What do new efficiency standards for electric water heaters mean for homeowners?

As of April 16, 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy put into effect new energy efficiency standards for electric water heaters. These kinds of updates happen as technology improves, but they can also lead to confusion. So let’s break down the changes and take a look at what it all means for you.

How have the standards changed?
For 95% of our members, the standards have changed pretty modestly. That’s because units smaller than 55 gallons—by far the most common—are seeing efficiency improvements of only 1 to 5 percent. But even these small improvements will mean savings on your energy bills.

Do homeowners have to go out and buy a new model?
Nope! While new water heaters are required to be more efficient, you don’t have to ditch the old one until you’re ready—whether that’s because your current water heater goes kaput or you’re just itching to upgrade.

What about the size of the new electric water heaters?
Units up to 55 gallons might be a couple inches wider and/or taller than what you currently have, but with some small tweaks to the plumbing they should fit in just fine.

Are the new models going to be more expensive?
Right now, that seems pretty likely. We don’t have a full picture yet of how prices are going to change, but all signs point to some moderate price increases on electric water heaters for models up to 55 gallons in size.

What about bigger water heaters?
While very few of our members have an electric water heater larger than 55 gallons, it’s worth noting how the new standards affect units for the 5% that do. For one thing, these units are held to a much higher standard. The new standard for a 65-gallon unit, for example, is 198% efficiency, up from 88%.

That huge leap is accomplished by new technology called a “heat pump water heater,” which is now mandatory for high volume units. These units could take up more room and may come with new plumbing requirements.

But what about price? When these units first hit they market, they were a lot more expensive than traditional models. Then prices dropped, and that trend continues today. When you factor in rebates, the final price gets pretty close to a regular tank water heater.

Aren’t there rebates for this kind of thing?
There sure are! Through POWER MOVES, you may be eligible for rebates when you upgrade to a more energy efficient electric water heater. Learn more here.

Still have questions?
Still feeling unsure about what these new standards mean for you? Contact your Energy Advisor today, or keep him or her in mind when the time to upgrade arrives.