heating and AC, plumbing & electric
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heating and AC, plumbing & electric 479.900.0784
December 8, 2022

Heat Pump Water Heater vs. Conventional Water Heater: What’s the difference?

When it comes to having efficient and reliable hot water available at your home, there are many differences when it comes to getting the right one to suit your needs. Soon, heat pump water heaters will be a hot item, because rebates will be available to homeowners through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

Water heaters account for the second highest energy suck in your home. In fact, on average, your water heater makes up for about 17% of your electrical bill. This means replacing your old water heater with a more energy efficient option will save money on your utilities

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American households use a variety of water heaters. They are fueled by natural gas, electricity, fuel oil, wood and solar. However, most rebates and savings programs go toward electric water heaters and offer the most opportunity for energy savings.


  • Gas-Fueled 48%
  • Electric Water Heaters 45%
  • Others (fuel oil, wood and solar)  7%

So, which electric water heater is better? A conventional tank water heater or a heat pump water heater? Here’s a comparison of the two:

Heat Pump Water Heater

Heat pump water heaters are an energy efficient way to heat water for your home. That’s because they use existing heat surrounding the unit, instead of using energy to create new heat like traditional water heaters and they do not use natural gas.

It’s the same concept of how your refrigerator works, but in reverse. Your fridge pulls air into the unit and cools it by running it over coils filled with refrigerant and cooling your food inside. 

How do Heat Pump Water Heaters Work?

  • A fan pulls existing heat from the surrounding air into the heat pump water heater.
  • That air is blown from a compressor across a series of evaporator coils filled with warm refrigerant.
  • Cold water comes in through an inlet.
  • That water passes over hot evaporator coils.
  • The hot water runs through an outlet into the water tank so it’s ready to pipe hot water into your shower, sink, dishwasher and other appliances.

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Heat pump water heaters have to be installed in an area between 40-90 degrees fahrenheit, or they will not be able to properly heat water. They do not work well in colder climates because of this, however installing them in warmer areas of your home with excess heat will increase their efficiency. 

Heat pump water heaters are more expensive up front, but since many of them qualify for energy efficiency programs you may be able to offset the cost through tax credits or rebates. They also use less energy. According to the Department of Energy, a heat pump water heater will save a household around $330 a year on electric bills.

Conventional Tank Water Heater

Conventional tank water heaters are the most common type of water heater. They are less expensive than other types, but cost more to operate. They use a large tank to store hot water until you need to use it. Hot water is stored at the top and released when you turn on the hot water tap. Cold water fills the bottom of the tank to replace the hot water used keeping the tank perpetually full.

These conventional water heaters use a fuel source to heat water, including natural gas, propane, fuel and electricity. 

A lot of energy is wasted, since the water is always heating inside the tank to the temperature your thermostat is set. Since this water is heated and sitting on standby, energy is wasted by simply keeping the reserve water hot.

How do Conventional Tank Water Heaters Work?

  • Cold water is pumped into the bottom of the storage tank.
  • It is heated by a gas flame or electric elements inside the tank.
  • The hot water is held until it’s needed. 
  • When hot water is used, the tank is filled with cold water and restarts the cycle.

In addition to higher energy costs, they also have a shorter lifespan compared to tankless water heaters. Conventional tank water heaters take up more space and they can collect sediments which could lead to corrosion and rust.

Before Buying A Water Heater

There are a few things to consider before buying a heat pump water heater. 

  • Appropriate size to handle your hot water needs.
  • Fuel type and availability
  • Energy efficiency
  • Overall costs

Hiring A Plumber

Heat pump water heaters and conventional water heaters both have their pros and cons. It’s a good idea to get with a professional plumber to help determine what is best for your home. Call to schedule with a Paschal Pro today at 479-900-0784 or schedule online today.