Are heat pump water heaters worth the cost?When was the last time you checked your water heater? The old adage "out of sight, out of mind" sums up how we think about it. As long as we have hot water when we turn the "H" knob, we don't often think about appliances tucked away in garages, basements, or utility rooms.
Your water heater is one of the least efficient appliances in your home. In fact, electric water heaters account for an average of 18% of your electricity bill, according to Energy.gov. The older your water heater, the less energy efficient it is.
Enter the heat pump water heater: the new energy-efficient electric water heater. "Heat pump water heaters consume 63 percent less energy than conventional electric water heaters," says Sarah Widder of the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
How does a heat pump water heater work?
Heat pump water heaters use electricity to transfer heat from one place to another, rather than generating heat on their own like traditional electric water heaters. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), this makes them two to three times more efficient. Think of a heat pump water heater as a refrigerator that works in reverse.
The refrigerator draws heat from the box and dumps it into whatever room it's in.
Electric pump water heaters draw heat from the surrounding air and dump it into the tank at a higher temperature to heat the water.
Heat pump water heaters are sometimes called "hybrid" water heaters because they can automatically switch to standard resistance heating during periods of high hot water usage. You can use the appliance's control panel to set the water heater to various settings, including hybrid mode. If you don't want it to switch automatically, just set it to regular heat pump mode.
Many control panels have multiple settings and modes to maximize energy savings. If you have two kids bathing in different bathrooms at the same time while the dishwasher is running, you can switch it to "High Demand" or "Mixed" mode to get enough hot water. Hybrid mode is the most energy-efficient mode for everyday use.
How much can a heat pump water heater save you?
According to Energy Star, if every home in the U.S. had a heat pump water heater (under 55 gallons), the annual energy cost savings would be as much as $8.2 billion. Heat pump water heaters can save a family of four about $330 a year in electricity bills, according to the government website Energy Star. This can save about $3,400 over the life of a typical heat pump water heater. If your household is close to the size of the Brady Bunch, you'll save more on your electricity bill each year. The bigger your family is, the sooner you'll see a return on your investment.
How much does a heat pump water heater cost?
Like most things that run more efficiently and save money, heat pump water heaters cost a lot more than traditional electric water heaters. At Lowe's, a 50-gallon heat pump water heater sells for about $1,100, while its older traditional cousin, the electric water heater, sells for closer to $300.
It is recommended that you have your heat pump water heater installed by a professional to maximize its energy efficiency. According to HomeAdvisor, the average installation cost of a water heater is about $700 to $900.
When choosing a qualified professional to install your water heater, keep in mind:
Make sure they check with your local Better Business Bureau
Make sure they have the necessary permits and understand local building codes
Finally, the upfront cost will be offset over the life of the water heater as you will save on your electricity bill.
If you're looking for a new electric water heater, consider paying extra cash for a heat pump water heater. The savings are considerable, especially for larger families. Heat pump water heaters have a longer lifespan (about 13 to 15 years) than traditional electric water heaters (about 8 to 12 years), making them a huge investment.