In 2015, all manufacturers of water heaters that are sold in the US 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 US 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 US.
What are the new water heater regulations?
Water heaters produced after April 16, 2015 must conform to new energy efficiency standards. These translate to a mandatory increase of 3% – 30% greater efficiency vs. current models. The amount varies by tank size based on formulas. 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, (all that we sell are at this level), good news, your water heater already complies. However if you are in one of the hundreds of thousands of Western Washington homes, condos 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. The Rheem tankless water heaters are 27-1/2″ in height, 18-1/2″ in width and 9-3/4″ in depth. 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, we (or any installer) would have to charge for that if we did it. There will also be new and larger venting required for some gas water heaters.
2. Manufacturer price increase. All of the manufacturers will have to re-tool production lines, and this is expensive. Combine that with increased materials cost from adding more insulation to tanks and we anticipate retail price increases in the range of $100.
3. 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 you need. Fortunately our team has the experience to do that.
4. Some larger sized tanks may be discontinued. If you have a large size electric tank (66 or 80 gallon) or 75 gallon gas water heater, some of these are being 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 8-10 years. If you are thinking it’s time to replace or if you have an older tank located in a tight closet (hello condo & apartment dwellers!), we recommend doing it sooner than later.
Three choices for replacement
1. Upgrade to tank water heaters that already qualify at the new energy efficiency levels, (gas or propane).
2. Replace with your same tank style and size while still available.
3. 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 energy standards. We also carry 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 water heaters in 2015. So you can start saving energy now, at around the price you might pay next year.
Current hot 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.
Whatever the new rules bring, Washington Energy will be able to provide you with water heater choices, custom installation and competitive pricing. For a free all-inclusive quote over the phone, please call us at 800-398-4663. Group discounts are available now for condos and apartment buildings.
I’m replacing my 17 year old 40 gallon gas WH. It doesn’t have a leak pan or a sediment trap. Are they required now? I haven’t replaced one for several years, but I have done lots of them when I was younger. Mine was installed when the house was built in 2004. No sediment trap, no leak pan. I’ll probably install both. Can the TPR drain into the leak pan? There is a floor drain under the shelf that the WH sits on. Right now the TPR drain ends just above that. I was going to plumb the drain pan to end just above that also.
Great information on site. I live in WA State and have an 80 gal electric water heater to replace. Is the gallon capacity of the replacement sized to the square footage of the house? Contractor says a 50 gal will be fine but I’m concerned when I sell, I may have to install an 80 gal to sell house. Thanks
Have a mobile home , why do I have to buy mobile home water heater, just because where the piping is located or is there a real difference in mobile home water heaters,
Mobile home water heaters will have HUD safety approval. Anything else used for a mobile home is against the law, will void the manufacturer’s warranty, and insurance companies may refuse to pay a claim or terminate your coverage.
we must have a forty gallon gas water heater and we are hearing so many different things about the upgraded ones .ours is a sears 40 gallon one and i called them and they said the forty gallon one was already upgraded and will be one and a and a half of an inch wider and a half of an inch taller .ours is a older model and we must have the same forty gallon one and we have an extended warranty one this one ,so even though we have a tight space I think this little of being up sized won’t matter for most people . also never heard of anykind of an alarm system to let you know of a leaking water heater and would like more info on that and the the cost and if you have to do a lot to have it installed ,or if you can install it by yourself?
We sell water alert systems here (the price does include installation): Thanks!
This is some great information, and I appreciate your point that tankless water heaters can provide continuous hot water over a long period of time.
We live in six persons household, so there are a lot of us that have to share hot water for our morning showers, and usually the last two people don’t even have any.
I’ll definitely look into the option of getting a tankless water heater so we don’t run out. Would tankless heater be able to handle that?
That is the perfect use case for a tankless water heater. You and your family would be well served by the upgrade. Thank you for reading and commenting!
