How to Choose a Heat Pump Hybrid Water Heater


Water heating accounts for about 20% of your home's energy use. As a result, your choice of water heater can significantly impact your energy bill and your carbon footprint. If you're in the market for a new water heater, you may wonder whether a heat pump hybrid water heater is the right choice.


When it comes to saving money on your energy bill, heat pump hybrid water heaters are the clear winner. In fact, they're about twice as efficient as traditional electric water heaters. And while they may cost more upfront, they'll quickly pay for themselves in lower energy bills. For central Ohio residents, there's another reason to consider a heat pump hybrid water heater: they're eligible for a rebate from AEP Ohio.


If you upgrade to a qualifying model, you could receive a rebate of up to $400. To help you decide, the team at Water Heaters Plus will cover everything there is to know about heat pump hybrid water heaters, from how they work to their pros and cons, how different types of water heaters stack up, price, brands, installation, and so much more!



What is a Heat Pump Hybrid Water Heater?


A traditional electric water heater works by heating water with electric coils. This process is relatively inefficient, as much of the heat generated is lost to the surrounding air. A heat pump, on the other hand, transfers heat from one place to another, sort of like a refrigerator in reverse.


In a heat pump hybrid water heater, cold air is drawn into the unit and passed over coils containing refrigerant. The refrigerant absorbs the heat from the air and transfers it to the water in the tank. This process is much more efficient than using electric coils, as it doesn't require nearly as much energy to generate heat.


You can buy a heat pump water heating system on its own or as an integrated unit with a storage tank and backup resistance heating elements. You can also customize a retrofitted heat pump to work with your existing conventional storage water heater.



Types of Water Heaters


Water heaters come in many different forms, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The type of water heater that's right for you will depend on your needs, budget, and preferences.


The most common types of water heaters used in residential homes include:


● Conventional Water Heater

● Tankless Water Heater

● Heat Pump Water Heater

● Solar Water Heater


The ideal option for your home will vary based on factors like climate, water usage, and cost. Here's a quick overview of the different types of water heaters available on the market:



Conventional Storage Water Heaters


Conventional storage water heaters are the most common type of water heater. They're typically powered by electricity, natural gas, or propane. They work by heating water in a tank and storing it until it's needed.


Conventional storage water heaters are generally the most affordable option, but they're also the least efficient. In fact, according to the Department of Energy, conventional gas tank water heaters only have a Uniform Energy Factor (UEF) of around 58-60%, meaning only about 60% of the energy used to heat the water does so effectively.



Electric Tankless Water Heaters


Electric tankless water heaters are a newer type of water heater that's becoming increasingly popular. They work by heating water on demand, as opposed to storing it in a tank. This makes them much more efficient than storage water heaters, as there's no heat loss from a tank of stored hot water.


Electric tankless water heaters are also smaller and more compact than storage water heaters, which makes them a good choice for small homes or apartments. However, they require a strong electrical system to work properly, so if your home doesn't have sufficient power, you may need to upgrade your electrical panel before you can install one.



Heat Pump Water Heater


As we mentioned earlier, heat pump water heaters work by transferring heat from one place to another. They're similar to electric tankless water heaters in that they're more efficient than storage water heaters, but they have the added benefit of being able to transfer heat from the air around them to the water in the tank.


Electric heat pump water heaters can be retrofitted to work with an existing conventional storage water heater, or you can buy a standalone unit. Heat pump water heaters are more expensive than other types of water heaters, but they're also the most efficient, with an EF of around 2 to 2.5.



Solar Water Heaters


Solar water heaters use the sun's energy to heat water. They come in two main types: active and passive. Active solar water heaters have pumps that circulate water through solar collectors, while passive solar water heaters rely on gravity and thermosyphons (circulation of hot water caused by density differences) to circulate water.


Solar water heaters are one of the most environmentally friendly types of water heaters, as they don't use any fossil fuels. They're also the most expensive type of water heater, and they require a well-insulated storage tank to work properly.



How Electric Heat Pump Water Heaters Work


According to the U.S. Department of Energy, HPWHs are two to three times more efficient than conventional water heaters. They can also reduce your carbon footprint by around 4,000 pounds annually—the equivalent of taking a car off the road for almost two months!


Water heaters usually use gas or electricity to produce heat. In contrast, heat pump water heaters (HPWH) transfer heat from the air to water rather than generate it—making them much more efficient. Here’s how it works:


A heat pump water heater draws heat from the surrounding air and transfers it to the water in the tank. The process begins when the refrigerant inside the evaporator coil absorbs heat from the air. The refrigerant is then pumped through a compressor which further increases its temperature. Finally, heat is transferred throughout the tank by a water or refrigeration circulation process.


