Water Heaters 101: Understanding New Regulations for Hot Water Heaters

Here’s the situation…

When planning a water heater replacement it’s always helpful to do some homework up front. If you don’t, you will run into the type of problem we are going to talk about in this blog post. It’s easy to think certain projects are simple and straightforward – only to be disappointed when a contractor tells you otherwise. We would like to help you avoid this scenario when it comes time to update your hot water tank.

To clarify, we are not talking about tankless water heaters here. That will be a topic for another time. “Tank” water heaters are still alive and well in the US. You know the ones… a large tube tucked away downstairs with pipes coming from it. Of course you know because you probably saw these types of heaters in the basements of your parents or grandparents basements. They’ve generally looked the same since the stone ages, so it’s easy to assume that the technology is the same as it’s always been. Not true! 

So What Changed?

Several years ago, the federal government enforced changes on hot water heater manufacturers. The goal was to make these appliances more efficient, run more quietly, and operate in more environmentally friendly ways. The Department of Energy reported that the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions would be “equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of about 33.8 million automobiles.” Those are staggering numbers, but the impact that those changes could make to the levels of pollution in years to come will make a long-term impact on our environment. Still, you need to know how that impacts you. First, let’s talk about what those changes were.

  • To increase water heater efficiency, manufacturers are now required to add additional insulation than their predecessors. This measure was added to prevent heat loss in the tank which prevents the water heater from having to reheat the water as frequently. Additionally, the extra insulation absorbs more of the noise emitted by the hot water heater resulting in quieter operation.

  • The extra insulation means that manufacturers had to produce larger water heaters than previous models. Generally, the new heaters will be 2-3 inches larger than the model being replaced.

  • With the added materials, the increased price of producing hot water heaters has impacted manufacturers.

What Should You Do?

Now we will bring this whole thing full circle. You are wanting to know how that impacts you. There are three major considerations that you need to take in preparing for the installation of a new hot water heater.

  • Since the manufacturers have had an increase to the cost of production, they are passing that added cost to the customer. That means you are going to pay more for your new hot water heater than you would have a few years ago. In most cases, the increase will be $200-$300.

  • The efficiency of the hot water heater is improved if you convert your current system to natural gas. To read more about this conversion, check out our page.

  • Considering the fact that the hot water heaters are larger, the space that used to house your old heater may not be sufficient for the new model. Before you decide on the water heater you want, take some time to measure the space you have and consider the capacity you or your family will need. One thing to keep in mind is that some manufacturers did try to keep their dimensions similar to older versions and as a result they reduced the capacity to make up for the difference.

Code changes

Code – a word that rarely feels exciting, yet we all know that it’s important. Here are some important changes that you need to know.

  • Larger Vents For Water Heater Replacements

If you are considering a replacement for a natural gas or liquid propane heater that is  atmospherically vented, the code requires that all vent piping must be upgraded from 3” to 4”.

  • Pressure Reducing Valve For High Water Pressure

Parts of Hunterdon County are known for having high water pressure. In these areas, most customers have had the required Pressure Release Valve (PRV) installed. During the replacement, plumbing code requires the installation of an expansion tank as an added layer of security in the event that the PRV fails under high pressure.

  • Addition Of A Drip Pan

Water heater replacements that occur in a finished portion of the home requires the installation of a drip pan. The heater sits within the “pan” and serves as a catch for any leaks that spring up.

NOTE: Review the information on our News & Offers page regarding new technology called leakSMART.

  • Permit Requirements

For replacements on electric water heaters, homeowners will be required to file plumbing and electrical permits. Thankfully, these do not need to be filed prior to the replacement.

  • Water Heater Replacements Are Not DIY Projects

Hot water heaters are the intersection of gas, water, and electricity. Executed incorrectly, they can be an extremely dangerous piece of equipment. As a company who has seen the aftermath of these types of DIY projects, we urge you to make sure that a professional plumber completes the replacement.

Connect With Us

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Patriot Plumbing Services is here to help you with this process.

Contact us today to schedule a water heater assessment.


Sources

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Detroit Free Press
Consumer Reports
Washington Energy Services

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