FALLBROOK, Calif. - Residents in Southern California now have another way to get relief from the high cost of utility bills.

Northern Capital Inc. recently announced the selection of the Rinnai tankless water heater as the exclusive water heater systems provider for Southern California's first Zero Energy Home (ZEH) community. With certification from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), this single-family new home development, named WillowCreek at the Peppertree Park, is trying to lay down the foundation for what experts suggest is becoming a nationwide trend in home industry construction.

As defined by the DOE, a ZEH combines state-of-the-art, energy-efficient construction and appliances with commercially available renewable energy systems. A ZEH, like most houses, is connected to the utility grid, but is designed and constructed to produce as much electricity as it consumes on an annual basis.

At WillowCreek, a 2.4-kW photovoltaic integrated roofing system is designed to provide electricity using solar energy. WillowCreek is reportedly one of only four ZEH communities in the country and the first in Southern California to offer the ZEH package as the standard feature in every home in the community.

Rinnai's tankless water heater has been specified in all four ZEH communities. The unit holds no water but attaches to the plumbing system and heats water as it runs through the unit's heat exchanger. When a consumer opens a hot water tap, the unit is designed to begin heating water in 3 to 5 seconds. Once the consumer shuts off the hot water tap, the unit shuts off, thus eliminating standby loss, says the manufacturer.

According to Ervin Cash, vice president of Rinnai Heater and Water Heater Groups, the company's tankless unit is up to 50 percent and 70 percent more efficient than gas and electric tank units, respectively.

ConSol, a partner of the Building America research program focusing on Zero Energy homes, helped Northern Capital to determine the energy features that would bring them to this level. ConSol will also ensure the homes exceed the government's criteria for its Energy Star® Homes program through its ComfortWise program. It was at the company's recommendation that tankless water heaters be part of the ZEH community.

"This type of development is the trend we see gaining interest not only in California but throughout North America," said Rob Hammon, principal of ConSol. "Rinnai and Northern Capital Inc. are committed to meeting consumers' lifestyle needs while being sensitive to large energy conservation needs. We are anxious to continue moving and guiding this trend."

Publication date: 01/24/2005