Heat pump water heaters are super-efficient and come with incentives | Features

Heating water more efficiently can be a real money saver, and utility rebates and government incentives have made heat pump water heaters more affordable than ever.

Mount Pleasant resident David Thompson made the switch after learning about heat pump water heaters on the TV show This Old House.

Heat pump water heaters, often marketed as hybrid water heaters, use heat from the surrounding air in the heating process and are sometimes described as working in reverse like a refrigerator. It’s similar to the technology many South Carolina residents use to heat and cool their homes.

Thompson said he had a conventional 18-year-old electric water heater in his attic and had been warned it was high time to replace it. Inspired by the TV show, he looked at heat pump water heaters and made the upgrade.

“I feel good every time I do something today to save money tomorrow,” Thompson said.



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The electric meter on the side of the Thompson’s Mount Pleasant home is pictured October 17, 2022. Henry Taylor/Staff



He expects that the new water heater will reduce his electricity bill. A federal tax credit and utility refund also covered about 28 percent of the upfront cost.

“The most efficient water heaters and heating and cooling systems use heat pump technology, which moves heat rather than creates it,” according to Energy Star, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s energy conservation experts.

They work best in temperatures between 40 and 90 degrees, making a South Carolina garage or attic ideal. Because they use the ambient air in the heating process, they are not well suited for installation in small enclosed spaces such as B. a closet.

Energy Star estimates that a water heater accounts for about 20 percent of a home’s energy use, and heat pump water heaters use 70 percent less energy than traditional ones.

Energy Star estimates that a family of four could save $470 a year on utility bills by switching to a heat pump water heater, suggesting the devices more than pay for themselves.

In Thompson’s case, his new 80-gallon Rheem Hybrid water heater cost $2,218 plus tax. Add in the plumbing, a drain pan, and an expansion tank, minus the federal tax credit and utility rebate, and the final cost was about $2,700.

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Energy Star estimates it will pay for itself over the life of the device, potentially generating an additional $2,000 in savings from lower utility bills. Hybrid water heaters also cool the space they sit in, so the unit helps keep Thompson’s attic a little cooler.

Hybrid water heaters have a condenser and a fan, so they are not as quiet as traditional water heaters.

“If it’s on, you can hear it,” Thompson said. “It doesn’t bother me in the slightest, but I think that would limit the space you could put one in.”

“We’re perfectly happy with that,” he said.

A $300 federal tax credit is available for 2022, plus utility rebates including a $750 offer from Dominion. To find utility rates near you, go to energystar.gov/rebate-finder.



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David Thompson washes his hands in his kitchen on October 17, 2022. A new heat pump water heater he and his wife installed in 2021 saves energy and provides “unlimited hot water,” he said. Henry Taylor/staff



Beginning in 2023, federal incentives will increase to up to $1,750 for those earning no more than 150 percent of their state median income due to provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act targeting climate change and energy efficiency. Even with this income constraint, the majority of SC residents will qualify.

Despite incentives, adoption in South Carolina was limited. Just over 100 people have received the $750 rebate offered by Dominion since late 2020, the utility said.

Estimates of energy savings vary. While Energy Star says a family of four could save $470 annually, Duke Energy, which offers a $350 rebate on a hybrid water heater installed by a participating contractor, estimates the savings at $250 per year for a family in South Carolina replacing a standard 50-gallon water heater.

That’s still $2,500 in energy savings over 10 years.

Santee Cooper is offering a $400 rebate to residential customers and offering low-interest loans for the purchase of heat pump water heaters.

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Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552. Follow him on Twitter @DSladeNews.

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