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Project Launch: 08/01/2020
Cross Cutting

Partners: Evergreen Economics, GDS Associates

The project team conducted research into water heating equipment technologies with significant energy savings and market potential for ComEd residential and commercial customers.


The project team researched a variety of water heating advancements to identify the most promising technologies for ComEd to pursue. Due to high penetration of natural gas water heating in northern Illinois, this end use has historically been underserved by the ComEd Energy Efficiency Program. The team reviewed a broad list of technologies, including different types of water heaters, water heating systems and controls, The market potential assessment included primary research with relevant market actors and secondary research on supply chain structures, product costs and the complexity of program intervention needed. Finally, the team developed proposed program strategies for the residential sector based on the insights from the research.

Results and Outcomes

In their technology potential assessment of water heating technologies, Evergreen Economics calculated the total technology potential of various residential and commercial water heating measures. The following measures were found to have the greatest technical savings potential:

  • Unitary heat pump water heaters: 570-650 GWh
  • Domestic hot water recirculation pump controls: 63,441 MWh
  • Refrigeration heat recovery: 5,880 MWh
  • Electric tankless water heaters: 1,737 MWh

The project team conducted a market assessment of the four measures listed above including interviews and focus groups with contractors, distributors and manufacturers in the ComEd service territory. The project team’s findings from the market research included the following:

  • Most water heaters are installed by plumbing contractors in emergency replacement situations and like-for-like is the norm in these scenarios.
  • Barriers to adoption of residential heat pump water heaters on the customer side include limited awareness and higher equipment and installation costs. Barriers for contractors include low product awareness, perceived risk from an unknown technology, reluctance, or inability to complete required electric upgrades necessary. Contractors also expressed hesitancy to manage applications and rebate processing involved with midstream offerings.
  • Based on the technical and market assessment, two potential program strategies were recommended for residential unitary heat pump water heaters: either a full electrification strategy in which they are included as part of a full-home electrification package, or a targeted approach to the customers with electric or propane water heating, with the greatest potential for cost-effective savings.
  • Direct-to-consumer offerings and big box retail sales were determined to be the best channel for recirculation pump controls and electric tankless water heater offerings.
  • Refrigeration heat recovery systems are most often sold and installed by refrigeration contractors rather than plumbing contractors and would be best positioned through a program focused on grocery and restaurant customers.

Read the executive summary and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to request a copy of the full report.