Get ready for new water heater regulations

Get ready for new water heater regulations

Starting April 16, 2015, new regulations go into effect for residential water heaters that influence how they are manufactured and installed.

Water heater manufacturers and trade associations are helping the building community prepare for the changes.

The new standards date back to 2010, when the United States Department of Energy, as part of the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA), issued new energy efficiency mandates that require higher Energy Factor (EF) ratings on most residential water heaters. The higher standards impact how water heaters are manufactured, as well as how and where they're installed. These updates go into effect on April 16, 2015.

To help dealers, distributors and contractors understand the impending changes and the effect on the products they carry and install, Rinnai, a major manufacturer of water heaters, offers the following guidance:

More Insulation Means Bigger Tanks, Less Installation Flexibility: For gas tank water heaters with 30-50 gallon storage tanks, the increase in minimum standards will trigger an increase in the insulation needed, resulting in up to 2-inch greater tank diameters. This may be problematic when an existing tank water heater needs to be replaced and the new, larger tank no longer fits in the same space or through narrow doorways, openings and staircases leading to it.

The Price Difference Between Tank & Tankless Is Narrowed: Traditionally, tank water heaters have enjoyed lower upfront costs than tankless. These new regulations, which will increase the cost of tank water heaters (and may make their installations more expensive as well), will have virtually no price effect on tankless water heaters and may narrow the price gap enough that many consumers are expected to upgrade to tankless when it comes time to install or replace a water heater.

Tank Water Heaters Will Be More Expensive & Complex To Install: In addition to tank size, the complexity and expense of a tank water heater installation will increase. Tanks with a 55-gallon capacity or larger may require an electrical outlet to be installed to power the additional components and controls needed to achieve high efficiency. In addition, they will require special venting and a means to drain the condensation. For contractors and dealers, the heavier, more complex tanks may require more manpower to move, more space for storage and potentially larger service trucks to transport them -- all costly changes that will ultimately be passed along to the consumer.

Tankless Will Still Be Preferred By Green Building Programs: Because tankless water heaters operate on an as-needed basis, they use up to 40 percent less energy than traditional systems, in turn reducing environmental impact. For this reason, tankless is still expected to be the preferred water heating method for most green building programs, such as the United States Green Building Council's LEED ratings and the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index.

Read more about energy-efficient water heaters.

Topics: Certification / LEED, Cost of Ownership, Energy Star, Plumbing & Fixtures, Water Heaters

Companies: U.S. Department of Energy, Rinnai

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