Heat Pump Water Heaters: How They Differ From the Conventional Electric Storage Options
As it is in homes, hot water is a vital element in the modern American commercial building. Cleaning, health and sanitation, personal hygiene and overall cleanliness depend on a steady source of hot water. Of the available options, heat pump water heaters offer what may be the best combination of energy efficiency, ongoing monetary savings and effective performance.
What Are Heat Pump Water Heaters?
Heat pump water heaters use the technology and processes associated with heat pumps to produce hot water for your home. The more familiar role of standard and geothermal heat pumps is probably that of a home heating and cooling system, but heat pump systems can also be used to produce hot water, either as a separate system or as part of an existing heat pump used to provide HVAC services.
Conventional Electric Water Heating Options
The two most common forms of conventional water heaters are storage tank water heaters and tankless, or on-demand, water heaters.
- Storage tank water heaters: Storage water heaters use electrical power or natural gas to generate hot water and then store it in a tank until it’s used. The system uses a series of heating elements that produce the heat that warms the water. When the water is heated to the temperatures settings at the thermostat, it’s stored in a large internal tank until it’s used during standard tasks. As hot water is used, more is produced to replace what was in the tank. A significant disadvantage of storage-type water heaters is the loss of heat energy as the hot water waits in the storage tank. If the water cools past the temperature settings, it must be heated again. This constant cycle of cooling and heating can be wasteful, driving up your water-heating expenses higher than necessary.
- Tankless water heaters: Tankless water heaters, also known as on-demand or instantaneous water heaters, do not use a storage tank to hold hot water. Instead, they use heating elements, either operated with electricity or natural gas, to generate hot water as it is used. Since there is no tank, there is no chance of the heat and energy loss associated with hot water storage, which makes these units much more efficient.
Heat Pump Water Heaters
In contrast to storage and tankless water heaters, heat pump water heaters use the highly efficient heat pump process to generate hot water. In general, heat pumps capture heat and either move it away from where it’s not wanted (for cooling) or to places where heat is needed (for heating). A water heater connected to your existing heat pump HVAC system uses part of the heat energy it captures to heat water for home use. A separate heat pump water heating system uses a smaller version of a heat pump connected to the water heater to produce hot water.
Points to Remember About Heat Pump Water Heaters
Like an HVAC-style heat pump, these types of water heaters do not work well in temperatures below about 40 degrees. They must be installed where there is enough heat, such as a furnace room, to keep them working at their best.
Heat pump water heaters can be more expensive to purchase and install, but their efficiency means their operating costs are lower than other types of heaters.
Like other water heaters, a heat-pump model must be properly sized for your needs. The heater must be able to meet your home’s peak-hour demand for water, which is the hour during which the largest amount of hot water is used. Estimate your peak hour demand by figuring out the time period when your commercial facility needs the most hot water. Calculate how much water is used, in gallons, for activities during that time. The resulting number of gallons will be the peak-hour demand your water heater must meet.
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