The U.S. Department of Energy's latest efficiency standards will come into effect on April 16, ushering in new water heater models as manufacturers phase out legacy models and introduce compliant designs to the market. These changes will have serious implications for contractors – installers and builders alike must become familiar with the new standards, adapt their business operations and communicate these details to customers. Reading up on the new efficiency standards and updating clients on upcoming changes sooner than later will help to ease the transition.
New standards expand tank sizes
According to the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, the Department of Energy's new water heater standards will have numerous benefits – by reducing energy consumption by 2.6 quads over the next 30 years, next-generation water heater are expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 150 metric tons and cut consumer energy costs by nearly $8 billion.
The downside? In order to meet the new constraints laid out by the DOE, manufacturers have generally had to increase the size of their products to make the more efficient. This is especially true for water heaters over 55 gallons. The largest storage tank models will need a heat pump or condenser incorporated into their design. As a result, contractors will have to rethink a long list of logistics.
Numerous considerations come with new designs
The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association pointed out several adjustments that water heater installers will have to make as they begin servicing new models. In terms of day-to-day operations, contractors will feel the effects of the new water heater designs immediately.
Larger water heaters take up more floor space in storage, could fit less easily inside company vehicles or require more than one employee to transport. Changes to any of these factors can have a huge impact on an employee's productivity, so contractors are encouraged to develop updated workflow strategies for their employees well in advance.
When it comes to installing new water heater models in residential or commercial properties, contractors face even more challenges. Installers must work around scenarios where compliant replacement water heaters are too large to fit in spaces where an older, smaller water heaters are still hooked up. Installations may also become more costly for contractors and customers alike if next-generation water heaters are too large to install without the assistance of a second employee. When two workers are required to replace a single water heater, consumers are subject to extra labor costs and contractors are unable to keep up the same rate of repairs as before.
"The largest storage tank models will need a heat pump or condenser incorporated into their design."
Compliant water heaters already available
Harvey M. Sachs, Senior Fellow at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy emphasized the Department of Energy's updates to water heater efficiency standards, which were designed to improve the Energy Factor of models across the board, also made the appliances more cost-effective than the previous standards. Sachs also mentioned that certain high-efficiency water heater models will remain unchanged by the updates, meaning that several compact water heater models are already compliant with the new standards, said Contractor. This list of model includes highly efficient tankless water heaters.
Because high-end tankless water heaters already boast 99 percent thermal efficiency, these models already exceed the minimum standards set by the new water heater regulations. This is good news for contractors who already deal in tankless water heaters or those who are looking to expand their services in light of the new efficiency standards.