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Water Heater Regulations Take Effect Next Month

New residential water heater efficiency regulations take effect next month, and that means you might be in the market for a new water heater sooner than you thought! The new regulations, which were adopted more than a decade ago, will require standard gas-fired tank water heaters with capacities between 20 gallons and 50 gallons to have an efficiency factor of at least .675. Tanks between 55 gallons and 100 gallons must have an even higher efficiency factor of at least .8012.

Manufacturers of smaller residential tanks can achieve this efficiency without redesigning the tank itself, but they can do it only by increasing the insulation around the tank. The increased insulation changes the footprint of the tank. New conforming tanks will be 2″ taller and 2″ wider in diameter than the current standard tanks. This will require replumbing current water heater installations to accommodate the new tank heights and widths. It also means that if your existing water heater is enclosed snugly in a closet or cabinet, you may not be able to fit a taller, wider tank in your current space.

In addition, all new water tanks must have a pilotless electronic ignition, which means that those tanks installed after April 16, 2015 must have an electricity source to power the igniter. If your residential electrical service is already full, needing an additional breaker might require a service upgrade.

In recent posts on this blog, we have covered options for homeowners, ranging from replacing your water tank immediately (or even prematurely) to considering other water heating technologies. What is clear to us is that the Department of Energy is unlikely to extend or waive these regulations. If you would like to avoid the expenses associated with installing a conforming water tank or switching to a different water heating technology, right now is the time to make this move. In little more than a month, you will no longer have the option of installing a non-conforming water tank.

If you would like more information about the new energy regulations for residential hot water tanks, or would like to consider a different water heating technology, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 today. The sooner you contact us, the more options you will have available to you.

New Water Heater Regulations Coming in 2015

Change is constant, especially when it comes to technology and politics. In early 2015, technology and politics will meet in a very unusual place: basements and utility closets throughout the United States. New federal efficiency regulations will go into effect on April 16, 2015, and that means you’ll see some significant changes to your next new water heater.

To achieve these new efficiency standards in gas-fired water tanks that hold fewer than 55 gallons, manufacturers will increase the amount of insulation surrounding the tank. By itself, that’s not bad, but the extra insulation will increase both the diameter and the height of the tank by two inches.

In addition, the new requirements eliminate standing pilot lights. Your current water heater may or may not have a pilotless ignition system. If you don’t have a standing pilot light, you have a mechanical, spark-based ignition. Your new water heater will come equipped with an intermittent, electronic pilotless ignition system. Depending upon the tank’s size, it may also be outfitted with a mechanical damper system as part of the tank’s exhaust, both of which will require the addition of 120 V electrical service.

The addition of electronic ignition means that new gas-fired water heaters will not work during a power outage. Homeowners will need to monitor the status of their storage tanks or connect the tank circuit to a backup power supply to guard against freeze-related damage during prolonged power outages.

For storage tanks that exceed 55 gallons, the addition of a condenser unit is the most likely way to achieve the new minimum efficiency requirements. A condensing water heater will require mechanical damping at the exhaust, electrical control for both the damper and the condenser, and a drain to eliminate condensate buildup.

The design changes to a conventional water tank can cause some logistical problems during replacement. If your current water heater is a tight fit, you may not be able to replace your tank with a tank of the same size. A change in the tank footprint of two inches in diameter and the addition of two inches in height could mean the difference between fitting and not fitting a new tank into an existing utility closet. Increased tank sizes also mean re-plumbing your existing water heater connections along with adding electrical service. For tanks that exceed a 55-gallon capacity, condensation drainage may pose the biggest challenge. If your water heater does not already have easy access to a drain, adding one might be technically challenging at the least, if not impossible in some cases.

The changes also significantly increase the skill level required to replace a water heater. Because water heaters have not changed much in size or design in decades, few or no changes to existing plumbing are required to disconnect an old tank and install a new one. With the new regulations, water heater replacement will require plumbing, venting and electrical skills that likely exceed the competence of the average homeowner. In short, these new tanks aren’t your father’s water heaters.

So what options are currently available for homeowners?

In the next several postings on the blog, we’ll take a look at all of the options that are available for homeowners, and the pros and cons of each choice. In the mean time, if you need assistance with an aging water heater, please call us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 anytime. We can provide a wide range of options for all of your domestic hot water needs.