advanced Water Heating Initiative

Association for Energy Affordability

BC Hydro

Beyond Efficiency

Bonneville Power Administration (BPA)

Bradford White Water Heaters

Building Decarbonization Coalition

California Energy Commission (CEC)

Carbon Free Silicon Valley

California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)

e-Radio

East Bay Community Energy

Ecotope

Efficiency First CA

Energy Solutions

Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)

GE Appliances

Grasteu Associates

Guttmann & Blaevoet

HTP Comfort Solutions LLC

Hot Water Research

Laars Heating Systems

Larson Energy Research

Los Angeles Dept. of Water & Power (LADWP)

New Buildings Institute (NBI)

Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA)

National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL)

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

Nyle

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E)

People’s Self Help Housing Corp

Redwood Energy

Repcor Plumbing

Rheem

Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD)

Sanden

Silicon Valley Clean Energy

Southern California Edison (SCE)

StopWaste

Skycentrics

Turnbull Energy