Water heaters aren’t something that many of us spend much time thinking about…until there’s an emergency and a bit of a flood in the basement if you have a tank heater. However, from an energy efficient perspective, there’s actually been a lot of progress in water heaters. According to U.S Department of Energy, water heaters are the second highest source of energy usage in the home, accounting for an average of 18 percent of electricity costs for those with electric water heaters. And since the steveworks team is always on the lookout for the most energy efficient option, we’re really interested in heat pump water heaters which have been shown to use far less energy and save money over time.
Not sure what a heat pump water heater is? Here’s how the U.S. Department of Energy describes them: Heat pump water heaters operate by using electricity to move heat from one place to another instead of generating heat directly. Therefore, they can be two to three times more energy efficient than conventional electric resistance water heaters. To move the heat, heat pumps work like a refrigerator in reverse.” Simply put, they pull the heat out of the air and dump it in the water at a higher temperature. Some heat pump water heaters are “hybrids,” meaning they switch to standard electric resistance heat automatically if necessary – which seems to be the best of both worlds.
Some people may be concerned that, given the cold temperatures in the Boston area, a heat pump water heater won’t work. However, the heat pump (the tank and heat pump are an all in one unit by the way) is located inside the house, typically in the basement. To operate efficiently, it needs to be installed in a location large enough to pull air from (at least 750-1000 square feet), and where the temperature ideally stays between 40 and 90 degrees.
Comparing heat pump water heaters to tankless? Tankless heaters are best for people who aren’t drawing water for more than one use at a time (ie; the shower and the dishwasher) because they can usually only provide about 3.5 gallons of water per minute. Tankless models also work best in homes with natural gas rather than electric.
While heat pump water heaters may cost more than a traditional tank heater initially, they have lower operating costs. In fact, a heat pump water heater can save a household of four people around $330 a year on their electric bill, according to Energy Star. Plus, they often have rebates. Visit www.energystar.gov/rebatefinder to find utility rebates.