The Department of Energy has enforced energy efficiency standards for water heaters since 1990 in an effort to curb energy waste through regulation. According to the DOE, the initial set of regulations is expected to cut nationwide energy bills by almost $35 billion from 1990-2019. Water heater efficiency has remained a priority for the Department of Energy over the past 25 years – the agency updated efficiency standards for the appliances in 2004 and a brand new set of rules is slated for April of this year. The government's stricter standards are expected to have a big impact on how hot water heaters are designed, installed and maintained, reducing energy bills nationwide by $64 billion from 2015-2044. Reviewing these updated requirements will help homeowners and installers alike know what to expect when the DOE's latest mandate becomes the law.
"The government's stricter standards for water heaters are expected to reduce energy bills nationwide by $64 billion from 2015-2044."
Stricter requirements demand new designs
The Department of Energy's most recent efficiency mandate requires nearly all water heaters companies to improve the energy factor rating of their products. One of the easiest ways for manufacturers to accomplish this task is by adding insulation to reservoir water tanks, slowing the heat loss that makes traditional water heaters so inefficient in the first place. Unfortunately, adding this extra insulation presents a new design challenge for manufacturers. Water heater authority Chip Cochran explained to KPRC Houston that these upgrades would make standard water heaters longer, larger and less likely to fit into small spaces.
In addition to new insulation, water heaters designed after the April 2015 deadline may also require the use of heat pump technology to achieve the required efficiency standards. For larger tanks over 55 gallons, manufacturers may even need have to add condensing technology to the design of home water heaters. These changes will require contractors and consumers to do a little research in finding a water heating solution that fits their needs.
Considerations for consumers and contractors
Both families who benefit from efficient water heater performance and professionals who install water heaters have much to consider in regards to these new standards and how they will impact their daily life. With water heaters increasing in size, homeowners may find that their home has no room for a wider, longer appliances in 2015. Families may even have to consider making small remodels to their existing homes if their old hot water heater fails and they are in need of an updated model with an extended diameter. In lieu of installing an even larger water heater, homeowners may opt instead for smaller, more compact appliances.
Contractors and professional installers will have to work around these mandated changes to water heater design as well. The size increase alone creates multiple barriers for plumbing pros – after 2015, water heaters will become more difficult to transport, install and store. What was once a one-person installation job may now require the effort of two employees, and this added weight could have a big impact on how a company is forced to operate. Like consumers, contractors may begin to consider the advantages of water heating solutions that are already designed to deliver industry-leading performance in a small package.
Going tankless offers alternative to uncertainty
Tankless water heaters, designed to be just a tenth of the size of standard water heaters, offer an ideal alternative to bigger, bulkier reservoirs. High-end water heaters already boast heating efficiency of 99 percent, so their designs will be minimally impacted by the DOE's latest mandate. Going tankless offers homeowners and contractors the option of adding square-footage to a home as opposed to subtracting that space.
This size advantage comes in handy beyond installation – compact design makes it easier to be installed throughout a facility, targeting areas where water is consumed most often. In fact, experts from the National Association of Home Builders noted how using multiple water heaters at point-of-use locations is an effective strategy for improving the efficiency a water heating system. Because tankless models can heat on-demand instead of storing water in a tank, this strategy maximizes the benefits of only generating as much hot water as a user actually needs.