Water heaters manufactured after that date will need to meet new federal standards for increased energy efficiency. Not that you have to think much about that. After all, the folks who make water heaters have been thinking long and hard about that. They’ve been thinking about it since 1987, when the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA) was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.
What you may need to think about is will a new water heater fit your budget and will it fit the space occupied by your old water heater. Expect the new units to be more expensive and larger. In some cases, a lot more expensive and quite a bit larger.
Gas and electric water heaters with storage capacity of 55-gallons or less will grow larger to accommodate additional insulation. Those with a greater storage capacity will grow in size even more to accommodate new technologies – heat pump technology for electric water heaters and condensing technology for gas.
In addition to the increased cost of the water heater itself, there may be some less obvious costs involved. The new units will be heavier, costing more to transport and possibly requiring an extra hand to install. Some gas models will have an electronic ignition in lieu of a standing pilot and will require an electrical connection where none was needed in the past. Some will require a different vent configuration and/or a means of condensate disposal. Where an existing water heater fits in a tight space, some substantial remodeling may be required to accommodate a new larger unit or you may need to consider one with a smaller storage capacity or a different energy source. Tankless water heaters may be an option for some.
Of course, the news isn’t all bad. The increased cost of installation will be offset by anticipated savings in energy costs and a cleaner environment. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that these standards will result in about $63 billion in energy savings for consumers for products shipped from 2015 through 2044 and eliminate about 172.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions,equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of about 33.8 million automobiles.
We don’t all need to run out and buy new water heaters. The NAECA regulation effective date applies only to the manufacture of new water heaters and does not require that any of us replace a working unit. Models built before the effective date will be available for purchase until the supply runs out.
*The Rheem and Ruud links include a video set to a catchy tune.