Water Heater Regulations Have Changed– Here’s How It Impacts You

In 2010, the US Department of Energy (DOE) revised some of the regulations in the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA). One major reason for changes was to improve the standards for energy efficiency as it relates to water heaters and other manufactured products. In April of 2015, those revisions took effect and will be the guideline for all water heater manufacturers going forward.

While these changes are a big deal, the DOE has actually been beefing up efforts to improve energy efficiency since 1990. According to the DOE website, the regulations enacted in 1990 will “result in approximately $34.8 billion in energy bill savings. [A later update from 2004 will] result in approximately $70.6 billion in energy bill savings [and the most recent updates will] result in approximately $63 billion in energy bill savings [and ] will avoid about 172.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.” (Dept. of Energy)

What Does That Mean For You?

According to AO Smith, water heaters will be larger. The new regulation will require manufacturers to produce water heaters with new size requirements in order to achieve optimal efficiency. Units with the same capacity will be larger in size and will require more space in your home to install.

For units under 55 gallons, you’ll need three extra inches all the way around to install the new unit. The unit, itself, will be two inches taller and 2 inches wider in diameter. So, if your current water heater is in a tight space, like a closet or alcove, you will want to consider the space before upgrading. If your unit is in a garage or basement, it will probably be okay (but you should still make sure!).


Units over 55 gallons will see the most significant changes. Updating a water heater this size will likely require a lot more space and possibly switching over to a whole new model altogether (some older models will be discontinued). For residential water heaters, electric models must have hybrid electric heat pumps and gas models must be the condensing water design.


REBATE AVAILABLE: If you live in Charlottesville, you may be eligible for a $200 rebate on a new tankless water heater. Download this offer from the City of Charlottesville Public Utilities for complete details.


Other Ways The Changes Might Impact You

  • If you were considering a new unit before, but updating didn’t make sense, you may want to reconsider because the efficiency of new models may make it worth the change
  • Know that distributors and retailers can still sell models with old standards. It’s important to check whether or not the model you’re buying was made under the old standards or new, and what will be best for your home.

If you’re interested in upgrading to a new, more efficient water heater or you’re building a new home and want to make sure you get the water heater that works best for you, contact Robinson’s Plumbing at 804-794-0918.


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