The Department of Energy (DOE) recently passed new regulations that will be bring about major changes in the water heater industry for both homeowners and contractors. Effective April 16, 2015 the DOE will require higher energy factor (EF) ratings on all residential water heating products including gas-fired, oil-fired, electric, tabletop, instantaneous gas-fired and instantaneous electric. The new tankless water heaters that have become popular among some homeowners already meet the new requirements.
Homeowners will see the most significant change on the install costs of the new equipment, with the yearly energy savings helping offset the higher initial costs. A water heater is going to be taller and wider than what they have been in the past. In order to improve the energy efficiency the manufacturers have to add insulation to the top, bottom, and sides allowing for less energy loss. Similar to the new high-efficiency condensing boilers, water heaters are going to have multiple components now, such as venting materials and condensate pumps, which means they will require more yearly maintenance. The install cost increase is due to higher materials costs and the possible need to relocate their current water heater because of size restrictions and louder operational noise. The most upsetting part is after the whole process to install the larger, noisier, more expensive water heater, the new water heaters are likely to have lower hot water deliverability.
Contractors will have to adjust to the new regulations as well as homeowners. Water heater manufacturers are preaching that training will be essential for all the new products, so installers will have a better understanding of installation options and benefits for the customer. Due to the larger and heavier water heaters, installation will no longer be a practical job for one person. The plans for the new gas-fired models include venting and drainage systems which means the current location of the existing water heater may not work, and may need to be moved significant distances.
If you have an older water heater that is on the verge of reaching its lifetime, it may be a good idea to start thinking about replacing it to avoid any new equipment headaches. Supply houses are already starting to run out of existing model water heaters to make way for the higher efficiency models. High efficiency boiler equipment has become extremely popular in the plumbing and heating industry and it was only a matter of time before the water heaters followed suit.