A heat pump water heater is a hot water heater that transfers heat from the surrounding indoor air, instead of burning fossil fuels to generate heat. It’s three times more efficient than a conventional hot water system, and provides many other benefits.

If you’ve decided to make the switch to this new, more sustainable water heating system, here are some important questions to ask your installer:

Configuration

What size water heater tank do I need?

You can probably replace your existing water heater with a heat pump water heater of the same size, but you should ask your installer if your current water heater is over- or undersized for your home’s hot water load. If you are in between sizes, larger heat pump water heaters tend to provide more efficient performance. A good rule of thumb is that each member of a household will use roughly 20 gallons of hot water per day.

Do I have enough space for a heat pump water heater?

Heat pump water heaters need at least 750 cubic feet of air to efficiently heat water, e.g. a 10′ x 10′ room with a 7.5 ft If ceiling. If you lack sufficient space, or if you can only place the heat pump water heater in a mechanical closet, you may need to add louvers to the closet door and/or vent the exhaust to another part of the house or outdoors to avoid cooling the space off too much and reducing efficiency.

Where will the condensate drain go?

Heat pump water heaters require access to a drain to manage condensate buildup. If a nearby floor drain is not available, a condensate pump to an appropriate drain may be needed.

How will the controls be set up? Will it have Wi-Fi integration? Will it have leak protection?

Ask your installer to explain the controls for your system and what additional features are available. While heat pump water heaters work best when left to operate on their own, it is important to know how to adjust your system’s settings to meet your household’s needs. Many heat pump water heaters also have Wi-Fi integration which allows for remote control of the heat pump water heater through your smartphone or other digital device. It also enables alerts, service warnings, and more active monitoring of the system. Leak protection systems are also increasingly common, automatically shutting off water or sealing up areas surrounding a leak to prevent flooding.

Cost

What is the installation price and what incentives may be available? Who will apply for these incentives?

Make sure that you understand upfront who will apply for any incentives that you are pursuing and when you need to apply (before vs. after installation).

Aside from annual electricity costs, what other annual costs can I expect (such as regular maintenance or parts)?

Heat pump water heaters use air filters that should be cleaned periodically by the homeowner to ensure efficient operation.

Timing

Will I need an electrical upgrade?

If you live in an older home or lack space on your electrical panel, your home may need an electrical upgrade to ensure it can access enough power to support the heat pump water heater. If you are replacing an old gas, oil, or propane heater, be sure to check with an electrician and your installer to ensure that your home has enough electrical capacity to support the load from the heat pump water heater. If you are replacing an existing electrical system, you don’t need to worry about an upgrade. If you do need an upgrade, be sure to work with a licensed electrician to conduct the upgrade.

If you live in an older home or lack space on your electrical panel, your home may need an electrical upgrade to ensure it can access enough power to support the heat pump water heater. If you are replacing an old gas, oil, or propane heater, be sure to check with an electrician and your installer to ensure that your home has enough electrical capacity to support the load from the heat pump water heater. If you are replacing an existing electrical system, you don’t need to worry about an upgrade. If you do need an upgrade, be sure to work with a licensed electrician to conduct the upgrade.

How far in advance can we plan the installation, and how long does the installation take?

Be sure to communicate if you have particular time constraints and get a sense of when your installer will be available to do the installation. If your water heater has failed, you may have more limited options for an immediate heat pump water heater replacement. A heat pump water heater can often be installed by a professional, and an old unit removed, in the span of S hours. Ducting, difficult-to-access spaces, and other factors may increase the time needed to complete an install.

Be sure to communicate if you have particular time constraints and get a sense of when your installer will be available to do the installation. If your water heater has failed, you may have more limited options for an immediate heat pump water heater replacement. A heat pump water heater can often be installed by a professional, and an old unit removed, in the span of 3-5 hours. Ducting, difficult-to-access spaces, and other factors may increase the time needed to complete an install.

What should I do to prepare for the installation?

Make sure you understand from your installer if there is anything you need to do to prepare to have them working in your home.

Quality Assurance

Do you provide a warranty for the systems you install? What are the different warranty options?

Make sure you understand what is covered by any warranty offered by your contractor (i.e., equipment, labor, or both). Many heat pump water heaters come with a 10-year warranty.

Have you participated in manufacturer training for the systems you would install, and can you provide references from previous customers?

As with any home improvement project, it is important to ensure that your installer has the right training and a good track record with past customers.

Will you hire subcontractors to complete portions of the project? If so, what will they do? What are the names of these companies and how long have you worked with them?

Many heat pump water heater installers sub-contract the electrical work. Some will even allow the homeowner to select their own electrician.

Will you provide training for me on how to properly operate and maintain the system (i.e., thermostat settings, cleaning air filters)?

Heat pump water heaters are relatively simple to operate, but there are a few differences compared to other water heating systems, and your installer should be a good educational resource. Heat pump water heaters use air filters that should be cleaned periodically to ensure efficient operation.

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