In 2015, all manufacturers of water heaters that are sold in the U.S. must conform their equipment to new energy efficiency standards.  This applies to all residential, gas, propane and electric water heaters.  Why should you care?  Because water heaters, as we know them, won’t look the same.  Here’s the who, what, how much it’s going to affect you and what you can do right now. 

Who Made the New Rulings?

The National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA) was approved by Congress and is administered by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).  This is the same organization that oversees the EnergyStar program.  That translates to – this is serious business and a real change for all water heaters sold in the U.S. 

What are the New Regulations?

Water heaters produced after April 16, 2015 must conform to new energy efficiency standards.  These translate to a mandatory increase of 3% to 30% greater efficiency vs. current models.  The amount varies by tank size based on formulas.  (Visit www.washingtonenergy.com for more information).

The larger the tank, the more the efficiency is required.  The gains in efficiency are small, but given that the vast majority of homes in America have a water heater, small can add up to big savings for the environment. 

How Does This Affect Me?

If you have a tankless water heater with an efficiency rating above .82, good news, your water heater already complies.  However, if you are in (or own) a home, condo and apartments with a standard tank water heater – please read on.

In order to gain the efficiency, manufacturers will be adding additional insulation to water heater tanks.  This will impact you as follows: 

  1. Fitting it in your house – Unlike the new light bulbs that fit in the same sockets as incandescent ones, the new tanks are not going to be the same size – tanks will be taller and wider – we’re guessing about two inches wider.  If you have a tight closet or a small door, you may have to relocate your water heater, or take off door jambs to bring it in.  And sorry, an installer would have to charge for that.  There will also be new and larger venting required for some gas water heaters. 
  1.  Manufacturer price increase – All of the manufacturers will have to re-tool production lines and this is expensive.  Combine that with increased material costs from adding more insulation to tanks and we anticipate retail price increases of approximately $100.00.
  2. Custom install solutions needed– To fit some homes and apartments may require creative planning on the part of your installer.  For example – if a 50 gallon tank won’t fit, a 40 gallon tank with an added mixing valve may produce the hot water your need.  [Find an installer that has the experience to do that.]
  3. Some larger sized tanks may be discontinued – If you have a large electric tank (66 or 80 gallon) or 74 gallon gas water heater, some of these are discontinued.  While new products may come along to replace them, the installer community has not yet seen them.

What Can I do Right Now?

Standard water heater tanks last around eight to 10 years.  If you are thinking it’s time to replace or if you have an older tank located in a tight closet (hello condo and apartment folks!), we recommend doing it soon than later. 

Three Choices for Replacement

  • Upgrade to tank water heaters that already qualify at the new energy

    efficiency levels (gas or propane)

  • Replace with your same tank style and size while still available
  • Consider a move to a tankless water heater 

For gas water heaters, models are available today that meet and actually exceed the new standards.  Tankless water heaters are an available option as they run on gas or propane and meet the new standards.  Tankless water heaters are an available option as they run on gas or propane and meet the energy standards.  There are also super efficient standard tanks – for example, Rheem Power Damper water heaters.  They are EnergyStar rated and exceed the new efficiency standards, saving you even more on your water heating costs.  This type of water heater costs a bit more than today’s standard gas water heater, but we expect it to be closer in price to the new gas waters heaters. 

Current water heater tank styles can still be installed after April 16, 2015, but inventory will eventually run out.  Installers and suppliers are stocking the last of the available current style tanks as we know many people will want them. 

Reprinted with permission of the Rental Housing Association UPDATE.