WHEN LAST I HEARD, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL Kofi Annan had reached agreement with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on weapons inspections, staving off war. But the American Gas Association is still battling the electric industry and the U.S. Department of Energy to save market share for its gas-fired water heaters. This battle is serious.
The water heater war takes in a wide range of issues and players. I hear that ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers), has raised gas industry ire with its new proposed standard 90.1. The industry complains that Underwriters Laboratories Inc. has begun to develop "non-governmental" indoor air quality standards with the complicity of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Products Safety Commission.
Demographics also play a role. Aging baby boomers use less hot water than teenagers. This fact alone could influence water heater standards. The current DOE model evaluates gas and electric water heater efficiency according to "energy factor,"or EF (em the ratio of heat output to energy input (em assuming a typical household will use exactly 64.3 gallons of hot water per day. A smaller reservoir capacity presumably could shorten recovery time, tipping the delicate balance between gas and electric appliances.