This blog was authored by NRDC’s Sarah Street.
Today is the first annual Heat Pump Water Heater (HPWH) Day, and while that may not sound like cause for celebration, it sure is. A game-changing technology, HPWH’s keep more money in your pockets, are 2 to 4 times more efficient than other types of water heaters, and if that’s not enough, can help you do your part to reduce climate-warming pollution. Here are all the reasons why we’re celebrating today, and why you should add an HPWH to your home (if you don’t have one already)!
Keeping Money in Your Pockets
If you don’t have an HPWH, chances are, your water heater is one of the most inefficient appliances in your home. Gas tank water heaters are only 25 to 60 percent efficient, meaning many waste more than half of the energy they consume. And while better than gas, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), electric water heaters account for an average of 18 percent of your electricity costs, and the older your heater is, the less efficient it could be too.
Upgrading to an HPWH, on the other hand, can save the average household approximately $470 per year compared to a standard electric water heater and more than $4,500 over the HPWH’s lifetime. Larger families (who typically use more hot water) will save even more, according to Energy Star. And if every electric water heater sold in the U.S. was an HPWH, the energy cost savings would be around $8 billion each year.
While the upfront cost may be more, it’s a smart investment with savings that will pay back the difference in around three years or less. And if you’re running on gas, it would be smart to anticipate those prices will go up, especially as more and more customers move to more efficient electric options. Transitioning now can help you beat the curve.
Plus, due to the energy saving benefits of HPWHs, state and local governments and utility companies are offering incentives to induce large scale adoption of the technology. There is no better time than now to consider upgrading, as the Inflation Reduction Act is soon to offer tax credits and rebates to those looking to purchase an HPWH. Incentives like these help ensure low-income and middle-income families can also afford to reap the long-term benefits of adding an HPWH to their homes.
Right now, Energy Star says your home’s conventional electric water heater uses more energy than your refrigerator, clothes washer, dishwasher, and dryer combined! That’s about 20 percent of a home’s energy use. And gas water heaters are using even more than that.
So how are HPWHs different? They use electricity to move heat from one place to another rather than generating their own heat like a traditional electric water heater, making them up to 4 times more efficient while using 70 percent less energy than a standard model. Picture a refrigerator working in reverse; a refrigerator pulls heat from inside a box and dumps it out into whatever room it's in while an HPWH pulls heat from the surrounding air and dumps it, at a higher temperature, into a tank to heat water. This not only saves you dollars, but also can help prepare you for a clean energy future.
The most popular models are those marketed as hybrids, which are equipped with auxiliary immersion heating units set to activate automatically during periods of high demand. This means you won’t have to worry about running out of hot water even if you want to run the dishwasher, washing machine, and take a shower all at once!
And if that isn’t enough, HPWHs have a less well-known added benefit. They can help balance the grid by doubling as clean-energy batteries that store emissions-free solar energy.
Saving the Planet
HPWHs have enormous potential to reduce carbon emissions. If you currently use a gas water heater, the switch would bring your home’s emissions down by 30 percent, that means you would be reducing the dangerous climate-warming emissions coming from your home. And referring to electric water heaters, which are already more efficient and less pollutive than gas, here’s a number that will put it in perspective: if all households in the U.S. using electric water heaters transitioned to heat pump technology, approximately 150 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions would be prevented, equivalent to the emissions from more than 14 million vehicles.
The Advanced Water Heating Initiative, the host of HPWH day, breaks it down like this: climate change is a growing emergency; carbon and energy savings from HPWHs are substantial; taking action on climate change means good-paying jobs; grid-connected HPWHs offer huge grid flexibility. Taking climate action in your household is as easy as upgrading a piece of equipment (that you might already need to replace) with an HPWH that is better for people and the planet.
All of this is to say, Heat Pump Water Heaters deserve a day dedicated to education, awareness, and of course, celebration! Show your appreciation by sharing a picture of you hugging your HPWH and share this blog and other resources here to let your friends know why (if possible) they should add an HPWH to their home too.