Congress passes bill to create water heater energy efficiency ratings

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Congress has passed legislation establishing a uniform energy efficiency descriptor that applies to all residential water heaters sold in the U.S. The measure now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The bill, also known as the American Energy Manufacturing Technical Corrections Act (H. R. 6582) was passed unanimously in the Senate December 6. The legislation was approved overwhelmingly by a 398-2 vote earlier in the House of Representatives.

In addition to applying a consistent rating system for all water heaters, the bill will require the Department of Energy to develop a test method to accurately determine the descriptor for all types of water heaters including new advanced technologies introduced over the last several years.

A bipartisan group of senators and representatives were instrumental in securing passage of the legislation.

Senators Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) were sponsors of the original Senate bill that became the basis for the final legislation. Supporting the measure were Senators Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

In the House, Representatives Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) co-authored the original bill that was incorporated, in its entirety, into the final version of the H. R. 6582 legislation.

Representative Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) was a co-sponsor of H. R. 6582 along with Representative Ron Kind (D-Wisc.). Blackburn and Roe both spoke on the floor of the House in support of the bill.

Representatives Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) also were supporters of the bill.

The uniform energy efficiency descriptor replaces a standard that is more than 20 years old that created two sets of energy efficiency measures for water heaters. When the original standards were put in place, smaller water heaters were rated using an "energy factor," while larger units were rated based on "thermal efficiency."

Adding to the confusion, each of the two ratings required its own testing methodology, and manufacturers were not allowed to substitute ratings on different water heater models. Advances in water heater technology and improved efficiency testing methods combined to make the older standard obsolete.

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