Rogelio Alvarez

By: Rogelio Alvarez on September 21st, 2023

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Conventional Water Heater vs. Heat Pump Water Heater

Standard Water Heaters | Heat Pump Water Heater

Accessible hot water is a must-have for any house, so when it’s time to replace an old water heater, it’s important to find a suitable new one to meet a home’s hot water needs. While looking for an ideal water-heating replacement, you may have encountered a heat pump water heater and modern conventional water heaters. Although similar in appearance, these specific water heaters are quite different from one another.

For over 15 years, we’ve worked with multiple manufacturers to provide our technicians with first-hand training on traditional and heat pump water heaters. At Monkey Wrench Plumbing, Heating & Air, we’ve combined our specialized knowledge with field experience to assist homeowners in Los Angeles County and the surrounding areas in installing suitable water heaters in their houses.

Here are the categories we’ll use to help highlight the differences and similarities between conventional and heat pump water heaters.  

  • Water heating technological design 
  • Energy efficiency
  • Cost differences
  • Maintenance 

Let’s dive in!


What’s the Difference Between Conventional and Heat Pump Water Heaters?

Conventional water heaters and heat pump water heaters may look the same in their cylindrical shape but differ in their respective heating mechanisms, pricing, energy efficiency, and maintenance. Ultimately, both of these water heaters have one purpose: to provide a home with hot water. 

A deeper look inside both of these water heaters reveals how they’re different in their ability to heat water. 


Water Heating Design 

Conventional water heaters heat water differently than heat pump water heaters. Whereas heat pump water heaters are powered by electricity, traditional water heaters are usually powered by gas, electricity, or a combination of both. Here’s how each water heater works once connected to a power source. 

  • Conventional water heater: Traditional water heaters pull water from the main line and heat it to a set temperature. The heated water is stored within the tank (tank sizes vary from 20 to over 80 gallons). At the bottom of the tank is a burner, which is responsible for heating water and keeping it hot when used through different fixtures. The tank refills itself with hot water when reserves run low. 
  • Heat pump water heater: Instead of using a burner to heat water and keep it hot constantly, heat pump water heaters absorb hot air and separate the heat to make water hot. If the surrounding temperature isn’t hot enough to supply the water heater with a heating element, the heat pump water heater uses its electrical component to heat water. The heated water is stored at the top of the tank and is kept warm through the unit’s refrigeration cycle. 

Like traditional water heaters, heat pump water heaters come in various capacities. Certain factors, like the number of fixtures that use hot water and daily hot water usage, can help determine which size conventional or heat pump water heater is perfect for a home. 

By reviewing how conventional water heaters and heat pump water heaters heat water, you’ll be able to understand better how they compare in terms of energy efficiency.


Energy Efficiency 

Heat pump water heaters are up to five times more energy efficient than conventional water heaters. All water heaters use the Uniform Energy Factor (UEF). Traditional gas or electric water heaters have a .60 to .93 UEF rating, significantly lower than the 4.0 rating for heat pump water heaters. 

The main reason why conventional water heaters have a lower rating than heat pump water heater is because of the energy it needs to power themselves. Traditional water heaters consume energy, not just to heat water but to keep it heated for storage. 

Heat pumps rely mainly on their heat pump technology, which doesn’t require a lot of power to operate. By reducing energy consumption, heat pump water heaters can obtain a higher UEF rating. This also translates into more energy savings for the homeowner. 

Even though conventional water heaters have a lower UEF rating, they can still provide homeowners with energy cost savings. Whether it’s a heat pump water heater or a traditional one, all water heaters have energy guide labels that show an estimated yearly cost with the maximum gallons of hot water the unit can produce in an hour. 

Conventional and heat pump water heaters can provide yearly savings, but homeowners will have first to pay the upfront costs to have one of these water heaters installed. We’ll take a deeper look at how these water heaters compare in terms of pricing.


Cost Comparison 

Conventional water heaters, on average, are priced at $3,200 to $5,900 with installation. Whereas heat pump water heaters are higher in price, costing between $9,500 to $13,000. When shopping for any water heater in general, the following factors play a huge role in determining the final price. 

  • Manufacturer
  • Sizing
  • Additional parts 
  • Plumbing modifications
  • Water filtration (optional)

Heat pump water heaters are new to the water heating industry, so there are fewer options for heat pump water heater models. This allows manufacturers to set their pricing for water heaters. 

Although conventional water heaters cost less, they do not qualify for California rebates and federal credits like heat pump water heaters. These special offers can save homeowners up to $2,00o in heat pump water heater costs. 

Before you decide to choose a water heater to invest in, check out the following section on what maintenance looks like for a conventional or heat pump water heater.



Maintenance plays an essential role in ensuring that a conventional or heat pump water heater continues operating at full capacity. Both water heaters can benefit from annual maintenance from a certified technician, which includes the following procedures. 

  • Water heater flush: A flush helps remove any sediment buildup that accumulates in the water tank of a conventional water heater or heat pump water heater. This procedure is helpful for homes with hard water, which leaves behind scale buildup in water heaters. 
  • Inspection: During an annual checkup, a technician can inspect the conventional or heat pump water heater to ensure that any valves and connections aren’t loose. They can also run diagnostic tests to see if there are any possible issues to address. 

Conventional water heaters come with an anode rod that should be cleaned or replaced depending on its condition. The anode rod helps attract any sediment away from the water heater. Heat pump water heaters have a built-in air filter that should be checked and cleaned from dust and other particles. 


Is a Conventional Water Heater or Heat Pump Water Heater Right for Me?

We dove deep into the differences between heat pump water heaters and traditional water heaters. Although they look the same, these water heaters operate differently. Now that you know their differences, you can use this knowledge to help you determine which water heater is right for you and your home. 

We at Monkey Wrench Plumbing, Heating & Air understand that every home has unique hot water demands. Since 2007, we’ve helped homeowners in the Los Angeles area find a water heater, whether conventional or heat pump, that matches and meets their water needs.

If you want a conventional or heat pump water heater, contact us using one of the buttons below. Book an appointment through our online scheduler if you’re ready to explore these options. 

We understand traditional or heat pump water heaters may not be for every homeowner. If you’re looking for another water heater option, a tankless water heater might be right for you. Check out this article on the pros and cons of tankless water heaters.