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Bigger, better and more powerful was a mantra commonly heralded to describe technology advancement in the 20th century. Now, more than a decade into the 21st century, power still reigns supreme but in a sleeker, slimmer and more energy efficient profile. Grand Hall USA and WaterFurnace are among the companies providing customers with the energy efficient, cost-saving products they want. Grand Hall will introduce the GU125T and GU160T water heaters in June of this year and WaterFurnace recently introduced their 7Series heat pump. The water heaters and heat pumps are designed using technology to maximize output and save homeowners money.
Endless hot water
Imagine being able to take a long hot shower while operating the washing machine and dish washer all from a water heater with a 20 gallon tank with 160 gallons of output , a ½” gas line, and dimensions less than 11 cubic feet. “Endless hot water,” is how Paul Home, vice president of products at Grand Hall USA describes the GU125T and GU160T water heaters, part of the company’s Eternal Hybrid group. “Compact in size but big on performance,” said Home. “Being more efficient, we can deliver more for less.”
Efficacy of efficiency
Hybrid technology combines the features of a tank and tank-less water heater. It utilizes a ½” gas line that makes it easy to retrofit in the home. The technology is designed to provide tank less-like efficiency and high output. It does not require any additional infrastructure for installation other than existing 50 gallon gas water heaters that are in millions of home today. The learning curve is minimal for T series hybrids but the educational process is always ongoing with new technology. This is a direct contrast to the installation of a tank-less water heater.
Hybrid technology is a patent of Grand Hall USA. “We are the only gas-fired water heater using this heat exchanger technology,” said Home. “All the other manufacturers either have to upsize their storage tanks to deliver the same kind of hot water output or upsize the gas-line.”
Size does matter
The T-series hybrids have the same infrastructure as the standard 50 gallon gas water heaters that are currently in millions of homes today. This allows homes to upgrade without a large capital expense. Neither new gas lines nor expensive vent lines have to be installed to run these water heaters. The efficiency of the heaters qualifies it for a federal tax credit of up to $300, said Home.
If the homeowner had to go from a 1/2” gas line, which is standard, and upgrade to a ¾” gas line, which is commonly used for tank-less water heaters, the gas pipe alone would range in price from $600-$800, a price charged by most plumbers, said Home. This price does not include the installation of the water heater, which is typically a six hour job. With the T-series water heaters a ½” gas line is used and installation is around two hours.
“Having a tank-less is like buying a new car but having to learn a new way to drive it. You are not going to buy that car right away,” said Home.
The T series are pre-heat compatible as long as the setup is done correctly. This means that solar or geothermal can be used to minimize fuel consumption even further. However, there’s always a diminishing margin of return on efficiency when you have the added cost of pre-heat equipment.
The efficiency and smaller footprint saves in costs. The Grand Hall lab tests show 90%+ thermal efficiency which compared to standard tanks. This is about a 20-25% improvement over existing technology.
“We do not have finalized EF ratings yet but expect to have a similar edge over the current industry standard of 0.67EF,” said Home.
A standard 50 gallon gas water heater can run about $700, but is only about 70% efficient and takes about two hours to remove and install. The GU125T carries a preliminary MSRP of $1,299, and with federal tax credit of $300 a home owner could own a water heater from Grand Hall’s Eternal Hybrid group that is 90%+ efficient for less than a thousand dollars.
The hybrid technology was developed by Grand Hall in 1999 and commercialized in 2007. Currently, the company is on their third generation of Eternal Hybrid water heater models. The GU125T and GU160T will be the fourth generation and are slated to hit the market in June 2013. These models will have an original SKU and not replace any existing water heater.
Geothermal heat pumps
WaterFurnace has introduced the 7 Series which is an all in one heating and cooling system. The 7 Series contains a geothermal heat pump that replaces the traditional indoor furnace/outdoor air conditioning applications. The geothermal heat pump (GHP) can also be referred to as a ground source heat pump. Tim Litton, director of marketing and communications at WaterFurnace International, explained how the GHP works.
The Earth acts like a giant solar panel, which absorbs about half of the solar energy that reaches it. This allows the temperature just a few feet below the surface of the earth to stay relatively constant all year round—and makes the heat pump very efficient.
The geothermal heat pumps exchanges heat with the earth instead of the outdoor air like most heating pumps. The outdoor air temperatures can fluctuate greatly from day to night and summer and winter, while just a few feet below the earth’s surface temperatures consistently range between 55 and 70 degrees year round.
“So while a normal heat pump struggles to gather heat from frigid winter air, a geothermal unit draws from a reservoir of much warmer 55 degree temperatures, concentrates it, and moves it into your building,” said Litton.
The 7 Series geothermal pump received a 41 EER or Energy Efficiency Ratio and a 5.3 Coefficient of Performance (COP). “Most high efficiency air source heat pumps top out around 10 HSPF—which equates to about a 2.9 COP. Our 7 Series unit has a COP of 5.3 and, very simply put, can deliver up to $5.30 of heat for every dollar it consumes in electricity,” said Litton.
The 7 series has maintained its small footprint. The 3 and 4-ton units both measure 25.6” wide by 31.6” deep and 54.4” tall and the 5-ton only adds 4” in height. It is about the same size as a furnace without the need for any outdoor equipment.
Soft-start variable capacity
The soft-start variable capacity compressor allows the compressor to run at the speed needed to condition the building giving it greater energy efficiency. It works in concert with a variable speed loop pump and variable speed blower motor. This allows the system to run more often at very low capacities, keeping the building at a stable constant temperature.
“Imagine if your car had only two choices: 30 mph and 70 mph. It would be very strenuous to drive and it probably wouldn’t get very good gas mileage because, as we all know, gently accelerating and then maintaining constant speeds increases fuel efficiency,” said Litton.
“Another benefit of ramping up to speed rather than abruptly starting is that it reduces stress on the compressor, extending its life, and reduces nuisance issues like light flicker and startup noise,” he said.
WaterFurnace officials state, the 7 Series has the industry’s widest range output with the lowest at 20 percent and the highest at 130 percent. According to Litton, this allows it to match the load in the home over the widest conditions—better temperature control and greater dehumidification. It also provides 20 percent higher heating capacity than dual capacity or single speed compressor unit. This is estimated to save homeowners up to 70 percent of their energy bill.
The unit comes with energy monitoring hardware to let homeowners easily view energy usage in real- time—or a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly history—right from the thermostat.
Energy-efficiency and cost-saving are the new countersigns to the technology of home appliance design. Grand Hall USA and WaterFurnace International are among the many companies leading the charge in this area.