April 16 marks the start date for the Department of Energy's most recent regulations for hot water heater performance. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, these new standards will impact all water heaters falling between the sizes of 20 and 80 gallons. The new standards are expected to help reduce energy consumption of household appliances by over 2.6 quadrillion Btus of energy between now and 2045.
"Greater complexity will lead to more repairs in the future."
While these changes will benefit consumers and the environment in the long term, multi-family facility managers will face a tough choice if their building's water heater is performing below expectations. Changes to water heater installation, cost and design will force multi-family facility managers to make a choice between adapting to the new heaters or looking for a simpler solution. Read on to learn more about how these changes to the way that water heaters are designed will impact multi-family housing across the country.
Federal regulations lead to big changes and bigger heaters
The Department of Energy's new rules for water heaters will certainly improve their relative performance, especially those models over 55 gallons. However, this efficiency comes at a cost that consumers are forced to pay if they want to install one of the new water heaters. Smaller multi-family facilities will be impacted by a size increase in standard tank models – these heaters are expected to grow by at least two inches in diameter, meaning that building managers will have to find a new location or make retrofits to facilitate a successful water heater replacement.
Likewise, water heaters larger than 55 gallons, commonly utilized in larger multi-family housing units, will now have to incorporate heat pump technology, increasing the size of already large water heaters and increasing the complexity of the multi-family building's water heating system. Greater complexity will inevitably lead to additional repair costs down the road, so facility managers should consider alternatives before investing in a new water heater after April 16.
Tankless models are well suited to meet the needs of multi-family homes
There are several ways that property managers can utilize tankless water heaters as means of offsetting the extra costs and complications around the corner, according to Multi-Unit Housing. Tankless water heaters are 99 percent efficient, so most models will go unaffected by the Department of Energy's April 16 regulation change. Furthermore, their compact design makes them less than a tenth of the size of the new water heaters. This build allows them to be installed nearly anywhere in a multi-unit facility.
Multi-Unit Housing highlighted two solutions for building managers interested in upgrading their water heater without the extra hassle. The first idea suggested was to combine a smaller updated water heater with a tankless model to achieve improved performance. This solution would resolve the space issues of installing one of the new models, but still exposes a property manager to the added difficulties of maintaining new water heaters that may cost more to repair.
The resource recommended going 100 percent tankless as the second solution for property managers. Tankless water heater can be installed directly near points-of-use in a multi-family unit, eliminating the heat and standby loss that occurs when hot water is forced to travel through lengthy plumbing systems. Furthermore, the high efficiency of tankless water heaters can help multi-family facilities to save big on water and electricity costs in the long term. Property managers should consider these advantages when thinking about how to navigate the DOE's industry-altering update.