🌎⚡️ The best water heater you can buy.
And why it's better
The best water heater you can buy.
The best water heater you can buy is an electric heat pump water heater.
Heat pump water heaters (HPWH’s, if you know) work similarly to heat pumps for air, except they produce hot water instead of hot air. It’s that simple.
A refresher: heat pump water heaters use electricity to pull heat from surrounding air and transfer it to a hot water tank. MAGIC.
But it goes further: heat pump water heaters transfer heat, instead of creating new heat, which makes them more energy efficient than a gas water heater, saving you money for tacos, and of course, reducing your greenhouse gas emissions, so everybody wins.
Please enjoy our guide to electric water heaters, made in partnership with our friends at Rewiring America.
The Best Option
A heat pump water heater (HPWH) heats your water more efficiently, and by removing yet another gas appliance from your home, reduces the odds your home will go boom-boom.
Imagine the peace of mind from knowing that every time you demand your children wash their hands — which they won’t — it doesn’t require lighting gas on fire inside your home.
Forget tankless water heaters: Heat pump water heaters are like a battery that stores hot water instead of electricity. Get the biggest tank you can fit, which will store more water than you need, which means you reduce your bills by avoiding higher time-of-use electricity rates.
At Lowe’s, the most popular and well-reviewed HPWH’s are the A.O. Smith Signature series.
In 2022, Rheem introduced the first 120v heat pump hot water heater. With no need to install a fresh 240V outlet, your installation costs are far lower and it’ll take up less space on your electrical panel.
With IRA and consumer demand, we expect more 120V heat pump water heaters to hit the market in years to come. If you’re not ready to replace your gas hot water heater yet, it’s a category to keep an eye on.
Hot Water Options As a Renter
If you’re a renter, chances are you don’t have a lot of control over how your water is heated, but reducing your water use still makes a difference for the planet and saves you money on your utility bill.
Get leaks and drips in your rental fixed, and replace your shower head and faucets with a low-flow option. Be an advocate for electrification in your building and let your landlord know about the benefits and incentives available to them with the Inflation Reduction Act, and how to calculate them.
Big Questions To Ask
How much bigger is a heat pump water heater than my gas one?
If you’re switching from a gas tank to a heat pump tank, it’s a lateral move, but we recommend picking the biggest tank you can fit and afford.
Not sure what size you need? The Department of Energy has a great guide here (scroll down to “Sizing Storage and Heat Pump (with Tank) Water Heaters“).
What kind of space do I need?
As your new heat pump water heater is literally removing heat from the air, the space where you keep it needs to be big enough to actually have enough air to supply the heat.
A basement or garage works great (preferably one that stays above 45° Fahrenheit most of the year), and a HPWH will also dehumidify whatever room you put it in, but you don’t want to enclose a HPWH. Make sure there’s a buffer of 3 feet on the air intake side and 5 feet on the air-discharge side.
On the plus side, as you’re no longer lighting gas on fire just to stand in the hot shower and question every decision you’ve ever made, there’s no exhaust, and you can install it right in the room, (almost) wherever there’s a plug (more on that below).
Almost, because you still need a way to handle drainage for the water removed from the air, again #science.
What kind of power does a heat pump water heater need?
Most heat pump water heaters require 240V single-phase electricity, and either a 30A or 15A circuit breaker. That requires your new HPWH to either be installed near an existing 240V appliance-style outlet or for a new 240V circuit to be installed.
Will a heat pump water heater help me save water?
Not really, but on the other hand, reducing your water use, especially hot water, enables you to pick up a lower-power heat pump hot water heater (like the 120V one we recommended above).
You can reduce your water use by:
Installing low-flow water faucets and aerators
Installing low-flow shower heads
How does a heat pump water heater fight climate change?
One heat pump water heater doesn’t fight climate change.
A gazillion heat pump water heaters fight climate change by reducing demand for gas, which reduces the need for gas infrastructure, which reduces the odds 1) something will explode and/or 2) we will keep leaking methane into the atmosphere.
But somebody’s gotta become the trendsetter in your neighborhood, and you’re already reading this, so it might as well be you!
How does IRA help?
For homeowners with tax liability, a 30% federal tax credit is currently available for residential efficiency and electrification upgrades — like new heat pump water heaters!
The credit is capped at $2000 for new heat pump water heaters.
Check Rewiring America’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) calculator to determine how much taco money you can save once new federal electrification rebates become available in your state.
As always, check out our growing home electrification series at ImportantNotImportant.com.
Got questions? Shoot us an email at [email protected].
For home electrification or IRA-specific questions, we’ll gather the answers into a couple of Q&A posts so that everyone can benefit from them.