New Year, New Water Heater: Consider a Heat Pump Water
January 11, 2017
Do you have an older electric water heater near the end of its useful life of 10-15 years? Have you noticed there’s less hot water available when you want it? Perhaps your detailed energy bills show a lot of electricity use on the days you run the dishwasher or wash clothes in hot water. If so, it’s probably time for a new water heater.
Water heating accounts for nearly 20% of an average home’s annual energy usage, making it the second largest energy expense after space heating, so you want to make sure you have the right appliance for the job.
If you currently have an electric storage tank water heater, you should consider upgrading to a heat pump water heater, also known as a hybrid water heater.
ENERGY STAR® certified heat pump water heaters use up to 65% less energy than conventional electric storage water heaters. For a family of four that uses 70 gallons of water a day, that could mean an annual savings of $290-$530 over a conventional model.
How are they so efficient? It’s because they transfer heat, rather than generate it directly, which requires much less energy. It’s generally easier to move something than to make something. The heat pump water heater takes the warmth from the surrounding air and transfers it to heat the water.
Savings are greatest in the summer months, but as long as the area around the water heater is around 50 degrees or warmer it can still operate in heat pump mode. If the temperature dips below 50 degrees, heat pump water heaters switch to standard electric resistance heat.
Most heat pump water heaters contain a control panel that lets you easily switch operating modes. Typical modes include:
- Efficiency/Economy Mode – only uses the heat pump to heat the water, resulting in the greatest savings
- Auto/Hybrid Mode – best for daily use, it uses the heat pump when it can but switches to the conventional heating elements if need be
- Electric/Heater Mode – uses the less efficient heating elements for when you need the most hot water, like when you have many guests staying over or when it’s colder than 50 degrees outside
- Vacation Mode – puts the water heater into an efficient "sleep" mode while you're away
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