What's Hot in Hot Water

Posted by Macie Schreibman on May 15, 2011
What's Hot in Hot Water
During ACEEE’s Hot Water Forum that took place in Berkeley, California last week, not only did I learn a bit about water pipes and their distribution, but I also learned how the Doubletree Hotel & Executive Meeting Center at the Berkeley Marina does their laundry. Just another hot topic among the professionals, manufacturers and specialists that came together to discuss what’s happening in the world of hot water.
Although I learned a lot about the federal programs that are in effect for hot water efficiency, how solar water heating is expanding (and what holds its popularity back), and gained insight into how pipes actually work together in homes, there was a larger personal takeaway for me.
In a lecture given by Craig Selover, of Masco Corporation, and Jim Lutz from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, called “New Knowledge on Distribution: How Do Pipes Work Together,” the pair showed off research on shared volume and use of pipes in homes. During the session they asked the crowd the following: “Has peoples’ behavior changed so much so that we can give them new systems?” As the crowd took that question in, I jotted in my notebook: “People’s behavior IN RESPONSE to systems.” And then I thought, this industry is full of people who have made it their life’s work to not just find more efficient ways of using energy (and in this case, water), but to do so based on people’s behavior. At the Hot Water Forum, I saw that these particular people had done research on families’ behavior in their homes, but there’s another factor I hadn’t thought about. Things like how long a person waits for hot water in their shower, although expending unnecessary water and energy, is based solely on the efficiency of the system in their home.
“People expect the light to turn on immediately when they hit the light switch, so why doesn’t a shower work like that?” Jim asked. A valid question. Why don’t our systems work the way that’s most efficient for us? “It’s about the efficiency of what you want out versus what you have to put in,” he added. And it’s why these professionals work so hard to make changes to the efficiency of hot water. It’s also why Home Energy publishes results from presenters like those at ACEEE in an effort to change people’s behavior... that is, until there are new, more efficient systems in place.

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