DOE Final Rule – Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How will the 2015 standards affect the water heater industry?
A: The new 2015 DOE energy efficiency mandates will require higher EF ratings on virtually all residential gas, electric and oil fired water heaters. These changes will have an impact on how water heaters are designed, manufactured, tested, distributed, and installed, affecting manufacturers, wholesalers, installers and customers alike.
Q: Are there product changes that are known at this time?
A: The effect of the new requirements will vary depending on the fuel source and volume of the water heater. These changes may be relatively minor in some cases and more radical on larger volume products. At this time, the test procedures for establishing an efficiency rating are being revised, making it a challenge for manufacturers to zero in on the precise effects the new requirements will have on water heaters.
Q: How will gas water heaters be affected?
A: Gas models may require additional insulation, incorporate newer flue baffling technologies (including flue dampers), incorporate electronic ignition in lieu of the standing pilot, or any combination of these. One likely impact will be an increase in the overall product size, especially in diameter. For gas-fired products, over 55 gallons (< 75,000 BTU/Hr.), fully condensing combustion technology will likely be required, based on currently available technologies that are capable of meeting the new requirements. This will also mean that line voltage will have to be available, as well as a means for condensate disposal. Q: How will electric water heaters be affected?
A: Electric water heaters will likely require more insulation. This will increase the diameter and/or height of the water heater. Additional insulation may be required for piping and fittings such as drain and T&P valves. Electric water heaters over 55 gallons (< 12 kW input) will likely utilize integrated heat pumps to meet the new EF requirements, based on currently available technology. Q: Will oil-fired water heaters be affected?
A: Similar challenges are faced with the oil-fired products. Much like gas products, oil-fired water heaters will likely require additional insulation and/or completely new combustion systems.
Q: What does this all mean to the wholesaler and installer?
A: The implications are many for the wholesaler and installer. With the size and weight of products likely changing, costs, transportation, storage, and installation will all be affected. The new technologies will require additional product and installation training, and when on the job, new space, venting and condensate removal requirements may exist.
On the positive side, when products become more complex, it is less likely that they will be purchased and installed by the do-it-yourself consumer. Therefore, a potential impact of the 2015 water heater changes will be an increase in the share sold through wholesale distribution, thereby, increasing installer opportunities.
Q: Why can’t manufacturers provide specifics at this time regarding what products they will have available to meet the 2015 EF requirements?
A: One of the challenges manufacturers face in precisely defining their 2015 compliant products is that the DOE has not yet finalized its new testing standards for residential and some commercial water heaters. These new testing requirements are not expected to be finalized until the end of 1Q 2014 and then put into effect approximately one year later, just prior to the new DOE 2015 EF requirements. The testing requirements will change as well as how water heaters will be categorized for testing.
Q: Do manufacturers have 2015 compliant water heaters available today?
A: Based on today’s testing standards, there are products available now that will meet the EF standards that will take effect on April 16, 2015. It will not be until later in 2014, when the news testing standards are available, that any manufacturer will be able to definitely state that they have water heaters that meet the 2015 DOE energy efficiency standards.
Q: How can contractors and wholesalers prepare for this transition?
A: First and foremost, stay informed. Attend professional seminars on this topic sponsored by manufacturers, wholesalers, and national and local trade organizations. As new 2015 compliant products are released, manufacturers such as Bradford White will be working as quickly as possible to release product specifications and installation information to help wholesalers and contractors continue to grow their businesses under the new requirements.
Q: What is Bradford White doing about this?
A: Bradford White is committed to helping make the transition to the 2015 standards as smooth as possible for its valued business partners, wholesalers and contractors. We began sharing information with customers and business partners as early as 2011 and more widely in 2012, beginning with the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC) Convention in Philadelphia. As new information because available, we will update our website and send information to our customers that we believe will help the transition.
We are also in the middle of our largest plant expansion in Bradford White’s history to meet growing demand and to accommodate the production of additional 2015 ready products. The plant expansion includes the installation of the most advanced manufacturing equipment, giving us the capability and flexibility to produce an even wider variety of 2015 compliant products than what we offer today. In addition, we opened iTEC, our International Technical Excellence Center, to help educate customers and business partners on the 2015 DOE regulations and the new products that will be required.