The Department of Energy has once again increased the efficiency requirements for water heaters. Unfortunately some manufacturers and wholesalers have used this as an opportunity to increase markup on water heaters. While price increases will vary greatly from one wholesaler to another, the manufacturers have increased their pricing across the board.
One of the biggest reasons given for the price increase from the manufacturers was due to the research and facility costs necessary for design modifications. While most water heaters have only faced minor modifications, other tanks require more sophisticated technology and drastic changes in production. The water heaters that will be impacted the most are the commercial water heaters over 55 gallons and specific residential applications that have space restraints.
For water heaters under 55 gallons the new efficiency requirements can be met by adding an additional 2" of insulation, increasing the size of the tank. While the increased insulation only increased cost by roughly $10 per tank, the increase from the wholesaler is closer to $75 per tank. The additional cost is designated to cover the research and production changes necessary for those that have space restrictions.
Water Heater options for confined spaces
The new efficiency requirements can be met without increasing the size of the tank by adding a flue damper to the top of the water heater. This of coarse means that you will need an electrician to run 110 service to the new water heater to operate the damper. This also means that the water heater will not operate without electricity, not to mention the added expense of hiring an electrician.
This is where the price increase really kicks in. The current pricing that has been provided from the manufacturers will almost double the cost of a traditional water heater as they are priced today. The homeowners that will be the most affected will be those with smaller houses that have space restrictions.
My personal Opinion
If adding an additional 2" of insulation will save the homeowner money in the long run, many will choose to spend the extra money for higher efficiency. The new regulations would be a good idea if not for the situations where space is limited.