A heat pump water heater, also known as a hybrid electric water heater, uses innovative technology to provide homeowners with an energy-efficient option that can lower costs and reduce their carbon footprint.


To put it simply, heat pump water heater technology is the same as what refrigerators need to run. The only difference is that instead of a refrigerator which takes internal heat and gets rid of it into the air, a heat pump water heater works in reverse by taking external heat and bringing it into a water tank.


Heat pump hybrid water heaters have backup resistance elements for when the temperature in the room isn't high enough. Most heat pump water heaters work best when the temperature is between 40 and 90 degrees F.



What to Consider When Switching to Electric Heat Pump Water Heaters


Hybrid electric water heaters are a great option for many homeowners, but there are a few things to keep in mind before making the switch, including:


● Size and first-hour rating.

● Fuel type and availability.

● Uniform Energy Factor (UEF)

● Upfront & Overall costs.


Each consideration is important to take into account when researching different types of water heaters. The size, for example, is going to play a big role in how much hot water the heater can provide and how well it will fit into your home. Let’s take a more in-depth look at each of these considerations.



Size and first-hour rating


To find the appropriately sized storage water heater for your home -- including a heat pump water heater with a tank use the unit's first-hour rating. The first-hour rating is how many gallons of hot water the device can provide per hour with a full tank of hot water to start. First-hour ratings depend on the tank capacity & heat source.


To find the first-hour rating refer to the manufacturer's literature or look for the water heater's Energy Guide label. Conventional water heaters will have the first-hour rating listed as "capacity."


Heat pump water heaters come in a variety of capacities, including 40, 50, 66, and 80 gallons, but to be certain, check with our team of qualified installers to determine the perfect size for your home.



Fuel type and availability


The most common type of fuel for residential water heaters is natural gas. Other options include propane and electricity, but with heat pump water heaters, only electricity is used.


There are several types of fuel available for water heaters, including:


● Electricity

● Natural gas

● Propane

● Oil

● Solar power.


Some fuel sources are more readily available than others, depending on your location. For example, if you live in a rural area, propane might be the only option for you. But if you live in an urban area, all sources might be readily available. The type of fuel you choose will also affect the initial cost of the unit and the costs to operate it over time.


While natural gas and propane water heaters have a pilot light that uses a small amount of fuel even when the unit isn't in use, electric models do not have this feature. As a result, they are often more energy-efficient than their fossil fuel counterparts.



Uniform Energy Factor (UEF)


The Uniform Energy Factor (UEF) is a measure of how much heat a water heater can generate from the fuel it consumes. The higher the EF, the more efficient the unit will be.


To calculate a water heater's energy factor, divide the amount of power the unit uses by the total amount of energy needed to operate it.


A water heater with an Energy Factor of .93 or higher is recommended if you want to save 5-10% on energy bills in comparison to a standard electric water heater. Heat pump hybrid water heaters have an EF of 2.0 to 2.5 on average.



Upfront & Overall Costs


The initial cost of a water heater will vary depending on the type, size, and fuel source. Electric models are often less expensive than gas models, but they may have higher operating costs.


To compare the upfront cost of different types of water heaters, look at the purchase price and installation costs.


When comparing the overall cost of ownership, look at the purchase price, installation costs, and operating costs over the expected lifespan of the unit. Your average tank water heater will last you 8 to 12 years, while a tankless one could potentially stick around for 20. Electric and gas heaters both have their own lifespans as well, but gas models usually don't stick around longer than 12 years on average, whereas electric ones might give you 10-15.


Benefits of Electric Heat Pump Water Heaters


Knowing the details of each type of water heater and what factors to consider in your decision-making process is important, but it’s only half the battle. The next step is understanding which water heater will actually be best for your home, and in many cases, that means choosing an electric heat pump water heater.


Here are a few reasons why an electric heat pump water heater might be the right choice for you:



Emission Reduction With Electric Heat Pump Water Heaters


Emissions from natural gas water heaters contribute to both smog and greenhouse gases, but electric models don't have this issue.


In addition, electric water heaters are often more energy-efficient than their gas counterparts, which means they'll use less power and produce fewer emissions over time. Electricity is a cleaner fuel than natural gas, propane, or oil, so electric water heaters are better for the environment.



Efficiency & Money Saving


Heat pump water heaters can save you up to $3,500 over the lifetime of the unit in energy costs. In addition, they often have shorter payback periods than other types of units. Electric heat pump water heaters often have lower operating costs than gas models. This is because they're more energy-efficient and because the price of electricity is often lower than the price of natural gas, propane, or oil.


