New residential water heater energy-efficiency standards go into effect April 16. These regulatory changes, announced in 2010 by the U.S. Department of Energy, require electric water heaters to use 47% less energy and gas water heaters to be at least 30% more efficient.

The new standards also will reshape the physical dimensions of water heaters, making them wider and taller. That means remodelers working on refinishing or expansion projects may face some installation challenges. If a homeowner’s current water heater is located in a confined space, a new unit that’s the same gallon size as the former unit may not fit. Here are options and issue that you should keep in mind to help solve this dilemma.

Retrofit the space: Change and redesign a home’s water heater closet, if the homeowner wants to upgrade and stay with the current gallon size unit. You could also source a new unit that meets the existing space’s requirements.

Determine size: If sourcing a new unit with a different gallon size, determine water usage before installation. If too small of a unit is installed, the customer won’t receive enough hot water. If too big of a unit is installed, the customer is paying to heat more water than needed.

Consider alternative solutions: Downsize to a smaller gallon water heater and add a thermostatic mixing valve to help boost output. Consider using a kit that enables you to double the output of an existing, tanked water heater. If you’re using an electric fuel water heater, you can also supplement with a tankless unit to help with recovery. 

Compliant tanked units: If unable to swap out units that are the same gallon size due to space constraints, consider installing a new unit that has the same output as the former unit but a smaller footprint. Wi-Fi equipped units allow homeowners to control energy usage from their smart phones.

Go completely tankless: This option is viable for electric and gas water heaters. Tankless options are some of the most popular solutions being considered by builders today, since they are 99% efficient compared to tanked units.

Electric tankless: High power units with low installation costs, no greenhouse emissions, no maintenance requirements and no required venting can be installed just about anywhere.

Gas tankless: These best serve large homes. Annual maintenance is required. Tankless gas heaters also have venting requirements that make installation costs higher than most electric tankless units, but they are marginally cheaper to operate than electric tankless units.

Run two tanks in tandem: Consider adding a point-of-use unit as an option if working on a bathroom facelift project or adding an additional water source, such as a tub to an existing bathroom. Adding an extra water source means more hot water is needed in one space. Remodelers can either choose to install a larger water heater or run two tanks in tandem ... ideally a tanked and tankless unit.

While every remodeling project is unique, it’s important to discuss these alternative options with your customers before you start work.