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The first set of regulations—known as the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA)—were created in 1990 and later updated in 2004 to the current standards. A new update to the rules for increasing minimum energy efficiency standards was enacted in 2010 and goes into effect on April 16, 2015.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) regulates minimum energy efficiency requirements for water heaters.
Most of the new NAECA compliant water heaters will be larger in physical size for the same gallon capacity as an old 2004 standard water heater. This can cause problems here in Colorado with venting issues and physical space limitations.
Homeowner’s will have to deal with increased product and installation costs. In some cases, the water heater will have to be re-located to operate properly, or mitigate noise. While the operating cost of the new water heaters will be less because of their increased energy efficiency, it is likely that the maintenance costs will increase because of a more complex design, and the integration of electronics, blowers, fans, condensers, etc.
In some cases, the performance of the new water heater in terms of hot water deliverability will be less than the model which was replaced.