When Hilary and Jeremy Warder moved into their new home last winter, they were pleased that a new condensing tankless water heater offered endless hot water and low energy costs. While the water heater was perfect, the installation was not. Hilary noticed the burning rubber smell first, and then heard the groan of an overheated motor. A burst pipe really got their attention.

The culprit? The unit’s condensate line piggybacked on an uninsulated air conditioning drain, causing the condensate to freeze when it reached the cold New England winter air. The condensate pump was easy to replace, and the line was simple to reroute via a nearby drain, but the lesson is clear: mastering new technology demands training and experience.

Water heater manufacturers are ready for new residential efficiency standards

That lesson is particularly important as installers prepare for a dramatic shift in the water heating market. On April 16, 2015, manufacturers will stop making their least efficient water heater models. As with many other changes to codes and standards, the minimum standards enacted by the U.S. Department of Energy bring both challenges and opportunities for installers.

Water heater product lines will shift towards more efficient models. Water heaters above 55 gallons will likely use gas condensing or electric heat pump technology.  At the same time, the way energy use is described will be revised.

The new “Uniform Efficiency Descriptor” will update the Energy Factor (EF) measurement and make it easier to compare residential water heaters with small commercial models (which currently use Thermal Efficiency, or TE). These changes are driving innovation as water heater manufacturers develop new ways to heat water efficiently and minimize wasteful heat loss.