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New Water Heater Changes Could Prove Costly & Cause Headaches

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - You never think much about home water heaters until they fail.

"My roommate, my sister, tried taking a bath this morning and had no hot water," Kristi Stebler said.

When that happens, you realize how important they are to replace.

You usually have no choice but to get a new water heater - and to get it fast.

With that in mind, here's a change about to hit us.

"The tanks are going to get significantly larger and significantly more expensive," John Sullivan, of Sullivan Plumbing Services, said.

Effective as of April 16, a federal law requires all manufacturers to make most water heaters more efficient. That means a bigger, heavier tank with more insulation.

"The biggest change is that this water heater will get about two inches wider in diameter and about one inch taller in height," Sullivan said.

That may not sound like much, but water heaters are often in tight spaces.

"If it's in a cubby hall or underneath a countertop, that's going to be a problem - the replacement," Rob Eadie of Matt Mertz Plumbing, said.

And here's another problem - a 30 percent increase in price on the average heater.

With prices generally ranging from $500 and up, that's a significant increase.

However, nobody has to change what they currently have.

Even though manufacturers are not allowed to make current models after April 16, the cheaper water heaters may be sold until they run out. So, many plumbers are sending out cards and emails with this basic message:

"The standard life of a water heater is seven or eight years. So, if you've reached that place, you might consider replacing it," Sullivan said.

Most warranties expire after six years, so even if your water heater hasn't gone yet, you may consider fixing it before it breaks.

If you're looking for more hot water with good efficiency for lower gas or electric bills, consider your options carefully.

For some people, this may be a good time to switch from a water heater that holds lots of water to a tankless water heater that supposedly gives unlimited hot water without a tank to hold it.

"Your teenage daughter could take a shower for four hours and she would get hot water for the entire four hours," Sullivan said.

They cost more but so will the new tank models.

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