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Will new efficiency standards make your old heater too big?

If you haven't heard yet, changes are coming to the home water heating market. The U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Office reported that new gas-fired storage water heaters in 2015 will need to be constructed in accordance with more restrictive standards. The DOE explained that this new efficiency benchmark will save more than $63 billion in energy costs between 2015 and 2044.

But all this efficiency comes at a cost – though it might not be where most homeowners expect. While you might be thinking that storage water heaters are finally ready to take the next step ahead in green home technology, these new efficiency standards pose their own problems when it comes to the available space in your home. If you're already living in a small apartment or your basement is cluttered enough as it is, it might be time to rethink your next water heater purchase and choose an electric tankless heater instead.

Water heaters will be getting bigger.

Heaters get bigger
Sure, who doesn't want a more efficient water heater that costs less to run? Electric tankless water heaters have been working off these high standards for years, but the DOE's new initiative will finally seek to bring storage-type units in line with tankless devices.

But just how are old water heaters going to achieve this increase in efficiency? Rather than advanced technology or upgraded materials, the DOE will now require storage-type heaters to include more insulation than previously mandated. Because these units fill a large reservoir with water, this insulation keeps energy where it should be.

However, Contractor magazine explained that this new insulation will also increase the size of the unit. A gas-fired heater with a storage capacity at or below 55 gallons will now need to boast an efficiency rating almost 15 percent higher than its predecessors, and the only way to achieve this in a device that stores and heats water is by adding more insulation. This keeps the heat from emitting wastefully into the air.

Insulation is thick, though, and to achieve these new ratings, your new storage heater might be as much as 2 inches larger in diameter and 2 inches taller. The new sizes will vary based on tank capacity and the type of insulation used, but you can rest assured that if you're planning on buying a new reservoir heater in 2015, it'll be much bigger than you previously thought.

"You'll have to live with a smaller capacity tank that's wrapped in much more insulation."

Bigger package, less water
However, just because the entire heater is getting bigger doesn't mean that your home will now be provided with more hot water than before. In fact, Contractor explained that it means just the opposite.

If you live in a place with limited space, such as an apartment or a home with a small or cluttered basement, you probably don't have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to picking the size of a heater. This means you'll have to purchase the same?-sized unit as you used to have, though the added insulation means that the size of the tank will take the brunt of the size reduction. Instead of having a more efficient tank of the same size, you now have to live with a smaller capacity tank that's wrapped in much more insulation.

If you're not willing to sacrifice on the amount of hot water for your home or the size of your device, the best option may be to ditch storage-type heaters entirely. Electric tankless water heaters provide a limitless stream of perfectly warmed water, all in a package only a fraction of the size of even the smallest storage heater.

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