Water heating is second to heating and cooling for energy use in an average home. Now, an alternative type of water heater is promising to save consumers energy and money.
Heat pump water heaters, while not a new technology, are experiencing a rebirth. A few companies produced units in the 1980s and 1990s, but random failures and other issues soured consumers on them.
Some major appliance companies have entered the market with a new and improved generation of heat pump water heaters. Electric cooperatives are testing them for possible deployment in their territories.
Heat pump water heaters come in two types. The more expensive “integrated” model replaces an electric resistance water heater with one that combines a heat pump and storage tank. The second version adds a heat pump to an existing electric heater. A heat pump circulates a refrigerant, which absorbs heat from surrounding air before it passes through a compressor, transferring heat to water in the tank.
A heat pump water heater consumes roughly half the electricity of a conventional unit. This efficiency qualifies integrated heat pump water heaters for an ENERGY STAR rating.
—National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Cooperative Research Network