2015 Water Heater Energy Efficiency Changes

It’s almost April 16th and that means the new Department of Energy guidelines will be going into effect soon. These new guidelines were instituted as a way to reduce emissions and reduce energy usage, but they are having the unintended effect of raising the cost of water heaters and water heater installations. 

When the new guidelines were introduced, it was feared that the cost in some situations might increase dramatically. However, now that the manufacturers have actually started manufacturing the newer models, it appears that, when it comes to the standard 30, 40 and 50 gallon gas water heaters, the cost for an average installation may only increase by roughly $100. Now, that may seem like a lot, but since it was initially presumed that costs may double in some situations, a small increase like that is far more preferable. The concern initially was that the new water heaters would be considerably bigger than the previous models and require a damper on gas vented models; luckily, the manufacturers were able to make water heaters that were legal under the new guidelines but that weren’t dramatically different in size or shape.

Size Comparison Example

Type                            Current Diameter      New NECA Diameter   
40 Gallon Gas 18 20
50 Gallon Gas 20 22
40 Gallon Electric 18 20
50 Gallon Electric 20 22


One other option to consider for those who don’t have the space to fit a wider gas model water heater is to get a gas water heater with a power damper. These models are thinner and, in fact, are even more energy efficient than the new standard gas models. If this seems like an option you might consider, you should know that these models are taller than the average gas water heater, meaning they will need more space available above the water heater. These water heaters also require an electrical outlet to be located nearby as the outlet is needed to power the damper. This means that you might need to have electrical work done in addition to having a new water heater installed.

It should be noted, though, that there will be certain situations (albeit a very small percentage) where a homeowner may be faced with a very expensive water heater situation. For example, any electric water heaters over 55 gallons in size will now be required to have a heat pump. These new electric heat pump water heaters require specific air space to work properly and this may cause the homeowner to relocate the water heater or redesign their water heating system. even put in additional air venting. If that is the case, the cost to install one of these water heaters could easily cost three thousand dollars or more. This may become a problem for homeowners where electric water heaters are more common like, in Texas and espcially Arizona because there are a lot of electric water heaters that are located in small small spaces.

Electric Water Heater Change Quick Facts

  • Under 55 gallons will increase in diameter by about two inches
  • Over 55 gallons will now be a heat pump style unit
  • Heat pump units require a certain amount of air space to operate properly


For homes with electric water heaters under 55 gallons in size, the costs will not be nearly as dramatic, though there will be a cost increase. Basically, all of the residential electric water heaters in this size category are 2 inches wider. This means a 40 gallon electric water heater will now be as wide as a 50 gallon electric used to be. This may not seem like a huge increase, but for those homes where the water heater is located in an inside closet with very little extra room, this may cause some problems. In that situation, a homeowner can either get a smaller sized water heater i.e. go from a 50 gallon down to a 40 gallon water heater or they can have the water heater moved to a different location or they can increase the size of the current location. Both of these latter options could result in very costly construction being done to the home. There is one other option for homeowners who just can’t increase the size of the closet or room where the water heater is located: certain manufacturers are planning to offer a thinner version of these electric water heaters that will come with a custom-made insulation blanket, these units can be specialed ordered and will cost more, but it may be worth waiting a little longer for hot vs paying for recontructing the closet.  

5 Quick Facts About The New Water Heater Changes

  • All water heaters will be more efficient and cost less to operate
  • Gas and electric water heaters will be wider
  • Prices will increase for the new models, but not as much as first expected
  • Water heaters above 55 gallons will be affected the most
  • A small percent of units may require relocation when next replaced


Hopefully this basic information will help homeowners to better understand these new energy guidelines and the affect they may have on them. We understand it may seem a little overwhelming, so we urge you to give us a call at 866-946-7842 and we will be happy to help you decide what’s best for you and your situation. This is also why we are encouraging people who currently have electric water heaters – or who have gas water heaters that are located in very tight locations – that are over 8 years old to consider replacing their water heater now before these changes take effect.

The reason for this is that water heaters usually last 8-10 years, so if your water heater is older than 8 years, it might be getting ready to go out. If you don’t know how old your water heater is, you can always look at either your original receipt of purchase or installation or you can check the manufacturer’s sticker located on your water heater. However, please note that sometimes that information is still hard to glean because different manufacturers use different methods of dating their products. Once again, if you have any questions, please feel free to call us at 866-946-7842 and a water heater specialist will be happy to help you discover the age of your water heater. We can then even come out and take a look at your current water heater and see where it is located and further discuss your options.

For more information and calculations about the new guidelines, here is a link to the United States Department of Energy website where the energy guidelines can be found. 

By John Heaters Google + | Facebook

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