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Key BEL partners Work with Oak Ridge National Laboratory on Study of Multifamily Grid-Interactive Heat-Pump Water Heating Technology 

Origin, by Steffes, is an all-electric, central heat-pump water heater system with thermal storage capability suitable for multifamily apartment buildings

Arlington, VA –A key strategic partner of BEL’s, Electrification Strategies LLC (ES), and the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) announced today they have signed a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) to explore the feasibility and benefits of electric heat pump water heating technologies for multifamily buildings in cold climates.  

“Converting multifamily buildings to efficient heat pump water heating is considered by many to be the Holy Grail of residential electrification—an objective of great value that is very difficult to attain,” said Keith Dennis, president of Electrification Strategies. “Barriers include space constraints, lack of access to capital, lack of incentive for landlords to install heat pump water heaters (HPWH) in individual units and the complexity of designing and installing a central HPWH system. This research is critical to cracking this important market segment for building decarbonization.”  

The research will analyze the performance of a centralized packaged water heating system that is manufactured domestically by Steffes LLC, a North Dakota-based company.  

The research advances electrification of water heating systems as a strategy for reducing carbon dioxide emissions associated with buildings. Researchers will model the benefits of the electric water heating system for consumers, the environment and grid reliability. Reducing costs of water heating in multifamily buildings will benefit low- and moderate-income families living in disadvantaged neighborhoods where these buildings predominate.  

The research focuses on the technology’s potential for energy efficiency, load shifting and suitability for electrification in different climate zones, with an emphasis on enabling systems that can perform effectively in cold climates.  

“Oak Ridge National Laboratory looks forward to working on this collaborative project which will leverage our expertise in smart home technologies research,” said Zhenning Li, ORNL research and development scientist and project lead. “By utilizing the resources of the Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Research and Integration Center at ORNL, we will advance the use of energy efficient building equipment to all consumers.” 

In locations where extreme temperatures can persist for several days at a time, stress on the grid produced by running large electric water heating systems during peak times has been a barrier to large-scale electrification in this segment of the water heater market. 

The project addresses this barrier by advancing electrified water heater systems for multifamily buildings that can function effectively in cold climates by integrating thermal energy storage to enable a 50% demand reduction for up to four hours during peak power periods. 

“The energy storage ability of these systems, along with utility communication, transforms them into a grid asset to create grid flexibility,” said Paul Steffes, co-founder of Steffes LLC. “And with the added benefit of significant carbon reductions.” 

About Electrification Strategies: Electrification Strategies, LLC is an energy sector firm that provides consulting services to help clients, their stakeholders, and consumers capture the benefits of existing and emerging energy technology. ES experts’ experience in the public and private sector can help clients advance their policy, business, technology and communications objectives. Focused on cost-effective beneficial electrification, ES also supports dual fuel solutions and clients with a diverse portfolio of energy assets.   

About Steffes: Steffes is a privately held, diversified original equipment manufacturer headquartered in Dickinson, North Dakota. Steffes specializes in innovative product development and manufacturing of electric thermal storage, water heating, and load management control technologies to help meet the world’s adoption of sustainable electricity and meet goals.