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Heat Pump Water Heaters: An Overview

While flying cars and robotic housekeepers haven’t quite yet hit the market, the future is here—at least in the form of home water heating. Yes, the next generation of water heaters has arrived. They’re heat pump water heaters (HPWHs) and they use up to 50% less energy1, which can create an annual energy savings of $250 or more2 when compared to conventional electric water heaters.

The ABCs of a HPWH

Their ultra-efficiency is possible thanks to advanced technology that allows them to harness the warmth from ambient air and use it to heat the water stored within their tanks, effectively using electricity to transfer heat, not generate it. Think of it like a refrigerator, only in reverse. A refrigerator pulls the warmth out of its food storage area to achieve cool temperatures while a HPWH pulls warmth out of the air and applies it to stored water.

In the event the surrounding air becomes too cold or if you need extra hot water, built-in electric resistance elements (similar to those in ovens) automatically contribute to heating the water so you’re never left in the cold.

Other benefits

As they work their magic, they give off cool, dry, exhaust air, which can assist in home cooling and dehumidification. Or, you may choose to direct this air outdoors through ductwork. Their professional-grade insulation minimizes heat loss while your hot water is stored inside the tank, nice and hot and ready when you are.

Impressed yet? Here’s more: HPWHs are the first electric water heaters to earn the ENERGY STAR® rating. Plus, they’re completely water-electric separated and operate free of an open flame, combustible elements or toxic gases. This makes them a safer option than gas-fired water heaters and standard electric water heaters.

A worthy investment

Although a certified HPWH costs more upfront, the energy savings pay back the difference in around three years for an average home. And since old water heaters can break down without warning, planning for their replacement should be a proactive measure. One very important thing to consider—these units need at least 1,000 cubic feet of airflow around them.

They do a world of good

You stand to benefit—as does the entire planet. If everyone purchasing an electric water heater this year chose an ENERGY STAR certified HPWH instead of a standard model, we would avoid 19.6 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions—the equivalent of taking 1.6 million cars off the road. So consider upgrading to a HPWH and enjoy all the hot water you’re used to while consuming half the amount of electricity. Qualified professionals can get your water heater hooked up quickly and accurately, and your home won’t be turned upside down during the process. For information on dealers and installers, contact your cooperative.

As always, you can visit for more advice, tips and insight into efficient energy use.