New Residential Water Heater Regulations May Leave Home Owners Hot Under the Collar

On April 16 of this year, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is slated to begin enforcement of new efficiency requirements for residential water heaters as a result of modifications made to standards of the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NEACA). NEACA was established in 1987 and ensures energy consumption of specific household appliances such as refrigerators, laundry appliances, stoves and ovens and, of course, water heaters, meet specific guidelines.

The new parameters taking effect in April impact the Energy Factor (EF) of all residential electric, oil and tankless gas water heating devices. Heating water accounts for an average of 30% of a home’s energy use, so it makes economic and environmental sense that these devices work at maximum efficiency.

According to the DOE, these new regulations will save approximately 3.3 quads of energy and result in approximately $63 billion in energy bill savings for products shipped from 2015-2044. This could result in upwards of $365 per year for some home owners.

What do these changes mean for homeowners?

Meeting the new requirements will impact the design of these devices, resulting in the modified water heating units being larger in addition to being more environmentally friendly. Both of these equate to the device costing more than the current appliances.

Although these updates will reduce residential energy usage and thus save Sunnyvale as well as all homeowners money over time, a unique potential issue may arise during the replacement of an existing water heater. Because some of the replacement heaters will be larger, they may not fit properly in the same space as the old unit. This could result in unexpected and costly retrofitting or relocation of water heater spaces, locations and ducting.

Most standard water heaters have a life span of approximately 10 years. If yours is approaching its peak, it may be advisable to replace the unit before the April 16th deadline to avoid any unforeseen expenses resulting from the newly designed devices.

Another alternative to the standard water heater is a tankless version. They require considerably less space and heat water on demand rather than constantly maintaining a store of hot water, as does the typical device. These units, which have a viable life of 20 years, haven’t been prevalent because they are significantly more expensive. Tankless units may see an increase in popularity among homeowners who encounter issues with replacing their standard water heaters.

The Department of Energy website offers detailed information about water heaters, but typically a 40 to 50 gallon standard version works well most homes. It is also not anticipated that every replacement unit meeting the upgraded standards will result in extra relocation or construction costs.

It is always advisable to consult with a professional who understands both the new regulations and the variety of products available that meet your individual needs.