Get Ready for the New 2015 Water Heater Regulations

There’s some big news in the Plumbing world: starting in the spring, residential water heater energy efficiency standards will be put in place. The Department of Energy (DOE)’s 2015 National Appliance and Energy Conservation Act (NAECA) Standards have been in the works for several years now, but they don’t officially go into effect until April 16, 2015.

The details

Residential water heaters that use oil, gas, or electricity (both tank stored and instantaneous) will need to comply with new energy efficiency standards by April 16, 2015. The new standards require a higher energy factor rating than before. In other words, water heaters will need to increase their useful output (in this case, hot water) as compared with the amount of input (i.e., the energy required to heat it).

Why the changes?

The long-term results of these new standards are twofold.  Not only will they result in roughly $63 billion in energy savings over the next 30 years, but they will also avoid over 172 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the same time period.

For many manufacturers who make water heaters, the enforcement of these new energy standards just underscores the concerted efforts they have already been making over the years to produce more energy-efficient solutions. And while there may be an increase in cost for both manufacturers and consumers at the outset to ensure that residential water heaters are in line with the new standards, the dividends that compliant heaters will pay over the next several decades speak for themselves.

How can you be prepare?

The new NAECA regulations apply to both storage and tankless residential water heaters. It’s not retroactive, so any units manufactured prior to April 16, 2015 can still be sold.

Although manufacturers will be allowed to continue to sell off their inventory of equipment produced prior to April 16, 2015, we know that no manufacturer will want to be stuck with shelves full of obsolete inventory. It is expected that production will be cut off far ahead of the April 16 deadline.

The good news is right now there is still product available with the old technology. If your water heater is more than 8 years old or in a tight closet, we suggest buying what’s on the market now, save some money and have it be good for another 10 years. This way, your tank capacity hot water usage can remain the same, and you won’t have to worry about the equipment size increases and the resulting space considerations in your home.

No matter how you decide to handle these new 2015 NAECA standards regulations, whether you upgrade your equipment now or in the future, always remember to hire a licensed contractor.

Important things to remember

As you decide what is best for your household and whether or not you should replace your current water heater keep these things in mind:

  • Increased price. Manufactures will need to make radical changes on how water heaters are designed, manufactured, tested, and distributed which means this will increase their time and production cost. All of these changes ultimately will be reflected in a higher price for the end user. How much more will depend on the type and size of water heater. Although they are not providing specific numbers at this point, manufacturers and distributors are predicting a “substantial price increase”.
  • Increased installation and maintenance costs. As water heaters become more complex, they also beome more difficult to install. While the operating cost of the new water heaters will be less because of their increased energy efficiency, it is likely that the maintenance costs will increase because of a more complex design, and the integration of electronics, blowers, fans, condensers, etc.
  • New water heaters may not fit in your current space. Both gas and electric water heaters will require more insulation which will increase the diameter and/or height of the water heater. Therefore the water heater will have to be re-located to operate properly or a smaller water heater will need to be purchased. If the latter is the case, the performance of the new water heater in terms of hot water deliverability will be less than the model which was replaced.

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