The plumbing industry has come a long way, but few of its components have improved as much as water heaters. Where the water heating option used to be bulky, inefficient tanked water heaters, you now have a multitude of options to choose from. Two of the options that are growing in popularity are tankless water heaters and heat pump water heaters.
In terms of whether heat pump water heaters are better than tankless ones, it all comes down to personal preference. They’re both expensive to install, but because heat pump water heaters are so efficient, they are cheaper in the long run. However, tankless water heaters offer a constant supply of hot water, whereas heat pump water heaters do not.
In addition to these reasons, there are plenty of other things to consider when deciding between a tankless or heat pump water heater. If you’re on the fence about which option is best for you, you’ve come to the right place. This article will explain everything you need to know about heat pump water heaters, including a comprehensive list of pros and cons.
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Is a Tankless Water Heater More Efficient Than a Heat Pump Water Heater?
The biggest reason that heat pump water heaters are gaining in popularity is because of how efficient they are. A big reason for their efficiency is because of how they operate. Tankless and traditional water heaters use electricity or gas to generate heat, which can cost hundreds of dollars per month, depending on how much hot water you use.
Read this article to learn how to use your tankless water heater without electricity.
Heat pump water heaters, on the other hand, work the same way that heat pump heating and cooling systems do. They draw heat from the ambient air surrounding them and separate the warm air from the cold air. This warm air then gets pulled into the water heater and is used to heat cool water.
Because heat pump water heaters separate and transfer heat rather than create it on their own, it’s much more efficient than other types of water heaters. In fact, It’s estimated that your heat pump water heater will pay for itself in energy savings in less than five years.
Is a Heat Pump Water Heater Worth It?
Whether or not a heat pump is worth it depends on how much hot water you use. If you and your family use a decent amount of hot water per year, then a heat pump water heater is definitely worth it. However, because of how expensive they are to install and maintain, heat pump water heaters might not be worth it if you don’t use very much hot water. If that’s the case, you would be better off installing a cheaper tankless or tank water heater.
What are the Benefits of a Heat Pump Water Heater?
As we said before, the biggest draw and advantage of heat pump water heaters is their efficiency. Heat pump water heaters can save the average household between $300 and $700 annually and will pay for themselves in less than five years from when you install them.
Depending on where you live, there might also be tax incentives and government rebates for installing a heat pump water heater.
Because of how little energy heat pump water heaters require, they’re more eco-friendly than tankless and traditional water heaters. Heat pump water heaters are also 100% electric, which means that natural gas exhaust and fracking don’t play a role in their creation and operation.
Require Very Little Maintenance
One of the nicest things about heat pump water heaters is that once they’re installed, they require very little ongoing maintenance. Aside from annual flushings and inspections by a plumbing professional, heat pump water heaters are maintenance-free.
Finally, heat pump water heaters tend to last longer than traditional water heaters. Traditional, tanked water heaters have an expected lifespan of 5 to 10 years, whereas heat pump water heaters can last twice as long. However, heat pump water heaters typically don’t last as long as tankless water heaters, which can operate for up to 30 years if properly maintained.
What are the Disadvantages of a Heat Pump Water Heater?
Expensive to Install
One of the biggest disadvantages of heat pump water heaters is that they’re expensive and difficult to install. Installation costs can double or triple the cost of your heat pump water heater. All in all, heat pump water heaters can cost between $3,000 and $5,000, including installation costs.
Don’t Heat Water Very Quickly
Heat pump water heaters also have a reputation for heating water very slowly. The slower speed is because of how heat pumps have to separate the warm air from the cold. While this method is very efficient, it requires more time for hot air to accumulate and warm up enough to heat your water.
Not Great for Cold Climates
The biggest downside of heat pump water heaters is that they don’t work well in cold or harsh climates. Because heat pump water heaters draw heat out of warm air, they need the air to be somewhat warm to do their job. Therefore, energy.gov recommends installing heat pump water heaters in cities and states where temperatures stay between 40 and 90 degrees.
Bulkier Than Tankless Water Heaters
Finally, heat pump water heaters are much bulkier than tankless water heaters. Where tankless water heaters look like rectangular boxes and can get installed on the wall, heat pump water heaters look more like traditional, tanked water heaters and take up a decent amount of space. They also require a minimum of 1,000 ambient feet to have enough air to operate.
Is a Heat Pump Water Heater Cheaper to Run Than Gas Water Heaters?
Heat pump water heaters operate on electricity and are much cheaper to run than gas water heaters. Not only are gas prices higher than electricity prices, but electricity is also more efficient than gas when it comes to water heaters. All in all, heat pump water heaters are hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars cheaper to run than gas water heaters.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do heat pump water heaters last?
If you take care of your heat pump water heater, it will last for ten to twenty years.
Do heat pump water heaters work in cold climates?
The biggest disadvantage of heat pump water heaters is that they don’t work well in cooler climates. Ideally, you shouldn’t use heat pump water heaters where the temperature is consistently lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit unless you have a backup source of hot water.
Are heat pump water heaters noisy?
Heat pump water heaters do their work quietly and efficiently, and you may forget it’s even there.
How much space does a heat pump water heater need?
Because heat pump water heaters are bulkier than tankless water heaters, they require more space. They also have to get installed on the floor and need plenty of air to do their work. Therefore, you should install your heat pump water heater in a room no smaller than 12′ by 12.’
As you can see, there’s much to love about heat pump water heaters. However, because of their size and operating procedures, they certainly aren’t for everyone. When deciding between a heat pump water heater or a tankless one, you should consider your location, climate, the size of your home, and whether or not you have space for a heat pump water heater.
Nick Lopresti is the founder of YourH2Home and a home improvement expert. He has years of experience writing about various home improvement topics, mostly as it pertains to water systems.