New water heater efficiency standard might drive up price tag and size

By: Sarah Wojcik | C&G Newspapers | Published April 15, 2015

METRO DETROIT — Starting April 16, water heater manufacturers must comply with mandatory new standards issued by the U.S. Department of Energy geared toward conserving energy.


The new water heaters will be larger in size, due to increased insulation, and will have more expensive price tags, but they will save more energy.


The new standards will save approximately 3.3 quads of energy, result in approximately $63 billion in energy savings, and avoid about 172.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions — equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of about 33.8 million automobiles — for residential water heaters shipped from 2015-2044, according to the Department of Energy website.


“Some manufacturers said the tanks are going to be wider and taller and are going to cost considerably more,” said Dan Turowski, co-owner of Aladdin Heating and Cooling, which has locations in Warren and Lake Orion. “One manufacturer told me (the cost would) be 25 percent more, and that does not include the installation costs.”


There could be complications when installing the new hot water heaters.


“The big thing for us, beyond the price increases, is concern for our customers,” Turowski said. “A lot of water heaters in a lot of situations are put in little spaces. The new-style tanks may not fit in the old space when the (old) tank fails.”


He anticipates higher installation costs based on the chance that the larger appliances will take longer to install or have to be relocated and require reconfigured piping.


“A tank has a typical lifespan of 10-12 years. We see some tanks last longer and very few last less than that,” Turowski said. “If (water heater consumers) have a tight space, or if they want to not spend a lot more money a year from now when the tank (might need to be replaced), I would go out and get a water heater now.”


The cost savings of the more efficient new tanks, he said, might balance out over the course of a tank’s lifespan. Turowski said hot water tanks are the primary consumers of gas in most homes.


“Most people’s bills that I see are between $35 and $45 a month. A large percentage is the monthly fees energy companies charge, and the actual gas is about $10-$15 per month,” he said.


Mike Sheldon, owner of Michigan Supreme Heating and Cooling in Roseville, said the new models are not out yet, and businesses can sell the older models until they are out of stock.


“From what I’m told, not even my suppliers know (the new models’ prices) at this time, but the price per (tank will be approximately $100 more), and the tank will be 2 inches taller and 2 inches wider,” Sheldon said.


He said he experienced a new standard of water heaters about 10 years ago and that it went smoothly. The only issue he anticipates this time around, he said, is structural challenges due to thicker insulation.


“The (tanks) are going to look exactly the same,” Sheldon said. “What’s different is the insulation filling is going to be thicker. It’s a foam filing, like foam spray in a can.”


Sheldon said his workers have been busy installing water heaters lately due to demand caused by the new federal guidelines on water heaters.


For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s website at www.energy.gov.