New efficiency standards will force homeowners to make difficult decisions

The day you buy your first home is a major milestone in many people's lives. After the honeymoon period, though, you might find that your dream house needs more repairs than you first thought. Even after months of home improvement projects that force you to decide between hundreds of options, you might feel like throwing your hands in the air and just walking away.

Homeowners who aren't ready for another tough decision won't be happy to hear that new energy efficiency standards are set to go into effect on April 1, 2015. Every new storage-type water heater built and bought after this time will need to be built to certain specifications. Depending on the layout of your home, you might have to decide whether it's worth it to upgrade to one of these bulkier, more expensive units or to avoid any potential problems with a tankless water heater.

If you have this much room in your basement, consider yourself lucky.If you have this much free space in your basement, consider yourself lucky.

Will it fit?
Space is always a concern for homeowners, and unless you're a clean freak, odds are that you'll compile more stuff that you need to store in your home. If your basement or storage spaces are already packed to the brim, the last thing you'll want to hear is that storage-type heaters will be getting larger.

According to Contractor magazine, these new heaters will be more energy efficient not because of advanced technology or manufacturing methods, but rather the amount of insulation installed around the tank. This can be built into the heater's housing or simply wrapped around the outside. Whichever way it happens, Contractor explained that the diameter of new tank heaters between 30 and 50 gallons will be on average 2 inches larger than that of their predecessors. This might not sound like much, but it could leave you scrambling for space when you don't have much left.

"The diameter of new tank heaters between 30 and 50 gallons will be on average 2 inches larger than that of their predecessors."

If you have a larger home that requires a tank heater of more than 55 gallons, you'll have to contend with even more added bulk. Instead of wrapped insulation, these heaters will need to be converted to heat pumps, which sit on top of the unit. You might even need to contact a contractor to build special venting and draining openings in your home. Otherwise, your new "energy efficient" heater won't save you anything – it might just cost you big.

Will it do the trick?
If you can't spare even a few inches for a larger storage heater or you live in a small apartment where space comes at a premium, you might have to purchase a smaller capacity unit.

What you save on space, you lose in the volume of hot water available to your home. A 40-gallon heater that used to fit in your basement might have to be bumped down a few gallons if it's going to fit in the same area. This means that you'll run out of hot water sooner, and once the tank is depleted, it'll take a while to fill back up.

Homeowners who can't imagine starting another construction project to make room for the same-sized heater they're currently using might want to walk away from it all and look into tankless water heaters as an alternative solution. If you need to supply an entire home with water but only have a small amount of space to install a new unit, tankless water heaters might be perfect for you.

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