WARNING…WARNING…New Water Heater Laws WILL Impact You. (Updated)

The U.S. Department of Energy issued new standards of efficiency for all types of water heaters; these laws took effect April 2015. Therefore every homeowner needs to educate themselves on the changes and learn how they will affect you.

Yes it is true.  This is the final stage of water heater efficiency took place in April 2015.  So what is so difference?  The water heaters will be required to meet higher energy efficiency (EF) standards.  The water heaters will be larger, bulkier and heavier due to added insulation between the tank and the outer jacket.

So what does a larger, bulkier, and heavier water heater mean to you, the homeowner?  Higher prices and possibly having to size down.  There are some manufactures that are making water heaters to fit inside the same spot as the water heaters prior to April 2015, and obviously they cost more.  Greater percentage of water heater installations that will require two plumbers to move the new water heater into place.

Well, how much more will it cost?  With the law being implemented over a year ago the price of the water heaters have gone up on average 20%.  Labor costs to install the new water heaters, on average, have stayed about the same.  The difference depends on the location of the water heater.  If your water heater is in a finished or unfinished basement with L shaped or U shaped stairs most likely a second plumber is needed to get the new water heater down the stairs which then will increase the labor cost.  The parts to install these new water heaters has changed, usually needing to offset the pipes to accommodate the larger size water heaters.  Unfortunately, you cannot compare the price of a water heater that was installed in your neighbors house 3 years ago to the price now because even though we are comparing apples to apples we are comparing Granny Smith apples to Fuji apples.

The following is a quote from Plumbing Perspective (plumbingperspective.com):

Designers and contractors should be thinking about a number of issues when preparing for the changes in the residential market. For example, achieving a higher EF rating often means adding more insulation to the tank, making it larger and thicker, and more insulation may be required for piping and fittings.  Therefore, a larger post April 2015 water heater might not fit into the same space as the current model, posing a challenge when a replacement is necessary.

Condensing gas water heaters are usually significantly heavier than standard models. They may also require flue dampers or electronic ignition. Oil-fired products may also need extra insulation, as well as flue dampers or new combustion systems.

“Many installations that were once a one-person job may now require two people,” Sanborn added. “As water heaters get larger and heavier, they prove to be too awkward to handle by one person. This is especially true when talking about those models over 55 gallons. Service trucks may also need to change to accommodate transporting the taller, wider and heavier equipment.”

Because gas water heaters also have electronic control systems and require 120-volt service, contractors may need to purchase multi-meters for smooth installations as well as trouble-shooting.  They may also need to price in the additional time and components, including venting materials and condensate pumps when pricing new or replacement jobs.

Defective Hot Water Heater.Unfortunately all the national plumbing organizations’ attempts to prevent this EPA enforced water heater alterations failed.  Washington, D.C. figured adding additional insulation to the water heaters and the “energy savings” outweighed the financial burden on the homeowners.  Will these water heaters actually save homeowners more money on their energy cost?  Only time will tell.  Unfortunately, even if the EPA determines that the alterations made to the water heater does not make an impact on energy savings as they predicted, these new water heaters are here to stay.


Winter Is Upon Us- What You Need To Do To Survive

Winter feels like it is here already but meteorologically it is just around the corner.  So what do you need to do to survive this year’s winter?  It’s simple to do BUT some of it you need to remember later into the winter months.



The following is a list of things to do to prepare for winter, save your plumbing and save you hundreds:

  2. If you want to cover the outside hosebibbs with a hosebibb cover, go ahead and cover them.  It is not a necessity but it doesn’t hurt to do so.
  3. If you have a sump pump discharge hose attached to the pvc pipe that is exiting the house that must be removed as well.  No need to worry about recycling the water back into the drain tile, once the ground completely freezes most of it will run off away from the house.
  4. Lastly and most importantly, if we have a winter like we did last year you need to RUN YOUR WATER.  Last season the phone was ringing off the hook in regards to no water throughout the house.  This was due to the extensive cold weather paired with the occasional thawing we would have then deep temperature plunge driving the frost line deeper each time.  So if the same trend occurs this year before we get the snow cover, which acts like a blanket, you will need to trickle water.  There is an exception!  If you have a humidifier on your furnace, that is operational and you use it, you will not have to trickle water.  Why? The humidifier will do the trickling for you.  People on well water are more susceptible to the deeper frost lines since those lines are usually less than 5 ft. below the ground level.  If you end up with no water throughout the house the usual option is to excavate and thaw the line which will cost thousands.

Follow the listed steps and save your plumbing and yourself hundreds and potentially thousands of dollars.  Stay warm this winter.

Prevention is Key to Protection

The most common question I hear is, “How do I prevent this in the future?”

Prevention is key to protecting your property and the health of your family. You should do periodic checks around the house and look for any signs of leaking from both water and drain lines, and get them fixed as soon as possible. Waiting until you get a laundry list of repairs will cost you more than getting them fixed as they occur.

Look for signs of slow drains and get them cleared as soon as possible as well. Backed up drain lines could cause potential health risks.


Leaky kitchen pipe

Before: Lake In The Hills kitchen drain line that was leaking from every joint.

After photo

After: Lake In The Hills kitchen drain line after repair was completed.

Licensing is Essential

Make sure that anyone that you hire to do PLUMBING is licensed in the State of Illinois or Chicago, either is acceptable with Chicago plumbers following more strict plumbing practices than state plumbers. Check that the company has a Plumbing Contractors license as well. A Plumbing Contractors license ensure the plumber is bonded and insured, otherwise they cannot renew their contractor license.

As a consumer it is within your right to card any person that comes to your house that claims to be a plumber. You can also ask to see a copy of their plumbing contractors license as well. For Drain Cleaning, the technicians do not have to be licensed, but the company does need a SEWER contractor license.

Make sure these technicians or companies that only advertise Sewer and Drain that they do not perform any plumbing repair or replacement as they are not licensed to do so. Get the price up front and read the terms and conditions on the proposal or invoice.


Skilled Tradesmanship Value

Plumbing is a skilled trade that is heavily regulated within the State of Illinois. To become a plumber, it is not just a matter of getting a job with a plumbing company. All licensed plumbers had to do a 4-5 years apprenticeship on the job and also go to a certified plumbing school at night.

The license can be taken away by the State at anytime for continued plumbing code infractions. The differential in pricing from company to company is based upon not only overhead but also by how the plumber values his license. I have seen that those plumbers who’s pricing is well below the average pricing range do not value their license as much as those within the range.

As the saying goes “You get what you pay for.”