Is a 50 gallon water heater with a mixing valve more costly to operate than an 80 gallon with no mixing valve. I have a 40 gallon electric that is tall (looks like it would be a 60 or 80 but isn’t). It’s older. 2 of us live here. Start running out of hot water when tub gets about 4 inches full or at the end of a long shower. It’s in a utility room corner. But. I need to be able to swing a door to the exterior inward and there’s not a ton of clearance. I know there are new standards-which do you think I should go with? Beth
We would universally recommend a mixing valve for every system to better choose water temperatures, stop bacteria in the tank and prevent scalding. For two people a 50 gallon heater with mixing valve should meet your needs. If you’re in our service area, give us a call at 800-398-4663 or send in a free estimate request.
How does one determine the size of a water heater for an apartment building containing 6 apts
Thanks for the question Chuck. We would definitely recommend consulting with a professional. They will provide the best options to your situation. I know it’s not the answer you’re probably hoping for, but you will be best served working with a professional on this.
I currently have a natural gas water heater. I’m contemplating changing to a tankless gas heater.
My concern is, as it appears that they all still need electricity to run…I won’t be able to use it if the power goes out….am I right?
Is there any such thing as a gas only tankless heater? Or gas that uses a battery instead of electricity?
Hello Margo, thanks for asking about water heater’s in a power outage. It is one of the benefits of natural gas tank water heaters that you can still use them in a power outage. Tankless water heaters do have to have electricity to run. There is a helper in that you can attach a supplemental battery to provide power to your tankless. These might give you a day or so depending on the power pack to continue to have hot water. If you have infrequent outages this could be a solution. Another solution for power outage prone areas is to have a gas powered generator. A whole house generator, such as the ones Generac makes (and we install), can keep your power on throughout the house. This will not only keep you in hot water but cooking, watching TV, internet etc. Thanks!
Will natural gas tank heaters still be fully functional without electricity? That is not a feature I am willing to give up.
Yes indeed Ken, natural gas tank water heaters are functional without electricity today and will continue to be. It’s a great feature! Thanks!
Are the new standards a requirement for ALL water heater whether a home built on a slab or a mobile home?
Larry, thanks for the question about slab vs mobile. The answer is both. The new standards apply to all water heaters for sale in the US for all types of residences.
Do I have to change my hot water heater? Yes it is more than ten years old. My modo is if it works don’t fix it or change it.
Hi Laura, there is no rule that says you have to change or upgrade your hot water heater. However, we would be remiss if we did not emphasize that standard tank water heaters will collect sediment and eventually rust and fail. The failure could start as a small leak or it could go all at once, putting out a lot of water and flooding whatever space it is in. Change in temperature, such as the transition to winter with first freeze in November/December can be the breaking point. This is not to say your particular tank won’t last longer. One thing that might be a good idea in your case would be to install a water alarm by the tank. There are two types, one that just sounds an alarm if there is a leak, and the other that has a shut off valve which will shut your water supply off automatically to the tank should a leak happen. These could really help you have peace of mind while you maximize the lifespan of your tank. Thanks!
We are trying to change from a conventional water heater that is 9 yrs old. Which is the best choice? Tankless or upgraded traditional? It will be inside a closet, so both will require additional work to make them comply to standards, but which is the best choice?
Pam, thanks for asking about the water heater choice. There are so many options today in water heaters that the only way to really know is to have someone come look at your space. Here are a few things to consider. First, do you have a gas or electric water heater? If electric and you don’t have the option for natural gas to run to it, then your best choice is to replace it with another electric tank. An electric tankless is not something we recommend. It is an energy hog plus often requires expensive panel upgrades. If you have a gas (or propane) water heater, or if we can extend your gas line to power one, then you have more options. A tankless water heater will already comply with standards, is the size of carry-on luggage, and will fit in your closet. It costs about twice as much as a gas water heater but will last 20 years, or twice as long. We would be happy to discuss this further with you and answer specific questions for your needs. Just give us a call at 800-398-4663 and select water heaters. Regards, WES
Hi what will be the actual size of the new hot water heaters. An how much more will they cost. After 2016
Brian, we are seeing a mix of size increases and price increases and it all depends on what you use. We thought it would be more uniform in the increases but it seems to be all over the place. If you need more specific info about your water heater size, please call us at 800-398-4663 and we can look it up for you. Thank you
Out of curiosity, why is there such a huge price difference between 75 and 100 gal heaters. (A little off topic, sorry.)
