This article was crafted with the help of Walter Pickett of Pickett Plumbing.

The water heater is one of the workhorse appliances of a household, and it’s one that is not given much thought until someone in the house is forced to take a freezing cold shower. Regardless of whether your water heater is powered by gas, electricity, or oil, it probably represents a significant part of your monthly energy expenses. In the spring of 2015, however, new water heaters will be subject to more stringent federal energy regulations as a result of the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA). To learn more about these upcoming changes, we spoke to Walter Pickett with Pickett Plumbing in Houston, Texas.

What Are the New Regulations?

The NAECA went into effect in 1987 with the goal of improving energy consumption in the US over the course of several decades. The 2015 regulations increase the required Energy Factor (EF) rating for all new water heaters and many other appliances. For residential water heaters, Walter says that the new water heater efficiency regulations primarily impact the amount of insulation around the unit and its fittings. Commercial units and units over 55 gallons in size will be required to use an internal heat pump or condensing unit to reduce energy use. Most tankless units already meet the new water heater regulations, so they will probably not be subject to any changes.

What Does This Mean for Homeowners?

If your existing water heater is relatively new and in good shape, you probably won’t need to worry about the new regulations for a few years. For homeowners who are building new homes or who have old water heaters that need to be replaced, Walter reports that the primary, noticeable difference will be the size of the water heater. Residential electric and gas units will require more insulation around both the water heater itself and the pipes and fittings, so replacing a water heater—especially in a small space—may require a bit more work than usual. According to Walter, homeowners with water heaters installed in an attic space may encounter the most difficulty. “The water heater is typically placed in the attic before the folding staircase is installed,” Walter says, so while the old unit can be easily removed, the new water heater may have to be relocated. A plumber will be able to make an assessment of the homeowner’s needs. Walter also notes that price will likely be a factor in the new requirements. He says that, since manufacturers will probably pass on the increased costs to produce updated units to the consumer, “we will all pay more for a water heater.”

This might all seem like not-so-great news, but if you know you need a new water heater in the near future, don’t get discouraged. Ultimately, your new water heater will be more efficient, and the more stringent energy consumption regulations will translate to noticeable savings on your monthly energy bills. The up-front cost may be a bit more than you planned for, but the long-term savings will be worth it in the end. And just think: you’ll be doing your part to decrease energy consumption and levels of harmful emissions in the US.

This spotlight article was crafted with the help of Pickett Plumbing, a Plumbing Best Pick in Houston. While we strive to provide relevant information to all homeowners, some of the material we publish may not pertain to every area. Please contact your local Best Pick companies for any further area-specific advice. 

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