Electric Furnace HVAC Design


California has recently enacted legislation and various programs to promote the use of electric appliances in heating and cooling existing and new structures. With the most recent energy code specification being the Building Decarbonisation Assessment. Otherwise known as JA13 (Joint Appendix 13). According to this specification that was published by the California Energy Commission in August 2021, homes should adapt super-efficient and grid-friendly water heaters.

This will help to decarbonize the electric grid and buildings. At the same time, this will reduce operating costs for space and water heating, helping Californians save money on their energy bills. Moreover, this building code will support the state’s effort to stop global warming.

In this article, we’ll be looking at how this can help to reduce the use of natural gas in water and space heating. More importantly, we’ll look at what this means to you as a California resident.

Let’s get started!

Heat Pump Water Heaters (HPWHs)

Of the 14 million homes in California, each one requires a water heater. Most of these water heating units are individual devices that serve a single. However, other units have a central system that serves the entire apartment building.

Surprisingly, adding heater pump water heaters in your HVAC design in California can also serve as clean-energy batteries. In essence, this involves storing water heated by clean energy from solar energy for use when the sun is not shining.

Generally speaking, millions of central and individual water heaters in California homes can be turned into flexible and efficient batteries. That way, water heated by wind and solar energy can be stored when it’s abundant in California. And used when businesses and homes need it later. As a result, people will not add load to the electric grid when the demand increases. More importantly, this will reduce the reliance on fossil fuel plants to serve peak power needs.

Besides, this will reduce the operating costs of the electric grid in California. Thus, limiting the need for expensive power plants to meet the energy needs of the customers. Instead, this approach will be maximizing the use of wind and solar energy that don’t have any fuel costs. Consequently, renewable energy resources and California’s grid will be utilized more effectively. This will save every homeowner in California money by decreasing the electricity rates.

Flexible & Efficient Electrification

According to The California Energy Commission, turning California’s buildings from using gas for space and water heating to renewable and clean energy is the lowest cost to ‘decarbonizing’ buildings. Moreover, this will eliminate climate pollution and health hazards caused by burning fossil fuels in furnaces and water heaters.

Nonetheless, demand flexibility and energy efficiency are also important elements of cost-effective decarbonization. Not to forget that these elements lower the utility bills and electric grid rate for all Californians.

Thankfully, flexible Heat Pump Water Heaters meet all these components. That is, they’re very efficient, and they comply with the new JA13 energy specification. More importantly, they can be entirely powered by clean, renewable energy at the right daytime.

Why does the New JA13 Specification Matter?

As you’ve seen, HPWHs have a very important role to play in California’s future of clean energy. However, the importance of this new energy specification goes beyond water heating appliances. Especially considering that water heating is the largest use of gas in California homes. Instead, they use of electric heaters for space and water heating is the introduction to home electrification. For instance, if a homeowner turns to an electric HPWH, they don’t have to install a furnace. And why would they, when the heat pump can offer cooling and heating at a lower cost!

Also, this specification will speed up the transition towards an all-electric, highly efficient heating cooling design in California. More notably, this will promote a safer climate future, by helping to clean up the air in California.

The good news is that more than 30 counties and cities across California have adopted local policies that require or encourage an all-electric approach for new buildings. Even better, the CEC can now extend these policies to the whole state and follow suit. This helps to set a uniform standard for new construction across California.

Moving on, JA13 and other similar policies allow builders to construct faster and cheaper by giving them more flexibility. All while helping to reduce pollution from the use of fossil fuels.

However, other policies are still needed to encourage the enactment of these energy-efficient heaters. This may include offering financial incentives to make this shift more affordable for Californians.

What does this New Specification mean to California Residents?

To be honest, you’ll not notice anything at the faucet or show when you change from gas furnaces to grid-responsive HPWHs. Instead, you’ll get the same piping hot water you’re used to. However, expect to see a significant reduction in your monthly utility bills, especially when the electric rate varies depending on the time of day. Smart HPWHs will charge up during cheap times and avoid consuming power during expensive hours automatically.

Now, this specification by the CEC only applies to new construction. However, the Public Utilities Commission of California is establishing a new program under the SGIP (Self Generation Incentive Program). This program will offer financial incentives for the installation of smart HPWHs in existing buildings as well.

On top of that, the CEC is developing another program known as the BUILD incentive program. It’s intended to help lower-income households in California to access the benefits of clean energy including lower utility bills. At the same time, this program will encourage the construction of new low-emission buildings in the state. But the most crucial aspect of this incentive is that a significant proportion of its budget will be allocated to low-income households. Either way, smart HPWHs will be of utmost significance to both programs.

Final word

As with EVs and solar energy, the clean energy transition in California, especially in water and space heating is underway. And the California Energy Commission has taken a crucial step towards this revolution with the new JA13 (Joint Appendix 13) specification. This step will certainly facilitate the use of electric appliances for efficient space and water heating in the state.

To adopt this specification in your MEP design in California, feel free to contact InnoDez Design & Engineering!

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