Matt, we love any topic about water heaters. Beyond just the size and materials difference to make a bigger tank, there are 2 reasons why many manufacturers charge more for 100 gallon water heaters. One may be that they are less commonly used and therefore produced in smaller batches. The economies of scale follow the large batch, more common sizes. In addition, 100 gallons can often be considered light duty commercial. A light duty commercial tank is required to have additional testing at the manufacturer’s facility which does add cost to that product, but also assures the user of it’s ability to handle their commercial loads. These are some of the reasons we can think of for the difference in the pricing. If you had a bid for installing the 75 and 100 gallon at your house with the same tank manufacturer’s products, an additional difference could be factors unique to your home, such as space, venting and installation challenges to fit the tanks into the space. Thanks for asking!
Will there be units made that are LP-only for use in remote areas without electric service?
Great question Jeff, right now you can get tankless water heaters and many types of gas water heaters that are LP (propane) fueled. We install propane fueled water heaters all the time. This should not be a problem to find after the change either. Consult with your local contractor or call us if you live in the Puget Sound area for pricing and details.
I have 2 short 40 gal.gas hot water tanks.The height is my concern.Will this be the same height on the new tanks.Will all brands have a standard height
Jim, it looks like the manufacturers are trying not to make them too much higher. Here’s what our install manager tells us: The current model we carry (of 40 gal short) is 49-3/8” x 20-1/8”. The tank will we be carrying 49-1/4” x 21”. It looks like for this model it’s turning out not a huge difference in size.
I live in Texas. I understand that heaters made in a state for sale only in that state do not need to comply with the federal standards since there is no interstate commerce activity to create a federal issue.
Hello Chuck, good question but we don’t have information about interstate commerce. We can tell you that all of the manufacturers are voluntarily changing the water heaters over and will no longer make the old ones.
How will this effect me as I lease a water heater from PSE, will they have to upgrade the one I lease?
Dear Lilith, that is an excellent question. It will not affect you until you replace your tank. So lets say your PSE tank ends its useful life and has to be replaced after April 2015. It will need to be one of the new tanks at that time. They don’t need to upgrade them unless they are being replaced. (We are actually the company that does those replacements for PSE).
I have always leased a water heater from PSE. I believe the last one was installed about 12 years ago, but don’t know for sure.
Can you check what type of water heater I have and if it is to be replaced?
Hello, thanks for asking. Please call the PSE phone number that is listed on your specific tank and ask when you are ready to be exchanged. We are sorry but are unable to see that data. We do the tank replacements for PSE when they tell us it’s time.
Sorry for the delayed reply to PSE lease customers. This is a phase in as new tanks are needed. They will be installing upgraded tanks when yours is up for replacement. While we do the installing for them, we do not manage the program. In order to see if your water heater is ready for replacement, please call the number on your PSE bill and they can advise you. Thanks!
You installed a new water heater at my home (12455 SE 25TH ST, Bellevue 98005) less than 2 years years ago. Do I need to take some action at this time in response to this regulation?
Great question, thank you for purchasing a water heater from us. There is nothing you will need to do in response to the regulation at this time. This change is only on water heaters that are produced after April 2015 so it affects the next water heater that you buy. If you have a standard tank and it’s less than 2 years old, we’ll see you down the road, years from now. Just to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with your tank, there will be a slight increase in efficiency in future tanks.
Peter, thanks for asking. For some reason our reply didn’t get saved here so we’re trying again. No there is no action required. When you go to replace your tank many years from now, you will need to buy and fit that new tank into your home. Given how new your tank it, there’s no telling what tanks will look like 8-10 years from now when you have to replace it. Regards, WES