New Water Heater Regulations Mean The Time To Replace Is Now!

While most homeowners are worrying about getting their taxes submitted on time, contractors across the nation are gearing up for new federal Department of Energy regulations regarding water heaters. The National Appliance Energy Conservation Act, or NAECA, raises the minimum efficiency (energy factor) of nearly all residential water heaters. Going into effect April 16, 2015, NAECA impacts all tank-type brands of water heaters. Although older units may be available in limited quantities and can be installed after this date, manufacturers across the United States will not be making the “old style” anymore. This new regulation is being implemented as a government energy savings initiative.

Although the new regulations impact manufacturers, dealers, and contractors, the ones who will be most affected by the regulations will be homeowners. The new standards do not require homeowners to replace their current water heaters, but as time passes you will only be able to buy units meeting the new DOE efficiency standards. Some of the extra cost may be recouped in energy savings, eventually. In most cases the savings amount to less than a couple of dozen bucks a year, with payback periods as long as 10+ years.

under 55 water gallon chartFor models under 55 gallons in capacity, there will be additional insulation on the water heater. Although units will be using similar technology as before, most models will grow by 2 inches to meet the new standard.  This change could be in height and/or width. What this means for homeowners is that additional planning and preparation may need to go in to a water heater purchase. There could be size and placement restrictions, and additional plumbing or gas line alterations may need to be completed prior to water heater installation. This is not the only issue presented by the new standards regulations. History tells us that whenever a change of this magnitude is instituted, prices of higher efficiency equipment are always affected. Following the last major efficiency upgrade, there was a price increase for the new standard equipment of between 8-12%. We now know from one of the major manufacturers that these price increases on the new NAECA compliant products will be up to 40%. We can only surmise that all major water heater manufacturers will follow suit.

over 55 water gallons chartFor models over 55 gallons in capacity, there is a bigger change. The new standards have forced manufacturers to adopt technologies that are likely to increase the price of water heaters and their installation significantly. Large water heaters of 55 gallons and above may double or triple in price, according to some industry observers. Most models will be required to change to a newer technology. This involves massive re-engineering and retooling. Gas water heaters will now be required to be High Efficiency Condensing models. Electric water heaters will need to be Hybrid Electric Heat Pump models. There are significant size differences in these new style water heaters over 55 gallons.

There are a few exceptions to the new standard. Several of today’s high efficiency models are already compliant. Hybrid, high efficiency gas and electric models, tankless, and power vented water heaters are unaffected because they already meet the new efficiency regulations set by the DOE.

energy factor regulationsFor new construction projects, be sure to allow more space for the water heater to be installed. For retrofit or replacement projects, plan ahead. The professionals at Tiger Plumbing Services recommend that if you are on the fence about a new or replacement water heater, to act now. Due to the new manufacturing requirements, prices of water heaters will begin to rise. In addition, you may have to relocate your water heater or downgrade in capacity because of the new size requirements.

Industry statistics show that the average storage tank water heater lasts 10-15 years. If yours is at the outer edge of that life span, even if it is in good working order, this is a good time to consider replacing it now. In addition to paying more money in the years ahead, you will be forced to try out new technology that has been rushed into the marketplace and may well have a few bugs to be worked out. Also, water heaters compliant with the new standards will be larger and may not fit in the space your water heater now occupies, leading to more headaches.

The new regulations allow sellers of water heaters to deplete their inventories of pre-2015 models before taking on the new high-efficiency units. This means that homeowners may still have access to some older units after April 16th. As time passes those older models will become harder and harder to find, and their prices are likely to go up accordingly. This may also be a good time to consider a tankless water heater. Tankless water heaters do not store hot water, but heat it on demand. They boast efficiencies of up to 96% and already meet the new federal regulations.

No matter how you decide to handle these new 2015 NAECA standards regulations, whether you upgrade your equipment now or in the future, always remember to hire a licensed contractor. The professionals at Tiger Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning, & Electrical Services have the skills, knowledge and experience, not to mention the proper tools, to advise you on the best water heater choice for your home, and to install your new unit correctly and efficiently, the first time. They will also provide a higher grade of equipment than is offered by your local home improvement store.

Give us a call at 1-866-844-3770, or chat with us online at, to review your options, but don’t wait too long. Demand for the “old style” water heaters is high, while the supply is being depleted to adhere to the new regulations.

Diagram - changes in product dimensions


DOE: Eerie Energy – Appliance Standards – Product Aspx.

A.O. Smith

Bradford White


Pictures courtesy of: State Water Heaters


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