On April 16, 2015, new water heater efficiency standards from the U.S. Department of Energy went into effect under the updated National Appliance Energy Conservation Act. The regulation requires higher efficiency ratings, as measured by Energy Factor, on all water heaters built as of that date. (An electric water heater with a .95 Energy Factor, for example, converts 95 percent of the energy used into hot water.) Any water heaters manufactured before that date can be sold until supplies are exhausted.
For tank-style water heaters of 20 to 50 gallons, manufacturers have changed their designs so the units contain more insulation. This makes them larger – about 2 inches or more in diameter and 2 inches or greater in height. So, installing one of these water heaters won’t be a problem if it goes in a basement, but if it’s tucked away in a closet or alcove, you might have to choose one with a smaller capacity to fit the available space.
The new standards are much more stringent for electric water heaters that have a greater than 55-gallon capacity. Hybrid or heat pump units have replaced many of the larger tank-style water heaters – and manufacturers are working on new products for use with demand-response programs. Of course, prices have increased too, along with the promise of lower operating costs during the lifetime of the new water heaters.
The bottom line? Buying a water heater used to be a pretty simple process, but whether you’re replacing an old tank or choosing one for a new home, it’s important now to carefully analyze your family’s needs and evaluate the options in the marketplace. Be sure to contact the energy experts at your local electric cooperative for more information and the latest details on rebates and other incentives too.