Here's Matt's popular new video with over half a million views in its first week alone. It features a wonderful set of animations that really drive his points home in a powerful way, in a small amount of your valuable time. Feel free to leave your comments below this article or his video. Enjoy!
When figuring out where the most cost savings are in running your home, it can be difficult to know where to start, especially if the focus is also on moving away from fossil fuels. For my wife and I, some of those decisions were made for us. We both moved to EVs when both of our old Honda Civics died within the same year that our natural gas water heater died. These baby steps were our moves to get closer to electrifying everything in our lives. Our eventual quest is to save money in terms of total cost of ownership while moving away from fossil fuels, especially since our grid is increasingly becoming more sustainable with each passing year. Gladly, this trend is true across most of the rest of the world too, especially now with rising gas and oil prices. Over 65,000 electric miles driven and thousands of electric water heat gallons used, we can safely say we have no regrets about our careful buying decisions.
This article is specifically focused on revisiting how these past 3 years of hybrid electric hot water heating has gone for our home. Heat pumps are a wonderfully efficient and proven technology, yielding 3-4 times the efficiency of the old and costly-to-operate resistive-heating-element electric hot water heaters. Think of a hybrid electric water heater as a fridge on top of a tank, with the fridge running in reverse to heat up the water most days. There are also traditional heating coils in the tank that can heat up the water, but this happens automatically, and only occasionally, when the demands for lots of hot water are unusually high.
While the up front cost is likely more for this newer type of water heater, most states offer incentive rebates that can bring the installed price closer to natural gas. Here in Connecticut, we got $750 off, and you'll find many more details in my initial hybrid electric water heater ownership experience article featuring a video, published soon after our June 2019 installation:
- Replaced my failed gas water heater with a much more efficient Rheem hybrid electric with WiFi, its quiet heat pump is also dehumidifying and cooling my basement
Jun 23 2019
Here we are 3 years later, and I have new information to share. I've sorted those thoughts, opinions, and observations in the categories below, followed by a very informative and super popular new video about heat pump technology on Undecided with Matt Ferrell, where I make a cameo appearance to talk about my experience. The reasons I'm excited about this video include:
- Matt's work is always top-notch, it's just such an honor to help him in any way that I can!
- Many people learn better from video than from words alone.
- The immense popularity of my first article about this special water heater gives me hope that people do actually care about getting away from fossil fuel.
- Some states have already banned natural gas lines from new building projects, for example, see New California rules move state away from natural gas in new buildings, so I like to think that this article helps prepare you for that inevitable, better future!
- Maybe articles like this really help shoppers that are on the fence, helping reduce pollution too!
My 49dB measurement of the noise of my heat pump in 2019 matched Rheem's published specifications featured in my article and in 2020 under the newer Proterra models seen here. As first noted in 2021, some commenter on my YouTube video and article noticed the noise has seemingly gotten louder since then, with the recent spec sheet not including dB levels. I've reached out to Rheem Media Relations for comment, and they've promised to follow-up with me for clarification. If I receive a response, I'll append it to this article.
On average, our basement is about 62°F in the winter, and I tend to only be down there from 1 to 3 hours, so I generally don't bother to turn on the heat. In the summer, it used to be a humid 72°F typically, with the loud dehumidifer set to run for a few hours in the middle of the night, sending that unfinished back area ambient temp up to 75°F. Now, summers are more like 68°F both day and night, in our entire basement. This is wonderful for us, making the finished area of our basement comfortable an extra 4 months of the year, despite there being no central AC ducts there.
On average, our household takes about 2.5 showers per day over these past 3 years. There was one holiday when we had 6 folks under our roof for several days. We ran low (but not completely out) of hot water for the 6th shower one morning. Setting the unit to High Demand mode helped it recover much faster than the Heat Pump Only mode I had accidentally left it in, so subsequent mornings went more smoothly, with everybody getting their hot shower.
It helps to have the water tank set to 140°F, making the 50 gallon unit seem more like a 75 gallon unit, and reducing the chance of bacterial growth. You installer should use a mixer valve, to ensure safer hot water temperatures at the tap. We don't use Vacation Mode to avoid bacterial growth possibilities, nor do we take long vacations anyway.
It seems to take no more than about 30 minutes for the water tank temperatures to recover after somebody takes a very long shower. I can't be sure, since the app doesn't actually tell you the current tank temperature, only the LCD display on the unit tells you that. Still, I'm glad we wired a dedicated 30 amp circuit for this water heater, which roughly halves the (temperature) recovery time when in High Demand mode.
A flushing service wasn't top of mind these past 2 unusual years. I confess, we haven't done any service whatsoever. Our city tap water isn't particularly hard, and we don't have a history of hard water related plumbing issues in our 27 years of owning our home. Our previous water heaters lasted about 8 to 12 years each, even with no service.
I had some false alarms about the condensate line being clogged. I used a blade to cut a notch into the inside sharp right angle of the PVC pipe, right at the condensate line exit port of the tank. This notch prevented the water's natural capillary reaction that was leading to small puddles forming above that upstream of that right angle, which was apparently tricking the sensor into thinking the entire line had clogged. The problem has gone away since my fix, but it's too bad it's a possibility in the first place. Not a big deal at all, and it continued to provide normal hot water at all times, despite the alert that took me a few weeks to resolve it.
