New Residential Water Heater Concept Promises High Efficiency, Lower Cost

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New Residential Water Heater Concept Promises High Efficiency, Lower Cost
A new class of gas-fired heat pump water heaters, based on a novel semi-open sorption concept, could replace the evaporator in a traditional devices with a vapor-permeable membrane that more efficiently absorbs and transfers heat for residential applications. Credit: ORNL

Scientists have developed a novel method to produce cheap and effective residential water heater. This semi-open natural gas-fired design minimizes cost and complexity of traditional closed gas-fired systems. This is done by integrating, and eliminating certain components.

This residential water heater could result in better than 100 percent energy effectiveness. This is because the system draws energy not only from the surrounding air but also from the natural gas.

The adjustable design integrates water heating and dehumidification functions. Generally, these functions are typically found in separate architectures. In the semi-open scheme, the novel absorber device acts in place of the traditional evaporator component. It pulls water vapor directly from the air through a membrane into a liquid solution. After the vapor is being absorbed, a large amount of the heat transfers to domestic hot water.

New Residential Water Heater Concept Promises High Efficiency, Lower Cost
Oak Ridge National Laboratory and University of Florida researchers are developing a prototype based on a new low-cost, high-efficient water heater concept for residential buildings. Credit: University of Florida

The simpler semi-open system operates at the surrounding atmospheric pressure, using an inexpensive, non-sealed solution pump. This approach eliminates the need for vacuum pumps found in closed systems that purge gas build up. It also allows manufacturers to consider lower-cost, lightweight polymers instead of costly, bulkier metals to build equipment, making it less susceptible to corrosion.

Kyle Gluesenkamp said, “The semi-open architecture introduces a new class of ultra-efficient heat pump water heaters. It could become commercially available in a few years to homeowners seeking to replace their existing gas water heater.” (Gluesenkamp is lead author of Efficiency analysis of semi-open sorption heat pump systems.)

This research has done by scientists from Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in collaboration with the University of Florida.

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