U.S. homeowners might soon see their electric bills decreasing thanks to an integrated heat pump system developed by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Scientists say the unit combines water heating with heating and cooling, dehumidification and ventilation functions, using 50 percent less energy than standard heat pumps and water heaters.

Laboratory engineers say the unit's energy savings accrues primarily from hot water provided at heat pump efficiencies. The unit also benefits from the use of variable speed components that can modify operating rates to meet current loads.

The goal of the project, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, is to attract a commercial manufacturer by next year.

Copyright 2007 by United Press International