Angie's List: Prepare now for new water heater rules - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Angie's List: Prepare now for new water heater rules

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New federal rules taking effect in April will make water heaters more efficient. But the change means replacing an old water heater will be more expensive for some homeowners.

Beginning in April, all newly manufactured water heaters will have to be more efficient to meet new federal guidelines.

"Your water heater is the second largest consumer of energy in your home right behind your heating and cooling system. So, any improvement in your water heaters efficiency is going to pay dividends in your monthly utility bills," said Angie's List founder, Angie Hicks.

The new standards call for higher energy factor ratings on virtually all residential gas, electric, oil and tank-less water heaters, but the most dramatic changes will be in larger capacity models - more than 55 gallons - typically found in bigger homes.

"You will have to buy a heat pump water heater and those water heaters on top of them will have a compressor and an evaporator coil, a whole refrigeration system similar to what your refrigerator has in order to heat the water cheaper. When this happens, it's going to double or triple the price of a new water heater - electric or gas - if it's over 55 gallons," said water heater expert, Chip Cochran.

If your current water heater is in a small closet or crawl space, you may need to find a new home for an updated model that requires more insulation and equipment.

"It's going to be bigger. It's going to be taller. It's going to take up more room. A lot of water heaters are installed in a very tight quarters. So, all of these things could be a major impact if you are replacing a water heater after April in 2015," said Cochran.

"So, if you go and buy a new water heater today, you might save a little bit more on the up front costs and you're again, going to get some energy efficiency out of it. But, come April there are going to be new models out and they're probably going to be a little more costly but again, more energy efficient," said Hicks.

Angie's List experts say if your water heater is more than 10 years old, you should strongly consider replacing it. 

"A lot of people like to wait until a water heater fails. They use the theory why fix it if it's not broke. The problem with that is it never breaks at a convenient time," said Cochran.

Don't know how old your water heater is? Experts say look for the model and serial numbers on your unit. That information has the age and gallon capacity coded into it, which a professional can decode.  

The new higher efficient water heaters will save energy costs. But homeowners may have to pay more to maintain and repair them because they have more complex designs and additional electronics.

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