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There’s a lot of water heater inertia in our area. We remain with old-fashioned heaters. I’ve been thinking about it. Mid-peninsula residents are quick to adopt all sorts of clean technology, such as solar panels, electric vehicles as well as LED lights, smart thermostats, and more. We care about the climate crisis and we’re determined to contribute particularly when it comes to cutting-edge technology and some substantial incentives.

We’ve got everything happening with modern-day water heaters, but their adoption is slow. Water heaters with heat pump significantly reduce emissions, while using 3.5-6 more energy than gas water heaters. But we continue to fire our gas to heat the water, increasing our home’s carbon footprint by around 50 percent. (1) What’s with this?

This is the first part of the second part of a series on water heaters that use heat pumps, that I hope will help to answer this question, decode the heaters in some way, and encourage more of us to give them a thorough look. In the first installment, we’ll take an online tour of actual installations in the local area following a brief introduction.
Below is a photo of the two Rheem water heaters. They’re pretty similar in appearance but the one to the left is hooked to gas and operates like a gas stove, whereas the one on the right plugs into the wall and is a refrigerator (in reverse). Based on the description above, it’s hard to think that anyone would care enough about which one we get that we’d select the one that’s more harmful to the environment (on one side).).

Demystifying heat pump water heaters Rheem PROPH50T2RH350D

A gas-powered tank (L) and an electric heat pump (R)

They’re similar in appearance. They’re roughly identical in dimensions. And they’re both from Home Depot. The right one is more expensive and comes with a significant regional rebate and the costs are less (2).
I asked people who know about these water heaters, why there’s an increase in excitement about EVs than heat pumps. I received a fascinating array of answers.

1. They’re not visible. Because people can’t see them like EVs and solar roofing, it’s difficult to find out if someone else is using one, how “normal” the units are, and whether your family members and neighbors are purchasing the same. The public doesn’t discuss the water heaters they have, so it’s hard to get information about them.

2. They’re invisible. One other reason for being invisible could be that because people aren’t able to see them means there’s less social pressure to purchase one, to prove to your friends you’re not burning gas for showers. It’s not possible to “virtue signal” by using a heater for the water.

3. The installers are at the root of the problem. The “influencers” that are installers contractors, architects, and builders tend to be conservative and have a “Go using what you are familiar with” attitude. Josie Gaillard, an Environmental Quality Commissioner from Menlo Park, estimates that “80 percent of installers attempt to convince you about it.” It’s not likely to find that in EV sales.

4. The installers are at fault. An educated view on the cause of installer resistance is that there aren’t many skilled installers. Zach Liske, who owns the company which represents clean energy product manufacturers, stated that installation is “the issue for the industry. There aren’t many trained installers. The culture of our society discourages youngsters from entering the workforce, and the diminished unions don’t offer any kind of training. Techs aren’t educated and there’s not a place for education.” (His business, Flow Tech, is helping to change this.)

5. Electrical work is essential. A majority of water heaters with heat pumps require a 240V circuit and perhaps some other electrical power, although it is possible to cut down on the correct choices. This means that the fuel switch can be slower and will cost more to install. The latest update (July 2022): Rheem now has two 120-volt models available.

Incredibly, I got an entirely different set of opinions when I spoke to people who weren’t experienced with these water heaters. They were able to echo questions regarding costs, but also raised concerns regarding installation and noise. I’ll discuss the issues of location and noise later, and cost in a subsequent blog. At present, I’ll only declare that they needn’t be major issues in the majority of situations. What’s required is to locate an expert installer and reduce the electrical work you do.

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The Ecogenica 215F / 290F

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Reasons to Upgrade:

Our heat pump is the most efficient on the market, with a COP of 5. This means it is 5 times more efficient than old electric resistance hot water systems. Here are some of the most common reasons our customers choose to upgrade:

💰 Your tank is old or about to break and it needs replacement.
⛽️ Your tank is new but inefficient
🤑 You want to drastically reduce your hot water bill by up to 81% 
🌏 You want to reduce your burden on the environment
😭 Your water is not hot enough
🤴 You want a system with the best warranty and best efficiency in the scheme. You deserve it. 
💀 You want a free system worth $5030. 

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