New Water Heater standards in 2016 - buying before then may be a good idea
On April 16, 2015, there will be significant changes to the water heater Energy Factor (EF) requirements as a result of updates to the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA). These new standards will require higher efficiency ratings for virtually all gas, electric, oil, and tankless water heaters.
As of April 16, 2015, manufacturers can no longer produce units that do not meet the new standards. However, you will still be able to buy and install existing products before they are all sold.
What you need to know about water heaters built to the new standards:
They will be larger and heavier. Typically around 2 inches wider and 1.5 to 2 inches taller. If your current water heater is in a tight location the new model may not fit.
All gas water heaters will need 120V electric supply, a condensate drain or pump, and combustion air. You may have to install an electrical outlet and add venting for air to get to the heater. You will have to install drainage for condensate, similar to the condensate drain or condensate pump on your air conditioner.
All electric water heaters 55 gallon or larger will require a combustion air for their heat pump and may not operate properly in confined spaces like utility closets.
They will all be more expensive.
So, what should you do today or when buying your new home?
Remember that the new water heaters are much more efficient and will have lower operating costs, but......
If your current water heater is close to its typical service life of 8 - 12 years OR if the installation issues with the new models will cause problems, it might be a good time to buy and install a new heater while the current models are still available.
If the water heater in the home you are buying is close to its typical service life of 8 - 12 years OR if installation requirements for the new models will cause problems, it may be a good time to buy and install a new heater while the current models are still available.
For an 'inside baseball' view of this major change, the PHCC primer on New Water Heater Efficiency Standards has all the details.