We’re heading into that time of year when the new home shows are opening. And what’s great about these shows, like the NW Natural Street of Dreams, is that we all get to see the latest trends and features home buyers are looking for. And energy preferences can have a big impact on what we see.
In fact, a recent study of Northwest area homebuyers revealed that of those prospective buyers, eight out of 10 consider natural gas an important feature when looking for their ideal home. What’s more, 82% of prospective and recent buyers in NW Natural’s service territories said they were willing to pay up to $50,000 more for a home that had natural gas appliances over a similar home with electric appliances. It’s probably fair to say those kinds of numbers show how much people love natural gas in their homes. And with new products that further reduce energy usage and carbon footprints, that appeal likely is only going to grow stronger.
One area where we’re seeing a lot of development is water heaters. Heating water with natural gas is already a great option and it’s getting even better.
An upgrade in performance, even when the power is out.
Until recently, if you wanted to upgrade to an ENERGY STAR-certified storage tank water heater, you needed an electric outlet to power a flue damper. New models eliminate the need for electrical access, using gas pressure to operate the damper. This feature also gives these new units 68% efficiency, and the ability to continue working even if the power goes out.
Even better, these water heaters are a drop-in replacement for standard gas units and offer excellent efficiency improvements for the near term while even more efficient products are developed.
Converting to tankless, without the pressure.
For a while now, tankless water heaters have been great options, providing near-instant hot water and reduced energy usage. That’s a lot to like. But a challenge with upgrading in some homes – particularly older homes – was that they were built with smaller natural gas supply lines. This meant owners potentially faced a costly upgrade to larger gas lines if they wanted to go tankless. Now, there are newer tankless models with technology that allows some units to operate on lower gas pressures, providing a more cost-effective option that doesn’t need a gas line upgrade. These water heaters are currently available, and as more models become available, will become even easier to find.
Pumping up efficiency even more.
One of the most exciting technologies on the horizon are gas heat pump water heaters. This technology has been available for years in commercial applications, but is currently being developed for the residential market. They’re powered by natural gas and work essentially like a refrigerator in reverse by pulling heat from the surrounding environment to heat the water. That process enables these units to offer double the efficiency of a standard gas water heater. This new technology is so promising, energy providers including NW Natural are investing to bring it to market. Expect to see these as options for new and existing homes starting in 2023.
“In the Northwest, heating water is the second largest use of energy in our homes. By upgrading to an efficient gas water heater, homeowners can easily save money while reducing their carbon footprint. It’s exciting to work with NW Natural increasing adoption of products that are currently on the market and accelerating development of new technology that will deliver even more benefits in the future.”- Aaron Winer, Sr. Program Manager, Natural Gas, Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance.
There’s even more to come.
One of the exciting aspects about natural gas and the appliances that use it is that they’re continuing to innovate and evolve. And with the goal of making them even more energy efficient and carbon neutral, their appeal is going to just keep growing. If you’d like to know more about the capabilities of natural gas or want to stay up to date on the products that use it, visit nwnatural.com.