energy standards for water heaters may cost you the next
time you have to replace yours.
a silver lining, though: For most people, the water
heaters should save enough in energy costs to more than
make up the price difference. And the Earth will benefit
from reduced demands on energy resources and lower
greenhouse gas emissions, supporters of the new
most tank heaters, manufacturers will be able to meet
the new standards with some fairly small modifications.
With larger heaters, however, technologies will be
required that could increase the cost of a water heater
by hundreds of dollars. And the changes might complicate
some installations, hiking the cost even more.
new standards were set by the federal government in an
effort to make water heaters more efficient in their
energy use. Itís not a new phenomenon: Ever since the
National Appliance Energy Conservation Act was enacted
in 1987, the government has set minimum efficiency
standards for common household appliances and has
periodically raised those standards to drive
improvements. Those standards have cut energy use by
refrigerators, clothes washers, air conditioners and
other products as well as water heaters.
newest water heater standards, which take effect in
mid-April, mean most newly manufactured gas, oil and
electric tank heaters will have to use less energy than
before to heat the same amount of water. Tankless water
heaters are subject to the new standards, too, but most
already meet them.
bottom line is that the next time you buy a water
heater, youíll probably have to pay more upfront, even
though you may save in the long run. Just how much youíll
pay, however, is hard to say.
most popular types of water heaters ó 40-gallon gas
water heaters and 50-gallon gas and electric models ó
will see the least change, said Chuck White, vice
president of technical and code services for the
Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association. For
those heaters, manufacturers can probably meet the new
standards by adding insulation, tweaking combustion or
both, he said.
U.S. Energy Department figures the new standards will
raise the cost of buying and installing a 40-gallon gas
water heater by $92 and a 50-gallon electric heater by
$120, on average. It says consumers should recoup that
extra cost in energy savings in an average of two years
and 2.3 years, respectively.
department did not provide similar estimates for a
50-gallon gas heater.
said the changes will probably make those types of water
heaters a couple of inches wider or taller, or possibly
increase both dimensions.
size difference wonít be a problem for most consumers.
But if a heater is installed in a tight spot, such as a
small utility closet, there might not be enough space to
accommodate a bigger model, said Mike Foraker, president
of Jennings Heating & Cooling Co. in Akron, Ohio.
Foraker said that could require structural or venting
changes or moving the water heater to a different place,
and that would most likely involve added expense.
DiMascio, however, doubts that will be a big issue.
DiMascio is outreach director for the Appliance
Standards Awareness Project, a coalition that advocates
for energy- and water-saving appliance standards. She
noted in an article for the political website The Hill
that plenty of choices are available in water heaters,
so installers should be able to find one to fit a tight
changes will be more significant with water heaters that
hold more than 55 gallons. Theyíll have to meet higher
efficiency marks than the smaller tanks.
gas water heaters are expected to use condensing
technology, which captures water vapor from exhaust
gases and uses it to help heat the water. Larger
electric heaters are expected to use heat pump
technology, which essentially refrigerates the space
around the heater to absorb heat from the air and use it
to warm the water, White said.
forms of technology come at a price. The Energy
Department estimates the changes will increase the
installed cost of large gas heaters by $805 and large
electric heaters by $974, on average. It says payback
will take an average of 9.8 years and six years,
as with the smaller heaters, there could be
complications. For example, heat pump water heaters
require a certain amount of air space around them, White
said. One manufacturer, he said, requires a space thatís
at least 10 by 10 feet and 8 feet high.
types will require a place for condensate to drain. That
could create an expense if thereís not already a drain
nearby, White said.
said other costs could be involved in installing the new
water heaters. Many are expected to have electronic
igniters instead of pilot lights and could require an
electrical outlet, he said. Heaters probably will have
more parts, he said, requiring more frequent
maintenance. And existing vents might not match up with
new, taller heaters.
said the change is prompting some customers to replace
aging water heaters now, before the new standards take
effect. Even after the deadline, youíll still be able
to buy water heaters manufactured under the old
standards, but only as long as the supply holds out.
of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project thinks
fears of price increases are misplaced, however. She
said water heater prices should come down as the new
technologies become more common.
the Energy Departmentís predictions are probably high,
DiMascio said. She said the last time the department
raised water heater standards, it overestimated costs by
and DiMascio said the energy-saving and environmental
benefits of the new standards are significant. Water
heating accounts for 18 percent of the typical householdís
energy costs, DiMascio said, so making heaters more
efficient can have a real impact on energy bills.
does have science behind it," White said. "Itís
not just a marketing ploy."
New energy-efficiency standards for water heaters
For decades, the government has periodically tightened
standards on water heaters and about two dozen other
types of appliances and household goods to cut energy
use and greenhouse gas emissions.
is affected: Manufacturers only. Consumers will not have
to replace non-conforming water heaters.
results: The changes will cut $63 billion in energy
costs over 30 years and 316.8 million metric tons of
greenhouses gases, according to the Energy Department.