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  U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) rules will take effect on April 16, 2015. They require higher energy factors (EF) rating on virtually all residential water heating products including gas-fired, electric, tabletop, instantaneous gas fired and instantaneous electric. Tankless systems already exceed these EF requirements, and all other water heating products manufactured before the DOE mandates take effect can still be bought and installed after the changeover date.

  While all affected models will see an increase in the EF requirements, the most dramatic changes are in the larger capacity models. That's because the only technologies that now meet the EF requirements over 55 gallons are electric heat pump water heaters and high-efficiency condensing goal water heaters.

  Residential Market. Achieving a higher EF rating often means adding more insulation to the tank, making it larger and thicker and more insulating may be required for piping and fitting. Therefore, a larger post-April 2015 water heater might not fit into the same space as the current model, posing a challenge when a replacement is necessary. Condensing gas water heaters are usually significantly heavier then standard models. They may also require flue dampers or electronic ignition. Oil-fired products may also need extra insulation as well as flue dampers or new combustion systems.

  Many installations that were  once a one-person job may now require two people. As water heaters get larger and heavier, they prove to be too awkward to handle by one person, especially when talking about those models over 55 gallons.  Service trucks may also need touching up to accommodate transporting the taller, wider and heavier equipment. Because gas water heaters also have electronic control systems and require 120-volt service, contractors may need to purchase multimeters foe smooth installations as well as trouble-shooting. They may also need to price on the additional time and components, including venting materials and condensation pumps when pricing new or replacement jobs.

  The Impact on Homeowners. The new EF mandate means that homeowners will likely face increased product and installation costs for replacement water heater that complies with the 2015 efficiency standards. How much more will depend on the type and size of water heater they require to meet their needs. In some cases, homeowners may incur additional expenses for the installation of equipment that physically larger or uses a different technology than the old unit they are replacing. Many attic openings will not accommodate the new heaters, requiring installation in another area.

  While the operating cost of the water heaters will be less because of the their increased energy efficiency, it is likely that the maintenance costs will increase because of a more sophisticated design and the integration of electronics, blowers, fans, condensers, or other components. Another drawback is that a new water heater is likely to have lower hot water deliverability than prior models. A model with less input may be required to achieve  the higher efficiency, which will ultimately result in less hot water delivered.

  On the positive side, homeowners will see the savings for the new technology that can offset some of the product and installation costs. Homeowners who purchase highly efficient condensing gas or heat pump electric water heaters can anticipate average savings ranging from $60 for natural gas and more that $300 for electric. Electric heat pump water heaters may also provide some welcome supplement cooling and dehumidification resulting from the heat pump system. Actual savings realized vary depending on the actual hot water use and local energy costs.

  Homeowners can make additional lifestyle changes that will further impact their water use and utility bills. For example, they can install low-flow water saving fixtures and upgrade appliances like dishwashers and cloths washers to ENERGY STAR qualified products.


By: Gill Edwards    

  
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