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We’re From the Government and We’re Here to Take Your Hot Showers Away February 1, 2015

Posted by geoff in News.

From the company that manages my rental property:

One of our trusted vendors made me aware of the new US Department of Energy requirement for improved energy efficiency for water heaters law that goes into effect as of April 16, 2015. This change will have a substantial impact on the cost of water heaters AND even more importantly the installation. The water heaters will likely be taller AND wider than current models in order to achieve the required energy efficiency. Some manufacturers are suggesting that the retail price could increase upwards of 25%.

This is going to create issues for many properties where the hot water heater is located in a confined location. Apartments will have the biggest issues with water heaters in small closets – this may require drywall, framing and/or HVAC changes.

Take a 40-gallon gas water heater from American as an example. The old heater was 18″ in diameter and 62″ tall (or you could get one 20″ in diameter but only 52.25″ tall). The new heater is 20″ in diameter and 64.5″ tall. I know that in the condo I used to occupy, there was basically no clearance between the water heater and the closet door. I didn’t have 2″ to spare, and I really wouldn’t have wanted to have to get the thing replumbed for a taller profile.

One wonders what people in condos & apartments will do when their current water heater dies. It’s not like they’ve got a lot of room to expand the water heater closet – every square foot is spoken for. Even in my current house, where the water heater is located in the basement, there isn’t much room for growth, since the water heater is right next to the furnace.

It’s likely that the only solution will be to downsize your water heater, which one suspects is considered to be a feature, not a bug, by the DOE. Not to mention that American currently doesn’t even offer a size smaller than 40 gallons, so if that doesn’t fit, you’re gonna be chilly.

And what about the demographics of this policy? Young adults and lower income families are likely to be hit hardest; they don’t have the financial reserves to cope with a water heater purchase and installation that’s likely to cost several thousands of dollars (and I’m guessing that “several” is close to “5” if the mods to the water heater closet can be done at all).

Just like when the DOE tried to saddle us with crappy light bulbs that weren’t up to snuff, they’ve let their regulations outstrip the capabilities of the marketplace. And we the consumers are left to suffer with the result.

[You can read about the new requirements at the DOE’s site.]


1. sobek - February 1, 2015

As you said, it’s a feature, not a bug.

2. Retired Geezer - February 1, 2015

I bought one 2 days ago after hearing about the new regulations.

Our old one is still working but it’s about 18 years old. I shouldn’t complain.

3. geoff - February 1, 2015

I’ll probably buy a spare myself.

4. ChrisP - February 1, 2015

My Bosch Tank-less is 8″x24″x16″.
Works great…

5. geoff - February 1, 2015

The email goes on to say:

Some people might think installing a tankless water heater will solve the issue but it opens the door for a number of other problems. The foot print of a tankless water heater is great but they require different venting than a standard water heater. They also require electrical power, possibly meaning the need to install a new electrical circuit. Tankless gas water heaters also require much more gas. A typical tank type water heater is 40K BTU, a basic tank less is 180K to 199K BTU, so the existing gas pipe to each unit may not be large enough to handle the volume.

6. sobek - February 1, 2015

It doesn’t affect me because I’m stinking rich. Good thing there isn’t a political party that stands up for poor people.

7. Retired Geezer - February 1, 2015

I considered a tankless water heater but they need a lot more maintenance than I’m willing to give (in this Hard Water town).

Kinda finicky and the other reason that geoff gave.

8. daveintexas - February 2, 2015

Mine is 16 years old. I’m buying a new one and a spare this week.

9. Cathy - February 2, 2015

I’m gonna tell hubby. With all the ‘guests’ in the home these past few weeks, we ‘experienced’ lots of down-time and cold showers. Yuck. We currently have a relatively new electric but the home has access to gas. I think we should get a plumber here and get a gas one in STAT.

10. Retired Geezer - February 2, 2015

Gas is a better choice. I wish we had it here at Camp Geezer.

11. Nanny G - February 2, 2015

In Utah there are public ”green” ads pushing lowering your water temp to save energy.
The incidence of disease from not being able to really clean one’s dishes and pillowcases will necessarily skyrocket as people take this bad advice.
We moved here into a place where all the machines were original equipment.
So, new hot water heater, first-time water softening, new home heating, new fireplace, new dishwasher, new shower plumbing, new stove (induction/convection) and new fridge.

I am amazed at how anti-long-term thinking these ”greenies” are.
Wait until they are sick and not getting better.
Wait….that might be a feature and not a bug, too.
Get rid of all the dead wood.

12. skinbad - February 2, 2015

We’re getting old. So is my water heater.

Geezer’s plan to buy a replacement before the new regs kick in is typical old-man cunning. I like that guy.

13. ChrisP - February 2, 2015

The tankless does require different venting, but the new ones require no electrical input,
There is an internal turbine that supplies the power for the igniter and the temp regulation. It runs when water flows through the heater.
They only burn gas while you are heating water.
You are not burning gas keeping 50 gallons of water at temperature while no hot water is being used.

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