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New Federal Requirements for Water Heaters Are Here.
Reducing energy consumption is vital to the long-term health of our planet, and a higher efficiency water heater will likely save you money over the lifetime of the unit. That said, new federal regulations (effective April 16, 2015) may impact you in the here and now.

What exactly are the new standards for water heaters? In short, they’re complicated. Ultimately, they require units to be more energy efficient. You can delve into the new rules at the Department of Energy’s Residential Water Heaters page if you’d like… or you can take my word for it and read on to see how these regulations directly impact you!

What Makes Upgrading So Expensive?

The Water Heater Itself: While it varies greatly by make and model, the higher efficiency water heaters cost anywhere from $200 to $950 more than current models. According to the National Association of Home Builders, a 60-gallon gas water heater currently costs $675 to $1,500. They estimate that the new high efficiency models will cost anywhere from $1,200 to $2,450.

Modifications: A typical high efficiency water heater is about 2 inches larger in circumference and about 1-2 inches taller than the older models. The extra space accommodates greater insulation, which allows for better heat retention—just as an insulated coffee cup keeps your drink hot longer. The size difference may impact you in several ways:

  • If the current water heater is located in a closet or another tight space, homeowners may have to do some construction to get the new unit to fit. In extreme cases, it may even require moving the new water heater to a different location. The amount of construction necessary could greatly increase the cost of installation.
  • The larger size will likely require modifications to plumbing (inbound and outbound pipes), vents and flues, and gas and electrical lines. The number of modifications necessary will depend on your  unique situation; however, modifications could increase installation costs anywhere from about $150 to $1,000 or more.
  • It’s also possible that homeowners may have to pay to correct code violations when installing a larger water heater. For example, most states require earthquake straps and stands that lift the water heater 18 inches above the ground. A larger unit may prevent homeowners from reusing existing straps and stands.