On average, heat pump water heaters are four times more efficient than conventional electric water heaters. Consequently, the average household will save about $300-400 per year by switching to a hybrid heat pump. In other words, the hybrid heat pump pays for itself in 2 or 3 years and saves you between $3,000 and $4,000 over ten years.



Electric Heat Pump Water Heater Safety


Safety is a huge concern for many homeowners, and rightfully so. Gas water heaters can pose a serious threat if they're not installed or maintained properly.


Electric models don't have this issue because they don't use flammable fuels. In addition, electric water heaters often have features that make them safer to use, like temperature sensors and automatic shut-offs.



Extended Lifespan


The lifespan of an electric heat pump water heater is often longer than that of a gas water heater. With proper maintenance, an electric unit can last up to 15 years, while a gas unit will only last about 12. This is partly because electric models don't have the same wear-and-tear issues as gas models.


The benefits of electric heat pump water heaters are clear. If you're looking for a more efficient, longer-lasting, and safer option, an electric model is probably the way to go.




Disadvantages of Switching to a Heat Pump Hybrid Water Heater


Though the benefits of these models are significant and tend to outweigh any negatives, there are a few potential drawbacks to consider as well. These considerations pertain to some things out of a homeowner's control, such as climate or adequate space within the home. Let's take a look at some of the potential disadvantages of heat pump water heaters:



Efficiency is Dependent on Climate


Heat pump water heaters work best in warm climates. If you live in an area with cold winters, the unit will have to work harder to maintain a comfortable temperature. This can result in reduced efficiency and increased operating costs.


Homeowners who live in very cold climates might be better off sticking with a conventional electric water heater. Heat pump water heaters are most effective in environments where the surrounding air temperature remains at or above 40°F. However, even if the surrounding air temperature dips below 40°F, hybrid models will still be able to generate hot water.



Space Requirements for Heat Pump Hybrid Water Heaters


Heat pump water heaters need more space than other types of units. HPWHs must have unrestricted airflow and, according to the typical manufacturer specification and installed in an area with a minimum of 700 cubic feet of space.


If the space is limited, the door must be louvered to allow air to flow into the room. The panel should be at least two feet by three feet in size and have a clearance of six inches from all sides as well as 6 inches from the top for easy access to change out the filter.



Higher Initial Cost


The initial cost of a heat pump water heater is often higher than the cost of other types of units. However, the increased efficiency of these units tends to offset the higher purchase price over time. In addition, many utility companies offer rebates and incentives for homeowners who install energy-efficient water heaters, which can further offset the cost.



Common Problems in Heat Pump Hybrid Water Heaters


Like any appliance, heat pump water heaters can experience some problems over time. Water leakage, an unrecognizable error code appearing, or a foul smell coming from the pump are all examples of issues you might be able to fix yourself.


Early models of heat pump water heaters were known to be noisy. However, newer models have addressed this issue and are much quieter. If your unit is still noisy, consider getting a qualified installer to take a look and see if there's anything that can be done to mitigate the noise.


Another common problem is insufficient hot water. This can be caused by a number of things, including a leak in the unit, incorrect thermostat settings, or a clogged filter. If you're experiencing this problem, check the thermostat first and make sure it's set to the right temperature. If that doesn't solve the problem, you might need to call a professional to take a look at your unit.



What Are the Top Brands of Electric Heat Pump Water Heaters?


When it comes to electric heat pump water heater brands, there are a few that stand out above the rest. These brands have a reputation for quality, durability, and efficiency.


Water Heaters Plus depends on the top brands to offer only the best electric heat pump water heaters on the market. We currently offer products from Bradford White, A.O. Smith, and Rheem. These are some of the most trusted names in the industry, so you can rest assured you're getting a high-quality product when you purchase one of their units.



A.O. Smith


A.O. Smith is one of the leading manufacturers of water heaters, and their electric heat pump water heater is one of the most popular on the market.


A. O. Smith Corporation is dedicated to being one of the world's leading manufacturers of water heaters and boilers for both residential and commercial buildings. Their product lines offer only the best-known brands in North America, China, India, Vietnam, and Europe, while our company operates in countries such as the United States, Canada, Mexico, Turkey, and over 60 other countries.



Bradford White


Bradford White is another top manufacturer of water heaters, and their electric heat pump model is a great option for those looking for an energy-efficient unit.


With over 100 years in business, Bradford White is one of the most qualified companies to provide your home or business with a high-quality water heater. They offer a wide variety of water heaters, including electric heat pump models, so you can find the perfect unit for your needs.



