The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), as part of the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA), Issued Final Rule energy efficiency mandates that will become effective April 16, 2015. This new update will require higher Energy Factor (EF) ratings on almost all residential gas, electric, oil and tankless gas water heaters.

Who will be affected by the new standards?

NAECA 2015 only applies to products manufactured for sale in the U.S.; however, Canada will soon implement similar increases in efficiency standards. These changes will have an impact on how water heaters are manufactured, distributed and installed, affecting manufacturers, wholesalers, installers and customers alike.

What are the changes?

Although all affected models will see an increase in EF ratings, the greatest changes are in larger capacity models, 55 gallons or above (see the table below). The DOE established the new requirements to drive manufacturers to implement new, more energy efficient technologies.

NAECA 2015 Standards for Water Heaters

Electric water heaters are already very efficient. To meet the new EF ratings for water heaters with less than a 55 gallon capacity, likely additional water tank insulation will be required and possible insulation for piping and fittings. This will increase the diameter and/or height of the water heater. The only current technology capable of meeting the EF rating for electric water heaters over a 55 gallon capacity are hybrid electric heat pump water heaters. For more information on “Hybrid Electric Heat Pump Water Heaters”, see that subject on this web site.

To meet the minimum EF rating, gas water heaters may require additional insulation, newer flue baffling technology incorporating electronic ignition in lieu of standing pilot lights, or any combination of these. Again, this will likely impact the overall tank size, especially the diameter. For gas water heaters over 55 gallons, high efficiency, fully-condensing combustion technology will be required. For condensate disposal technology and electronic ignition, an electric source will be required in addition to a gas supply.  

Oil fired water heaters will require additional insulation and possibly completely new combustion systems.

The new minimum EF rating for tankless gas water heaters is from .62 to .82.   Most of the tankless gas water heaters currently have an EF rating of .82.

Considerations for water heater replacement

New technology in any industry usually equates to a rise in the product cost. We have not been given the amount of the cost increase, but we feel confident that prices are going to go up. With the higher energy factor requirements, the new water heaters will save the customer money each month on their energy cost. The amount of savings each month will vary from home to home, depending on whether the water heater uses gas or electricity, and how much hot water is required. However, the savings in energy cost will hopefully help offset the difference in initial cost of the water heater.

Installation of the new water heaters will also cost more. In the case of gas powered water heaters, there is a very good possibility that the vent pipe will have to be changed because of the new technology. Additionally, due to electronic controls, electricity could be necessary for gas heaters. By their nature, high efficiency gas water heaters produce condensation, so a drain to daylight somewhere in the vicinity of the water heater may be required. The location of a current water heater may not be appropriate for the new one. A heat pump water heater generally requires a 10 foot by 10 foot room, or a duct to an adjoining room to operate properly. Noise may need to be considered during installation. Whereas an existing water heater may produce very little noise, the new model may operate at a noise level that will not be acceptable to a homeowner. The new generation of water heaters, as stated previously, is going to be larger than the current models, and this may also have an impact on location. However, due to increased efficiency, a smaller capacity water heater may actually produce more hot water than a current model higher capacity water heater, so size may not be too big of a consideration.

Maintenance cost may also increase for the new water heaters because of a more complex design and the integration of electronics, blowers, fans, condensers, or other components.

Final thoughts

Although initial, upfront cost of the new generation of water heaters and installation are going to be more, the savings in monthly energy bills should help offset these expenses. With using less gas or electric power, the new family of water heaters will help protect our environment, a very important consideration for many homeowners. All of the new water heaters will be Energy Star certified, and may be eligible for government and local energy provider rebate programs.

We are at your service

When the time comes that you need to have your current water heater replaced, let us help you. We can check the current water heater location to see if improvements will be necessary for installation of the new water heater. We can discuss your options with you so you will be able to make an informed decision that is best for your particular circumstance.

How to save more on a new water heater

You can offset more of the upfront cost of a new water heater and installation with the purchase of a Wood’s Plumbing Prepaid Service Agreement. With the purchase of our service agreement, you can save a minimum of 10% on all products and installation. You will also receive continuing plumbing discounts and other benefits. Check out our Prepaid Service Agreements on this website.