New Water Heater Rules Bring Lower Energy Bills

April 22, 2015

Water heater manufacturers are responding to updated federal regulations with better insulation and more efficient technologies. The updated minimum energy efficiency levels for residential water heaters take effect in April 2015.

“By raising the bar, customers will benefit from units that waste less energy and cost less to operate over time – a meaningful benefit when water heating accounts for one-fifth of household energy costs and hundreds of dollars each year,” said George M. Chapman of the Coalition for Energy Star Water Heaters.

Water heater manufacturers are responding by updating their product lines and in some cases are discontinuing certain models. These updated products may mean that a water heater replacement is no longer a simple swap out. One major challenge is tight spaces. Storage water heaters with more insulation are wider and taller and may not fit through narrow doors or into small closets. Customers have a number of options, such as choosing a smaller tank size or a narrower model. Changing the installation location is a more drastic option.

“While most customers will find their new water heater fits fine in the existing space, a water heater replacement is a perfect time to discuss the best, most efficient option for your family with your plumbing professional,” said Chapman.

A second significant impact affects water heaters that store more than 55 gallons. Electric models will now include heat pumps, resulting in several additional installation considerations. Heat pump models are taller, often 5-7 feet, require sufficient space around them to function optimally and use drain lines to dispose of condensate. Many gas models over 55 gallons use condensing technology that similarly requires condensate drain lines and corrosion-resistant venting. These models typically require access to a power source as well. Most tankless water heaters meet the new standards already and will see few changes.