Rheem


The Rheem Manufacturing Company was founded in 1925 by brothers Richard and Donald Rheem. It is currently the only manufacturer that produces heating, cooling, water heating, pool & spa heating, and commercial refrigeration products. In North America, it is also the largest manufacturer of water heating products.


Rheem is a leading manufacturer of water heaters, and their electric heat pump model is a great option for those looking for an energy-efficient unit, and with over 100 years of experience, Rheem has a reputation for quality and durability.



Frequently Asked Questions


Can I afford a heat pump water heater?


Although a heat pump water heater's initial cost is higher than other kinds of water heaters, the federal government's Energy Star program estimates that, on average, households will save $3,500 in energy costs over the unit's 15-year lifespan.


Are tankless or on-demand water heaters good alternatives to conventional models?


Tankless water heaters don’t store hot water like conventional models do. They heat water on demand, so you’ll never run out of hot water. On-demand water heaters are similar to tankless models, but they do have a small tank that holds a few gallons of water. These models are a good option if you want the convenience of a tankless water heater with a backup supply of hot water.



What are some signs that your tank needs replaced?


There are a few key signs that indicate it might be time to replace your water heater, such as:


Strange noises - If you start to hear banging, popping, or other strange noises coming from your water heater, it could be a sign that the tank is failing and needs to be replaced.


Inconsistent water temperature - If the water temperature from your heater is no longer consistent, it's likely that the unit isn't operating as efficiently as it once was and may need to be replaced.


Leaking water - If you notice water leaking from your water heater, it's definitely time for a replacement. A small leak can quickly turn into a much bigger problem, so it's best to nip it in the bud and get a new unit.


Discolored water - If the water coming from your faucets is discolored or has an unpleasant smell, it could be a sign that your water heater is rusting on the inside and needs to be replaced.


If you're experiencing any of these problems, it's time to start shopping for a new water heater.



How often should I have my water heater serviced?


Regular maintenance is important for all types of water heaters, but it's especially crucial for electric heat pump models. These units need to be cleaned and serviced every twelve months to ensure they're operating at peak efficiency.



What happens if you don't service your water heater?


If you want your water heater to last as long as possible and run as efficiently as possible, it's important to keep up with regular maintenance. If you don't regularly service your water heater, it could lead to a number of problems:


Decreased efficiency - A dirty or poorly maintained water heater will have to work harder to heat the water, which will lead to higher energy bills.

Shortened lifespan - Neglecting your water heater will shorten its lifespan, and you'll likely have to replace it sooner than you would if you'd been taking good care of it.

Leaking - One of the most common problems with neglected water heaters is leaking. This can cause serious damage to your home and be very costly to repair.


If you want your water heater to last as long as possible and run as efficiently as possible, it's important to keep up with regular maintenance.



What should I look for in a new water heater?


When you're shopping for a new water heater, there are a few things you should keep in mind:


Size - Make sure to choose a water heater that's the right size for your needs. If you have a large family or use a lot of hot water, you'll need a bigger unit. Conversely, if you live alone or have a smaller household, you can get away with a smaller water heater.


Energy efficiency - All water heaters use energy to operate, but some are more efficient than others. If you're looking to save money on your energy bills, choose an efficient model. Electric heat pump water heaters are some of the most energy-efficient models on the market.


Cost - Water heaters can range in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, so it's important to find one that fits your budget. Don't forget to factor in the cost of installation when you're calculating the total price.


If you're not sure which water heater is right for you, talk to a professional. They'll be able to help you choose a unit that meets your needs and fits your budget.




Final Thoughts


Choosing the right heat pump water heater for your home can be a daunting task, but it's important to do your research before making a purchase. There are many different factors to consider, from cost and efficiency to climate and space requirements.


Water Heaters Plus is central Ohio's expert water heater provider & installer. From delivery & installation of your new water heater, connecting water, gas, and electric lines to hauling away your old water heater, Water Heaters Plus has you covered.

Sources

Energy.Gov: Water Heating

Energy.Gov: Heat Pump Water Heaters

Smarter House: Replacing Your Water Heater

Energy Guide: Heat Pump Water Heater

Water Heaters Plus: Home

AEP Ohio: Residential Energy Efficiency Rebate Program

Bob Vila: Heat Pump Water Heaters

Bob Vila: This is How Long a Water Heater Lasts

Energy.Gov: Do Heat Pump Water Heaters Work in Cold Climates?

AO Smith: Home

Bradford White: Home

Rheem: Water Heaters

Water Heaters Plus: Signs That Your Tank Needs Replaced

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The short answer is YES, but for different reasons than you may think. In my own research, I have found other plumbers saying the water heater can explode. Although that could happen I guess, I person