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Heat Pump Water Heaters

By Steven O’Donnell Senior Trainer for AHIT

Heat pump or Hybrid water heaters have been in the market for a few years now.  They have recently become very popular with the Energy Efficiency crowd.  The heat pump technology is not new (first unit developed in the late 1850’s), just the application.  I have seen advertisements from several companies touting savings in the 50-62% range.  The energy factor (EF) for a heat pump unit is 2.0 compared to a standard element type EF of 0.9

heat pump water heater

What they have done is install a small heat pump unit on top of an electric water heater. They still have electric elements installed.  They can operate in 3 modes, Energy Saver (heat pump only), High Demand (heat pump and elements), and Elements only.

When inspecting these units, they need to be installed in spaces with at least 700 - 1,000 ft3 of air space around them.  They also need to be installed in spaces with an ambient temperature of 40 - 120°F for best operation.  The side benefit of these units is that they cool the space around them, so putting them in a hot garage or attic will help cool that space.  Much like a typical a/c unit they have a filter that must be cleaned as well as a condensate drain line that must be directed to an appropriate location.  I anticipate that Heat Pump water heaters will replace standard units in the not too distant future and will be what most home inspectors find during inspections.

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