This might bore some of you, but I’m really excited about the new water heater we got for our 1925 fixer-upper in Church Hill. When we first bought this place back in June 2009, there was an 8-year old 30-gallon hot water heater in the basement that was off-level and had a water line about a foot from the bottom indicating the basement had flooded at one point (probably Hurricane Gaston in 2004). Furthermore, the heating elements in this cheap water heater were operating very poorly, as Sarah and I could only enjoy about 7 minutes of hot water (max) before it got luke-warm or cold. That meant 3-minute hot water showers if we showered back-to-back. We lived like that for over a year.
So we entered the market as very motivated buyers of a new hot water heater. We explored the affordable models at the big box stores, such as 30, 40, and 50-gallon electric units for anywhere from $220 to $420. I remember seeing some fancy stainless steel model for over $1500 and scoffing at it thinking that we would never get some silly Cadillac of Hot Water Heaters.
That’s exactly what we ended up buying.
I had researched online all kinds of water heaters – electric, gas, wood-fired units, and tankless. I went to the library and read Consumer Reports. I stumbled upon this fancy type called a “heat pump water heater.” It is a hybrid unit that uses a mix of traditional electric water heating elements and an electric heat pump. Historically, most water heaters have used heating elements to heat the water (extremely inefficient, but it heats nonetheless). Engineers at GE, Rheem, and other companies have figured out a way to mix in a very efficient way to heat (heat pump) with this traditional method and use the result to heat water.
Consumer Reports noted that of all the new “energy efficient” products out there, these Hybrid Water Heaters are one of best at paying themselves off in energy savings very rapidly.
Take a Toyota Prius or Solar Cells for your roof. Those things can take decades to pay for themselves in monetary savings, making them less of an economic purchase and more of a “save the earth” purchase.
I found that the Hybrid Water Heaters can be both an economic purchase and they “save the earth” at the same time. What a concept. What really makes this work is all the rebates and incentives that come from the state and federal level to help you pay for a Heat Pump Water Heater. There was also a sale at Lowe’s when I bought it. Here is how it worked for us:
Retail Price of Water Heater: $1599.00
Lowe’s 10% Appliance Discount: ($159.90)
State of Virginia Rebate: ($250.00)
Federal Energy Credit: ($453.32)
State Sales Tax $71.96
Net Total Cost to Me: $807.74
Annual Average Savings in Energy Costs (vs. a traditional 50-gallon electric hot water heater): $290/yr. For graphs and an overview of this conclusion, go to http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=heat_pump.pr_savings_benefits
$807 divided by $230 is 2 and three quarters. So this hot water heater will pay for itself in savings in 2 years and 9 months. Everything we save after that is gravy.
I just got my electric bill after using the unit for a full month. Though it’s hard to compare to other months’ bills because we’ve only been in the house 18 months and every month has seen changes in upgrades and energy use, I can say that the bill was definitely lower than I expected it to be. One reason is probably this killer water heater.
The heater has a digital dashboard to select the exact heat of the water (up to 125, I think). We keep it at 113 and that’s plenty hot enough for us. I should note here that the water feels just as hot as an electric-only water heater. You can also select the energy modes (hybrid, traditional, energy efficient, etc.). You can even select “vacation mode” at the push of a button. My father-in-law and I installed the thing and the installation was very simple and not any different than a traditional water heater (hot/cold lines and wiring for 220). There is also an air filter that is simple to remove and wash under water (haven’t had to clean it yet). A light will turn on for you when it is time to clean the air filter.
I’ve heard and read that some people are concerned about the noise of the appliance. Since it is a heat pump, it has a motor that runs and it is certainly audible. We have the unit in our basement laundry area, so the noise doesn’t bother us. We can sometimes hear it from the first floor when everything else is quiet, but it’s definitely not bothersome. If anything, it is the sound of extra money in the pocket 🙂
What are some purchases that you think are worth the up-front cost in order to gain the long-term energy savings?