Regulatory Affairs
Earth, Wind, and Fire

New codes affect water heaters and air conditioners while wildfire prevention codes deemed not right for Georiga

New Water Heater Standards

New Federal manufacturing rules for residential water heater energy-efficiency standards went into effect April 16 and will require changes to the installation of many residential water heaters. Most water heaters with a capacity of 55 gallons or less will require more installation space, and those larger than 55 gallons in capacity will see additional, more significant changes. However, products manufactured before April 16 can still be bought and installed after the changeover date.

These standards could affect the product the builder installs. The more common-sized water heaters of 55 gallons or less will likely be larger by roughly 2 inches in height and diameter to account for the additional insulation needed to meet the new standard, requiring builders to account for the increased size in their design. Replacement water heaters installed in closets will likely present the biggest problems: reduced water capacity, a much taller tank of the same diameter, or switching to a tankless water heater if space does not allow for a simple change-out. Water heaters above 55 gallons will change dramatically. The minimum standard for these larger units will be a heat pump water heater or a condensing gas water heater. These are the ones that will have the large price increases, although these larger units represent a very small portion of the water heater market. Most homes utilize 55 gallons or less and the builder also has the option of installing multiple smaller units to keep the cost down too.

Manufacturers, distributors, and contractors may continue to sell products manufactured prior to this date for an indefinite period of time so there should be no impact on availability.

It’s important for builders and installers to become familiar with the new rules and the technology options so they can offer customers the best solutions for placement and capacity. Water heater manufacturers are working to get the word out and have updated their websites with the latest information. Contact Donald Surrena at 800-368-5242 x8574 or via email at dsurrena@ nahb.orgor Bettie Sleeth at 678-468-9900 or

Air Conditioners, Heat Pumps –New Standards

New Federal NAECA III standards for air conditioners and heat pumps went into effect in early 2015. These standards are at the manufacturer level and not the building code level. First, the HVAC standards change from 13 to 14 SEER for heat pumps and air conditioners in the state of Georgia. The HVAC Distributors surveyed were hopeful that there should not be a major increase in cost since the heat pump standard is national and the A/C standard is regional. The manufacturers should be able to shift their inventory around the country to minimize pricing impacts.


Short version:

• New air conditioner and heat pump efficiency standards went into effect at the start of 2015, for residential type equipment 5.25 tons or less in capacity.

• The minimum SEER changes from SEER 13 to 14, and the minimum heat pump HSPF will change from 7.7 to 8.2. However, for a variety of reasons the transition will be more

complicated than in past.

Detailed version:

• Current minimum efficiency standards for residential-type air conditioners and heat pumps less than 5.25 tons are:

• SEER 13 for both air conditioners and heat pumps

• HSPF 7.7 for heat pumps (heating efficiency)

• This is a nationwide standard.

• Beginning in January 2015, regional standards went into effect:

• Minimum heat pump SEER will be 14, and minimum HSPF will be 8.2, nationwide.

• For the southeastern and southwestern states the minimum air conditioner SEER will be 14. This includes Georgia.

• For states north of Kentucky, minimum air conditioner SEER remains 13.

• For 4 desert southwest states, additional minimum SEER requirements apply, which are not required in the southeast.

• Enforcement:

• For heat pumps, enforcement of efficiency standards will still be manufacturer based. If the heat pump it leaves the factory door by the end of 2014, it is legal to install it regardless of how long it stays in dealer inventory. This is because heat pumps are a national standard, not a regional one.