New efficiency regulations for water heaters, courtesy of the the U.S. Department of Energy, will take effect on April 16 of this year. While vendors will still be able to sell out their stock of legacy models, soon only compliant water heaters will be available to consumers and contractors. As a result, homeowners will be left with the choice of replacing their water heater with a compliant upgrade from the same brand or taking a completely new approach to heating their home.
By going tankless, homeowners can essentially circumvent the hassles and inconveniences that might come with investing in a new, DOE compliant tank-style heater. This overview of the new water heater choices facing homeowners demonstrates why there's no better time to ditch the tank.
Heater tanks grow while tankless stays the same
Most tank-style heaters will see a size increase following April 16 to accommodate insulation and efficiency technology added to help the appliance meet DOE compliance. Stricter energy factor requirements won't impact several high-end tankless water heaters currently on the market, which already deliver 99 percent thermal efficiency.
As a result, homeowners will have the choice between a highly compact tankless model and an even larger traditional heater – given that the space requirements for water heaters are about to see an increase, installing tank-style models may incur extra labor costs to fit the appliance inside the home. Going tankless could also help homeowner recover a bit of floor space as tankless models are small enough to be mounted on a wall.
Cost difference is a much smaller issue
In the past, the main selling point of standard tank water heaters was their price. However, the new DOE regulations will require water heaters to be equipped with condensing and heat pump accessories, driving up costs for the consumers.
With a shrinking gap between the cost of going tankless and tank-style water heaters, homeowners will have to compare the value of increasingly expensive tank-style heaters and models that have met compliance for years, deliver superior efficiency by heating water on-demand and are small enough to fit inside the home without the need for additional renovations.
The extra complexity and added weight of larger, more advanced tank-style heaters will undoubtedly lead to extra labor costs for consumers as well. This is especially true if contractors are required to send additional employees to install each water heater. This is another factor that favors going tankless, as experienced electric water heater specialists won't have to make any adjustments to their installation process.
"Nearly half of contractors and engineers admitted that they needed greater education about the full impacts of the new regulations."
Contractors need time to unpack new rules
Supply House Times, the publication of the American Supply Association, emphasized the need for greater education among contractors about the details of installing and servicing compliant water heaters. Several industry publications including Supply House Times polled industry readership, predominantly professional plumbing contractors and engineers, about their readiness for the new regulations.
Nearly half, 46 percent, of contractors and 50 percent of responding engineers admitted that they are in need of greater education about the full impacts of the new regulations. Likewise a poll held by Reeves Journal, a trade magazine for contractors in 14 Western states, showed that 75 percent of professionals need more updates about the DOE's new rules. With uncertainty still rampant in the industry, going tankless provides consumers with a means of avoiding the confusion that inevitably comes with compliance adjustments. Choosing a trusted tankless model allows homeowners to avoid any defects and product recalls that may occur as a result of tank-style manufacturers having to redesign their appliances.