In 1987, the United States Congress approved the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA). This act regulated the energy consumption of household appliances by establishing minimum energy efficiency standards. As technology has evolved, Congress has made changes to these standards twice, in 1992 and 2005. Among other things, these amendments set up a schedule for the United States Department of Energy to review the efficiency standards for a variety of household appliances. We will soon see the results of this review as it applies to hot water heaters.
On April 16, 2015, new energy efficiency standards will go into effect for all hot water heaters produced from that day forward. The new hot water tanks have been mandated to be 3-30% more efficient than current models. The larger the hot water tank, the greater the efficiency is required to be.
These new regulations do not mean that you, the consumer, must change out your current water heater for a newer, more energy efficient model right away. You may even continue to purchase and install water heaters made prior to April 16, 2015, as long as they remain available. However, it does mean that when it is time to replace your water heater in the future, your options will be different. Manufacturers will be adding additional insulation to the tanks, meaning they will be larger in height and width, as well as slightly more expensive than before. If your hot water heater is currently located in a small, tight area in your home, the newer heaters may not fit comfortably into that same location.
The average water heater tank lasts approximately 8 years, so you likely have some time before you have to make a decision regarding your next one. One recommendation to consider in the meantime is upgrading to a tankless water heater. With these models, your water is heated on demand when you turn on the tap, rather than being pre-heated and stored in a tank. Tankless water heaters can last up to twice as long as a standard hot water heater, and can reduce the cost of heating the water in your home by up to 30%.