Go Buy a Water Heater...NOW!
Ok, so that is a little dramatic, but allow me to explain.
Recent energy efficiency mandates from the U.S. Department of Energy will soon change the water heater industry. These mandates are set to take place April 16, 2015. The mandates will of course require higher energy factor ratings (EF Ratings) on just about all water heating units (tankless units systems already exceed these EF ratings).
The good news however, is that all water heating products manufactured before the mandates take effect, can still be purchased and installed. How long the supply of these will last is anybody’s guess.
Significant changes are in store for high capacity units. Electric heat pump water heaters and high efficiency condensing gas water heaters appear to be the only technologies existing at this time that meet the EF requirements for units over 55 gallons. Aside from tankless technology (which meets / exceeds the EF requirements) some of the products that comply with the requirements may not even be on the market yet.
As these newer products arrive on the market, they are likely to be larger and weigh considerably more, making for some installation challenges. In other words, if you have an 60 gallon tank in your home, a new unit may not fit in the same space. For gas fired units, changes would likely be required for venting, condensate drainage, and the size of your existing space may be too small in terms of air supply.
Homeowners will likely be impacted with higher installation and product costs, however the operating costs for the unit are likely to be lower. Don’t get too excited though, because maintenance costs are likely to be more, due to the more complex nature of the new units.
The electric water heaters we are all accustomed to (electric resistance water heaters) will likely be a thing of the past, for capacities over 55 gallons. It appears that only electric heat pump water heaters will provide the EF requirements for the higher capacities (over 55 gallons). Also the new units will typically require installation in an area of at least 1000 square feet. This may be your last opportunity to get a larger standard capacity tank , and some experts are suggesting that you may want to consider doing this. As a Home Inspector in Hilton Head, SC, most of the homes and villas I inspect will be impacted by the mandates, since most homes and villas have larger capacity standard units. One excellent source for more information for South Carolina residents would be the Electric Company Coop. You can send them an email with questions you may have at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading and Best Wishes with your water heater(s).
John M. Wickline, President
JW Home Inspections, Inc.