The Big Changes Coming to Water Heater Standards

The Big Changes Coming to Water Heater Standards

Replacing an apartment water heater that is already a tight fit may pose a big challenge for properties starting next year.

With the addition of more insulation, residential water heaters are expected to grow to meet National Appliance Energy Conservation Act of 1987 efficiency mandates that go into effect April 16, 2015. Water heater manufacturers are tasked with improving efficiency ratings – by almost double on some sizes – to maintain water temperature and conserve energy. All residential electric and gas water heaters and brands produced in the U.S. will be affected, and manufacturers won’t be able to even produce non-compliant product after April 15. Although existing inventory could potentially be available for several months into 2015, the day will come when apartments will have to replace current models with bigger ones.

Apartments may be most impacted by changes in the popular 40-gallon electric low-boy model. The stubby water heaters are designed to fit in small, out-of-the-way spaces to maximize floor plans and are expected to grow in diameter, but maintain their height of 30-34 inches, depending on capacity size. For standard or low-boy units, a replacement a few years down the line may not fit and require potentially costly space modifications.

New regulations won’t affect new production of gas water heaters as drastically, since product meeting the new efficiency standards is already in use today. However, there are similar concerns because even though larger capacity models won’t grow in size, the 30- to 50-gallon models will. It’s not all about size, either. Many properties that have not built for zero-clearance may have enough space allocated to absorb the larger sizes. But with newer technology to improve water heating efficiencies comes added expense and that’s going to impact the bottom line.

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