Experts Say that Heat Pump Water Heaters, Heat-Up Water Cost-effectively

Aside from your home heating system, the hot water tank is the most energy-consuming appliance in the average home. Homeowners can cut their water heater operating costs in half by switching to a heat pump water heater, and current utility rebates can save hundreds of dollars. 

Heating water is a significant contributor to a household’s monthly utility bill, and traditional electric water heaters use a lot of energy to do the job. An electric water heater can consume 15% to 20% of a household’s annual energy consumption. That's why, according to Matt Babbitts, Clark Public Utilities' energy resources programme manager, switching to a heat pump water heater is a great investment for most homeowners. They consume less than half the annual electricity of a standard electric water heater, and our USD 500 rebate reduces the purchase price to that of a standard electric water heater.

A typical electric water heater heats the tank with a submerged metal element. A heat pump water heater, also known as a hybrid water heater, heats the water inside the tank using a small heat pump mounted on top of the tank, with a submerged element acting as a backup for those rare Northwest days when the surrounding air is too cold. Heat pumps are heat exchangers that extract heat from one location and force it into another. It's a tried-and-true technology that's used all over the world to heat and cool spaces while using very little energy.

A traditional electric-resistance 50-gallon electric water heater may cost USD 400 to USD 600 per year to operate, whereas a heat pump water heater will almost always cost half as much. However, because the heat pump emits cooled air and is somewhat noisy, the best place for one is in an unconditioned space, such as a garage or unused basement. Heat pump water heaters can cost up to three times as much as traditional electric water heaters. Still, the operating cost savings are immediate, and you can usually recoup your investment in a few years, thanks to utility incentives and lower energy bills over the tank's lifetime.

Clark Public Utilities currently offers a USD 500 rebate for a new hybrid water heater. If you buy your heat pump water heater in Oregon from a retailer, your USD 500 incentive is applied at the time of purchase. Customers who purchase the even more efficient split-system heat pump water heater are eligible for a USD 800 rebate. Split systems install the heat pump outside and connect it to the water tank inside. It is more efficient, but it is also quieter, and the lack of cool air inside is no longer an issue.

Babbitts explained that many homeowners may be able to install their HPWHs, but several local contractors in our utility Contractor Network provide professional installation of HPWHs. Contractors in our network can apply utility rebates directly to eligible project costs for immediate savings, and they may also offer additional promotions to utility customers. Hence, it's a good idea to get more than one bid.

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