New water heater rules could lower your energy bills

Looking to replace your home water heater? New federal rules governing the appliances' efficiency go into effect April 16. The results might leave you paying more at the outset for a new model -- and with a little less space in your basement – but will result in lower energy bills.

Efficiency Technology

The new heaters will be more efficient, but they will also be bigger and bulkier. That's mostly due to thicker insulation to keep water stored in the tank from cooling down as fast, saving the energy needed to reheat it. The new models will also see some upgrades in technology: Most electric models are integrating heat-pumps to meet the standards, while gas water heaters are using condensers.

Some manufacturers predict that the purchase price for new water heaters could jump by as much as 30 percent as a result of the new rules. On the other side of the balance sheet, the government expects that the standards will save consumers a total of $63 billion in utility bills over the next 30 years -- water heaters are the third biggest energy guzzler in the average house, after the heater and air conditioner, and account for about 17 percent of total household energy consumption, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The feds also claim that the regulations will prevent 172.5 million metric tons of carbon pollution, the equivalent to what 33.8 million cars emit in a year.

"These energy-conserving appliance standards are a critical part of the Administration's overall efforts to save energy in homes and businesses nationwide," former Energy Secretary Steven Chu said of the new rules. "By raising the energy efficiency requirements of our everyday appliances, we will save money for American families and companies, reduce carbon pollution, and enhance our energy security for decades to come."

Tradeoffs in Price

It’s not all good news. In addition to the increase in sticker price, contractors also worry that installation and maintenance of the new appliances will be more complicated, and therefore more expensive as well. Another concern is that the bigger models won't fit in homes that have their current water heaters tucked snugly into small rooms or closets.

You will pay more for a new water heater, but the expected energy savings will help offset the initial costs. Instant or tankless heaters are also an option. which are still more energy-efficient than even the new conventional models.

If it's not time to upgrade your water heater yet, you can still save energy by setting your current device to 120 degrees and giving it regular maintenance. Make sure you use the energy-saving settings on your dishwasher and washing machine, and don't linger in the shower.

To learn more about buying a new water heater or getting the most from your current model, call the experts at local Benjamin Franklin® today.


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