Most homeowners are familiar with heat pump technology as it applies to heating and cooling your home. A heat pump water heater uses the same technology to heat water, resulting in efficiency 2-3 times than that of a standard electric water heater. Heat pump water heaters on the market today include a storage tank, a compressor and fan all in one unit, and while they are more expensive, many utility companies offer incentives that dramatically bring down the cost of the unit and installation.
Saving money and reducing your carbon footprint simultaneously is a magical feeling, but the science behind heat pump water heaters is anything but sleight of hand. Heat pump water heaters use evaporation and compression technology to remove heat from ambient air and transfer it to heat the water. This is a sharp contrast to other technologies that use gas burners or electric heating coils, which are brute force by comparison, and not nearly as efficient.
In a time when alternative energy sources are more important than ever, heat pump technologies are a great complement to the ever-improving electrical grid, relying increasingly on wind, solar, and hydro power, and decreasingly on fossil-based coal and fracking fuels.
According to CleanTechnica, a leading clean energy research firm, heat pump water heaters are 7 times more energy efficient than gas and 3.5 times more efficient than electric water heaters. That’s doing your part!
Not every home is set up for a heat pump water heater. Specifically, heat pump water heaters are ideal for homes with electric water heaters located in the garage or crawlspace. While the latest models of heat pump water heaters are quieter than their predecessors, they can create some perceptible, unwanted background noise. If your water heater is located in a closet or other indoor location, maybe think twice.
WHAT’S A HEAT PUMP WATER HEATER COST?
A heat pump water heater unit will run you more than traditional tanks at the checkout, but the $336 average energy savings annually means that your heat pump will not only pay for the increased retail price, but will pay for itself entirely over its lifetime and then some.
Washington is investing in energy efficiency so you don’t have to. Puget Sound Energy (PSE) customers receive a $500 cash rebate for qualifying units. Additionally, energy partners in in the PNW offer additional rebates of up to $300.
Overall savings with hybrid heat pump water heater = $4,132
*Does not include professional installation costs
**Data from the Federal Management Program at energy.gov
Ready to start saving energy and cutting costs?
When selecting a heat pump water heater, you should consider the following:
A heat pump water heater works like a refrigerator in reverse. Instead of using a compressor to pull heat from inside the refrigerator and transferring it to the surrounding room, a heat pump uses the compressor to take heat from the surrounding air and transfers it inside a storage tank, where your water is heated.
Most heat pump water heaters also have backup resistance elements – like a standard water heater – for situations when the ambient temperature in the room is not high enough. For most efficient operation, most heat pump water heaters are suited for a year-round temperature range of 40 – 90 degrees F.
For northern regions that have slightly colder temperatures, we recommend using the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance’s (NEEA) Northern Climate Qualified Heat Pump Water Heaters list as a guide to choosing a heat pump water heater that will suit your needs.
It’s important to consider some of the positives and negatives of choosing a heat pump water heater. Here are some that stand out:
Overall, a consumer can save 30-60% in water heating energy costs, assuming their water usage habits do not change. Annual energy costs for heating water in the average home range from $150-400 per year, so there is a significant savings potential.
A heat pump water heater is a great solution for a homeowner who currently has a standard tank electric water heater, and is looking to replace it either because their current tank is old, inefficient, and/or leaking, or because they simply want to reduce their annual electric bill. While the average home using a standard electric tank water heater spends roughly $500 heating their water each year, a heat pump water heater will reduce annual costs by $250 to $300.
Whether you’re concerned about environmental impact or just bringing down the cost of heating your water, a heat pump water heater is a winner in both of these categories. Plus, with significant incentives offered from major utilities on the west coast, the cost of purchasing and installing a heat pump water heater is, in some cases, less than installing a new standard electric tank water heater.
installing and maintaining a heat pump water heater
The first three things you should consider when choosing to install a heat pump water heater are fuel type, location, and electrical capacity in your home.
Fuel Type – If you currently have a gas water heater, most installers and utility companies will recommend sticking with gas. Even though heat pump water heaters achieve impressive efficiency ratings, the cost of operating a heat pump water heater is still in most cases more than the cost of operating a gas water heater. And after considering generation and line losses with electricity, using gas to heat your water from an overall cost and environmental perspective.
installing and maintaining a heat pump water heater continued…
Location – Most incentives are only provided when the heat pump water heater is located in a garage or other un-heated, un-conditioned space. HPWHs generally require installation in a room with 1,000 cubic feet of space so that enough ambient air is available for the water heater to operate efficiently. If you need to relocate your water heating system to accommodate this, ask your installer for to let you know what would be involved.
Electrical – Most heat pump water heaters require a 30 amp breaker and a 10 gage wire. If you have questions about your electrical, ask your installing contractor to walk you through how to check this. In some cases, you may need to have an electrician make some modifications before you can install the HPWH.
When estimating a total cost for the installation of a heat pump water heater, your installer should go over the current plumbing codes and permit costs with you before they begin work in your home. Make sure you understand the requirements so that your water heater is installed safely.
Also, ask your installer to help you understand the periodic maintenance requirements of a heat pump water heater. While maintenance costs are low, it is important that you clean your air filter periodically to extend the life of your heat pump. Read your owner’s manual for further tips and recommendations
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