Nicolette Forbes

By: Nicolette Forbes on August 28th, 2023

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What Are Heat Pump Water Heaters?

Standard Water Heaters

Heat pump water heaters are growing in popularity among homeowners across the country. But what exactly are heat pump water heaters, and how do they work?

If you have a home, chances are you do have a water heater that heats the water coming into your household. And sure, you probably know the difference between a tank and a tankless water heater, but the heat pump models are on the rise, with some brands believing they are the future of water heaters. 

Since heat pump water heaters are newer to the market, understanding what they are and how they function is key to having a better understanding of where your hot water comes from and if a heat pump water heater is right for you.

We here at Monkey Wrench Plumbing, Heating & Air have been in business for over 15 years and have worked around hundreds of water heaters, helping thousands of homeowners around the Los Angeles area. Now it’s your turn to join in on the fun!

In this article, we will discuss: 

  • What is a heat pump water heater
  • What are the parts of a heat pump water heater
  • How a heat pump water heater works

By the end of this article, you will become experts yourselves on the basics of heat pump water heaters.


Heat Pump Water Heaters: What Are They?

Heat pump water heaters are tank-style water heaters that use the hot air around them to heat the water coming into a home. But how does the water heater do that? 

The image shows a picture of a Rheem heat pump water heater.


A common misconception about heat pump water heaters is that they run on both gas and electricity, similar to how hybrid cars run. But the truth is, a heat pump water heater solely runs on electricity and heat pump technology to give you the hot water you want in your home

Similar to a tank-style water heater, heat pump water heaters have a large cylinder and can hold between 40 to 80 gallons of water, meaning they can be suitable for most households of all sizes. Instead of relying on gas like some tank-style water heaters, heat pump water heaters use up far less electrical energy. 

Their energy efficiency is one of the couple benefits associated with heat pump water heaters. Thanks to their design, heat pump water heaters can be three to five times more efficient than tankless and tank-style water heaters. 


How Does a Heat Pump Water Heater Work?

Heat pump water heaters use electricity to move heat from one place to another instead of generating heat directly, like a tank-style water heater or a tankless water heater which can use natural gas. 

To move the heat, heat pumps work like a refrigerator in reverse. While a refrigerator pulls heat from inside a box and sends it into the surrounding room, a heat pump water heater pulls heat from the surrounding air and transfers it to heat the water in the storage tank.

It then blows out the cooler air. Because it moves heat from one place to another instead of generating heat directly, it is a much more efficient way to heat water.

So you must be wondering, “Is this how all water heaters work?” Not at all! 

While heat pump heaters use electricity, they don’t always use it as tank-style electric water heaters do. Heat pump water heaters, on the other hand, typically use electricity to power the internal components that “pump” warm air into the unit. It also uses electricity as a backup energy source to heat water in case there's not enough heat in the ambient temperature, or there's a higher-than-usual demand for hot water. 


Lifespan of Heat Pump Water Heaters

Heat pump water heaters can last between 13 to 15 years on average. However, when used and maintained appropriately, it can even last for over 15 years. 

But how do you get the most out of your heat pump water heater? The lifespan of your heat pump water heater relies on a few different factors, including: 

  • Maintenance

It is important to service your heat pump water heater at least once a year to ensure your water heater is problem-free and working properly. If you don’t perform this necessary water heater maintenance, minor problems could turn into critical issues that would damage your hybrid unit.

  • Installation

While installing a heat pump water heater yourself is possible, we recommend that you call a certified technician to install your heat pump water heater. There are too many important steps that need to go exactly right during the installation process to avoid bigger problems in the future, such as a crack in the tank or a leak.

  • Hard Water

If you are like most Southern Californians, you likely have something called hard water. This harsh water will cause more sediment to build up in your tank and pipes, which will lead to breakdowns or error codes. If you don’t flush or drain your tank and pipes regularly, this buildup can damage your water heater and significantly shorten its lifespan.

Check out this article here as we walk you through the steps on how to drain a tank-style water heater, as it is a similar process to how you can also flush your heat pump water heater. 

  • Warranty 

The length of your warranty will have a definite impact on the longevity of your water heater. Once your unit is out of the warranty range, repairs will no longer be covered, depending on the brand.


Is a Heat Pump Water Heater For You?

We broke down how heat pump water heaters work and how they're very environmentally friendly thanks to their water heating technology. Now that you know how these specific water heaters work, you can continue your research into them as you decide if these units are suitable for your home. 

For over 15 years, we've stayed on top of new advancements in water heaters and helped homeowners understand how these systems work. We've helped install and maintain water heaters across Los Angeles and the surrounding areas. 

If you're interested in learning more about heat pump water heaters, learn about their benefits. By gaining information on their advantages, you will be in a better decision to decide if a heat pump water heaters are the right for you and your home.