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It’s been more than a decade since the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) upgraded water heater standards, and their most recent revision to their minimum energy efficiency requirements change in mid-April 2015. According to the DOE, water heating falls second in line after cooling and heating homes. The DOE projects that the new standards will reduce energy consumption by $63 billion from 2015 to 2044. The carbon reduction is equal to removing 33.8 million cars from the roads and highways. The reduced energy usage will also help you save money on energy costs.

Effects of New Standards

water heater standardsWater heater size will increase to reach the mandatory efficiency rating for storage tank water heaters, called the efficiency factor (EF). The efficiency gains will be made largely by extra insulation to lower the standby losses that reduce the efficiency of storage tank heaters. Such a water heater holds water at the same temperature 24/7. Heat is constantly looking for cooler temperatures and as the water sits in the tank, heat leaves, making the water heater turn on intermittently.

Water heaters that hold over 55 gallons use different technology to accomplish the heating and require unique venting.

  • Electric units – Instead of using electric heating elements as many standard water heaters do, anything over 55 gallons has to use heat pump technology under the new water heater standards. Heat pumps extract heat from the air and offer far more efficiency than a conventional water heater.
  • A heat pump water heater –can create at least twice the heat per unit of energy it uses, as opposed to the more typical water heater that uses a resistance coil, like a stove burner, which creates only one unit of heat for each unit of electricity consumed. The minimum EF for a basic heat pump water heater is 2.057, compared to the EF for an equivalent size of 0.97. In terms of efficiency, higher is always better.
  • Gas- and oil-fueled water heaters – Water heaters over 55 gallons will use upgraded technology that extracts nearly all the heat that the fuel creates to heat the water as opposed to going up the vent as exhaust gases. These condensing water heaters use a second heat exchanger that exhaust gases pass over. Instead of wasting the heat in these gases, the second heat exchanger will remove the heat, put it into heating water, and drain away the condensation that results.

How the New Standards Affect You

The new water heater standards will increase the cost of water heaters, especially if you need a tank over 55 gallons. The venting requirements for 55-gallon gas or oil water heaters may also increase the installation costs, since doing so may require structural changes to your home. A heat pump water heater may also require changes to your home for air intake and venting.

Water heaters less than 55 gallons will increase in size by two inches or more in height and in diameter as well. In addition, they’ll require at least three inches of free space around all sides. If your current water heater sits in a closet or a utility room, you may need to alter it in order to accommodate the new unit. Electric water heaters under 55 gallons do not require venting and their receptacles will remain the same.


Water heaters last from 10 to 12 years. You can prolong your water heater’s life by maintaining it regularly. Hard water deposits collect at the bottom of the tank, and those should be flushed several times a year by draining a few quarts of water. Replacing the anode rods and turning the temperature down to 120 degrees also prolongs water heater life.

If you find that the new water heater standards will require a good deal of renovation and on-demand or tankless water heating is suitable for your home and family’s lifestyle, these models offer an alternative. The efficiency standards for tankless heaters did increase, but these appliances require far less space than storage tank and may provide a viable solution to when space is limited or renovation costs are prohibitive. However, if you have adequate space and need to replace the water heater, the new standards will help you cut your energy costs.

Learn more about the new water heater standards and Griffith Energy Services’ water heater options, or give us a call at 888-474-3391.

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