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New Federal Water Heater Regulations Present Tough Choices For Consumers

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- New federal regulations for water heaters will go into effect in a few weeks. They are designed to make them more efficient but many people are running out to buy the older remaining water heaters.

While new ones will provide savings on energy costs, consumers will have to pay much more in upfront costs.

"You generally don't think about them until something goes wrong," Kristi Stebler, who will have to make decision soon, told KPIX 5. "My roommate, my sister, tried taking a bath this morning and had no hot water."

And when that happens, that water heater suddenly becomes the most important appliance in the house and consumers may want to consider replacing their current water heater sooner rather than later because these tanks are going the way of the incandescent light bulb. It's being phased out in favor of more efficient models.

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

Effective April 16, a federal law requires all manufacturers to make most water heaters more efficient and that means a bigger tanks with more insulation - up to two inches wider and taller--which may require some remodeling if it's in a tight space.

"If it's in cubby hall or underneath a counter top, that's going to be a problem," Sullivan said.

And there is another issue--the new and improved version could cost hundreds of dollars more, which has many rushing out to buy a "new" old model.

Manufactures can no longer produce them after April 16 and retailers say the remaining "old models" are going fast.

"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 if consumers' are nearing that mark, it may be time to think about replacing it--before your next cold shower.

"Can't go without hot water," Stebler said.

While the new model will cost more up front, they will save you more on energy bills.
The U.S. Department of Energy expects the new regulations will cut carbon dioxide at levels by the equivalent of nearly 34 million cars.

"For some people this may be a good time to switch from one of these water heaters that hold lots of water to one of these tankless water that supposedly give unlimited hot water without a tank to hold it," KPIX 5's Jon Delano said. "Your teenage daughter could take a shower for four hours and she would get hot water for the entire four hours."

The tankless water heaters may cost more but so do the others.

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