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Using Low Emissions Water Heaters To Fight Air Pollution

inversion over salt lake valley.
The effort to clean up the Wasatch Front's air has been underway for more than a decade. The latest addition to the pollution-reduction arsenal is mandating ultra-low NOX water heaters like those required in California.

A new air-quality law has just gone into effect that may go unnoticed by many Utahns. Since the beginning of July, all water heaters sold or installed in the state have to be low-emissions models.

These new, "ultra-low NOX" water heaters release about 75 percent less nitrogen pollution than older models, said Bryce Bird, director of the Utah Division of Air Quality.

"Having lower emissions from the water heaters, will both improve summer air quality, when we're talking about the ozone levels that we see on these hot afternoons in the summer, and address the fine particulate matter in the winter as well," Bird said.

A state task force included ultra-low-NOX water heaters a few years ago on its list of clean-air strategies for the future. Emissions from homes and businesses — what environmental regulators call "area sources" — are projected to be a large source of urban Utah's pollution in the decades to come. In a few decades, they'll eclipse the largest pollution sector today: car and truck exhaust.

"As we add more people, of course, those are projected to increase," Bird said. "And, so, really, it's everyone doing their small part."

The Utah Division of Air Quality estimates that the new, clean water heaters cost about $30 to $50 more than ordinary water ones.


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