In case you haven’t heard, new federal mandates going into effect on April 16, 2015 are forcing water heater manufacturers to make water heaters (the kind with a water tank) a lot more efficient. For the most part, they will be smarter, safer and better insulated. But the rest of the story may impact some homeowners in some inconvenient ways. This is especially true if your utility closet is already cramped. A new water heater of the same capacity may have a larger physical footprint (to accommodate that extra insulation) than the unit that currently occupies the space in your house. A replacement water heater may no longer fit inside that space and could require a build out and other modifications to make it work.
Additionally, gas models may require more advanced chimneys (flues) and plumbing. They will incorporate electronic ignition instead of the old standard pilot flames. Electric water heaters will also be larger in diameter and/or height to account for the extra insulation needed to make them more energy efficient. Many models will now have integrated heat pumps in order to meet the new Department of Energy guidelines. One other change that may affect you is cost. Expect newer high-efficiency models to be almost twice as expensive!
The new complexities of water heater standards will make it much more difficult for the do-it-yourselfer to install the new water heater models and still remain in compliance with the new codes. So choosing a trained professional plumber to install a water heater will be more crucial than ever before. If all of these changes sound alarming to you because your current water heater barely fits into its current location, act fast because older models will still be in stores until current inventories sell out. Manufacturers were required to make the changes on production lines beginning April 1, 2015, so if the prospect of cramming a larger water heater into your small space scares you, why not purchase an existing model and store it until you need it. Or if your water heater is getting close to the end of its lifespan (the average is 11 years), it might make sense to replace your old water heater now.