Get a Heat Pump Water Heater and Improve your Home Energy Score

heat pump water heater energy savings

This fall, Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) released a report evaluating the Home Energy Score program, sharing insights gleaned from the 20,000 Score reports completed over the past three years. 

Saavy homeowners can learn from the experience of others: Although every home is different, there are some common improvements most often recommended by Home Energy Score Assessors. These five improvements were included in the report, and we’ve covered most of them already on this blog.

The Top Five Ways to Improve Home Energy Score

Here is the official list released by BPS:

  1. Professionally seal gaps and cracks that allow air leakage into the home 
  2. Professionally seal ducts to reduce airflow leakage 
  3. Upgrade water heater to a heat pump and/or choose one with an Energy Star label 
  4. Upgrade to a higher efficiency heating system and/or to a heat pump 
  5. Insulate exterior walls, attic, basement and crawlspaces

To find tips on completing most of these items, check out the the DIY section of our Home Energy Score blog. There’s one we haven’t touched on yet: #3, upgrade to a heat pump hot water heater.

What is a heat pump water heater and should I get one?

Choosing the right water heater is important: They are a primary culprit in high energy bills, consuming 14% of energy used by the average home. Most Portland homes use a conventional storage hot water heater, which is usually not the most efficient way to go, but does provide plenty of hot water when you need it. Electric heat pump water heaters, also known as hybrid water heaters, also store water, but they heat it more efficiently. 

Like a heat pump used to heat air for an HVAC system, a heat pump water heater concentrates heat that is already in the air, transferring that heat to the water stored in its tank. Because they include a fan, compressor and tank together in one unit, heat pump hot water heaters are larger than conventional tanks. The upfront cost of this type of water heater is also more than a traditional electric or natural gas version. 

The clear advantage of a heat pump hot water heater is that it will save energy and improve your Home Energy Score. This type of hot water heater is 2-3x more efficient than a conventional storage tank hot water heater run by electricity, according to the Department of Energy, and it’s estimated that the annual savings for a family of four will run about $330/year

When does it make sense to switch to an electric heat pump hot water heater? If your current conventional storage tank hot water heater is ready to be replaced, and it runs off electricity, you might consider a heat pump version. Natural gas is currently affordable enough in Portland that switching to an electric hot water heater system won’t make much of a difference when it comes to energy bills, but it’s still a good way to decrease your home’s carbon footprint (choose one with a good EnergyStar rating).

Do you have more questions about ways to improve your home’s energy score? Ready to see how your home measures up? Contact our HES assessors today to book your appointment.