Folks shopping for an installer will need to account for the additional cost of getting a dedicated 30 amp circuit and a solution for the condensate drainage. If you're in a smaller household where recovery speed isn't as important, you might be able to get by with repurposing an existing 15 amp outlet, but only if there's nothing else on that circuit. It's up to you to be sure your installer follows all building codes.
About $200/year for the electricity to meet all of our hot water needs, despite pricy 18 to 24 cents per kWh electricity prices here in New England, which features some of the most expensive electricity in the country.
For our household, on average, that's about:
- 2.5 showers a day
- 2 loads of laundry per week
- 1 dishwasher loads per day (some days by hand, most days by machine)
Since our natural gas is used for our furnace to heat our home, it's impossible for us to calculate exactly how much we were spending on natural gas for our hot water before going electric. This also means we can't really calculate how long our return on investment will be.
- When I have occasional guests, it'd be helpful if I could easily set to "High Demand" mode for number of days only, without having to remember to set it back to a more efficient mode once guests leave. Kind of like a vacation mode, but with high demand for the set duration instead.
- It sure would be groovy if the water tank temperatures could be seen right in the EcoNet app!
- It would also be great if I could get a push alert to my phone when tank's water temp drops, and another when it recovers. Even better if the app alert could also estimate how long it would be good to wait before taking a shower, just during those extremely high demand days where it things you might get some colder water near te end of your shower.
When you consider that we used to spend about $100 per year just to run that noisy basement dehumidifier from May to October, this purchase has been a win for us already.
I find it quite reassuring to see an ever-increasing interest in this proven technology as a path toward a more sustainable future for both the home energy and transportation sectors.
Buying this hybrid water heater was merely my first-step in eliminating the burning of fossil fuels in my home. It has motivated me to start looking into High Temperature Air Source Heat Pumps that can replace my 27 year old Natural Gas Furnace, used for my water based baseboard heating. I also have a 25 year old 2.5 ton single-stage Carrier central AC unit to replace, not sure yet what my best path forward will be. Stay tuned!
Meanwhile, some homes fortunate enough to have the budget to go all-in now might consider having a look at something like LG's Therma V Gets it Done with All-in-One Cooling, Heating and Hot Water.
If you're more of an article reader than video viewer, Matt kindly has a full transcript of his video in his article, and a treasure trove of links to his many sources. Here's an excerpt, from the video segment where I'm featured:
- Why Heat Pumps are Essential for the Future – Explained
Jun 8 by Matt Ferrell at Undecided with Matt Ferrell
One of my Patrons, Paul, who runs the website TinkerTry has documented his experience living with one of these water heaters.
Three years ago, my natural gas water heater failed. Gladly, I was able to find a Rheem hybrid electric water heater installer who got the replacement price down to about the same cost as a new gas heater, using my state’s $750 incentive coupon. We were able to ditch our basement’s dehumidifier, re-using that same drain line. The occasional fridge-like noise wasn’t a problem as it’s in our unfinished back-area. Using Rheem’s Econet app, I was able to figure we’ve been running at about 195 dollars a year, taking care of our 2.5 adult household’s hot water needs which includes daily showers. We had been spending about $100 per year for decades just to run our dehumidifier!
- Paul Braren
Matt Ferrell has now come out with yet another fun and informative podcast episode 122, and this one discusses his heat pump video, check it out!
If you prefer video to podcast format, no worries, Matt and Sean get you, here's their video below. Enjoy!
I'm using this system to monitor for leaks:
- My ecobee3 HomeKit WiFi thermostat with remote motion and temperature sensors makes cents for my home
Jul 19 2015
- Tornadoes, hurricanes, and snowstorms motivated me to get a generator, here's a look at my ETQ TG72K12 with 8250 Watts, 14 HP, low THD, and clean sine waves
Oct 26 2012
There are also many more great videos about heat pumps, including these that I quite enjoyed:
- ENERGY STAR® Heat Pump Water Heater Rebate
- How it Works — Heat Pump Water Heaters (HPWHs)
During periods of high hot water demand, HPWHs switch to standard electric resistance heat (hence they are often referred to as “hybrid” hot water heaters) automatically. HPWH come with control panels that you to select from different operating modes 1, which include:
Efficiency/Economy – Maximizes energy efficiency and savings by only using the heat pump to heat water
Auto/Hybrid – The default setting is ideal for daily use, providing energy-efficient water heating with sustained heat
Electric/Heater – This high-demand setting is the least energy-efficient, using only the electric element to heat water
Vacation & Timer (not available on all models) – Save on your energy when away from home by placing the unit in "sleep" mode until you return
Darin Zook @darinzook Jun 14
My energy thirsty water heater sits in my garage here in NC. Makes me wonder how much of the NC Heat and Humidity in my garage could be used to heat our water! Something to consider for the future. Thanks @paulbraren!