DOE Regulations increase energy efficiency for Residential Water Heaters, but will also mean higher costs and concerns for homeowners with two-story houses
Since 1990, manufacturers have been required to comply with the Department of Energy (DOE) energy conservation standards for residential water heaters. In 2010, the DOE announced mandatory standards changes to be in effect by April 16, 2015. As a result, prices will be up to 50% higher for new units according to manufactures, and larger sizes will cause problems for homeowners with water heaters in the attic.
Benefits According to the DOE:
Changes to Residential Water Heaters will save approximately 3.3 quads of energy and result in approximately $63 billion in energy bill savings for products shipped from 2015-2044. The standard will avoid about 172.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of about 33.8 million automobiles.
Houston Homeowner Concerns:
According to Alan O’Neill, CEO of Abacus Plumbing, Air Conditioning & Electrical in Houston, Texas, “The changes, while beneficial in energy efficiency, will simply cost homeowners more in upfront costs.“
“Besides higher prices,” O’Neill continues, “there’s also the very real potential for significant costs associated with plumbing or construction modifications if a homeowner’s water heater is in the attic.”
Until now, most water heaters fit through the attic opening without a problem. But adding two extra inches to the width and height will make it very difficult, if not impossible to get a new DOE approved 40-50 gallon tank into the attic, which in Houston, is the most common place for two story homes. So homeowners with water heaters in the attic will be faced with four basic options when it comes time to replace their water heater:
- Replace the water heater with a smaller unit
- Modify the width of the attic opening
- Relocate the water heater from the attic to the garage or other location in home
- Convert to a tankless water heater
Homeowners who are concerned about increased prices and possible construction modification issues, and who know they should replace their water heater within the next year, should do it quickly before all current models are no longer available, and the only option will be to purchase the newer models. Manufactures have already stopped producing the older models in order to be in full compliance by April 16, 2015 deadline.
Homeowners should request assistance from a local, licensed plumber to help determine the best solutions and options for their home.