Is an electric heat pump water heater the right choice for your home?

March 13, 2018

Ready to replace your electric storage tank water heater and looking for a more efficient solution? Consider an electric heat pump water heater.

An electric heat pump water heater can be two or three times more energy efficient than a conventional electric resistance water heater, which means big savings on utility bills. In fact, a family of four can save up to $3,500 over the product lifetime of a new, energy-efficient heat pump water heater.

The way in which a heat pump heats up water—by transferring heat from the air—is a much more energy efficient process than generating heat using an electric resistance heating element, which is what most conventional storage tank water heaters do. It's typically easier to move something than to make something, and heat pump water heaters use electricity to move heat from one place to another instead of generating heat directly.

A heat pump water heater also includes an electric resistance heating element, but it is only used as a backup when needed, such as times when there is a high demand for hot water, or in colder temperatures.

To get the most savings from a heat pump water heater, it needs to be able to operate in its Energy Savings/Heat Pump Only Mode more often than not. Key factors to consider are where the water heater will be installed and how it will be used. For many homes in Massachusetts, these factors shouldn’t pose a problem – so you will likely be able to enjoy plenty of hot water and energy savings. Here’s what you need to know.

Installation Area
The water heater requires enough clearance around the unit for air to circulate properly, enabling the heat pump to operate optimally. At least 750 cubic feet is recommended, so a basement or garage will work in most cases, however a utility closet likely will not. Another factor to keep in mind if you have low ceilings is that heat pump water heaters are often slightly taller than conventional storage tank water heaters.

Ambient Temperature
A heat pump water heater needs enough warmth in the surrounding air to operate most efficiently. As long as the area where the water heater is installed is at least 50 degrees, you will be able to take advantage of its energy savings mode. When the temperature dips below 50 degrees, you’ll still get hot water, but the water heater will need to use its backup heating elements, which requires more energy.

Water Usage
Recovery time can tend to be longer with a heat pump compared to standard electric resistance heating elements. For the average home, this should not be an issue, and you’ll have all the hot water you need. But if you have a very large family that regularly uses a lot of hot water in a short period of time, the water heater may need to operate in Electric Resistance Mode to keep up, which may decrease potential energy savings.

A heat pump water heater can pay for itself in energy savings in approximately two years for a household of four. Even quicker payback can be achieved by taking advantage of a rebate of up to $600 offered by the Sponsors of Mass Save®. Click here for more details.

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