In a home, or building, the air conditioning system takes heat from the air and transports it to the outside, cooling the building's interior. A heat pump water heater works in much the same way, but instead of transporting the heat out of doors, it is sent to the inside of the water heater.
This is a great idea for warm climates. HP water heaters aren't as functional in places with cold winters, but they still save money. Just not as much. There are two minor problems with using HP water heaters in cold climates. The first problem is that at temperatures of 40 or below, there simply isn't enough heat to draw out of the air. However, a 55 degree basement would be ideal, and HP water heaters also act as dehumidifiers, eliminating dampness problems. The second minor problem with an HP unit in colder climates is that, now that it's in the basement, the heat from your furnace or boiler is being used to heat the water heater. If the HP water heater is indoors, it has to get its heat from somewhere, so it takes it from the heated air in your home.
In spite of this, you should still see a significant savings in your utility bills. This is because it is much cheaper to move heat around, than to pay for the fuel to create heat. An old style water heater adds to the amount of fuel being burned, and increases your costs. HP water heaters simply use less energy.
While it is true heat pump water heaters tend to be much more expensive to purchase than their more primitive, fuel burning counterparts, an HP water heater, running at optimum, is able to transfer up to 2.5 times more energy than it consumes in electricity. Today’s HP water heaters are significantly less expensive, and more efficient than the earlier models, making them more affordable, but not cheap. The fuel for an old style water heater is expensive, but the actual equipment is relatively cheap. The buyer is faced with the dilemma of purchasing an expensive water heater that will save money over the long haul, or a cheap water heater using expensive fuel, and costing more over a period of time. With today's fuel costs, it is increasingly more cost effective to switch over to HP water heaters. This is becoming true for most alternative energy technologies. Suggested retail prices can start at $700 and range up to $2,423.06 for the Stiebel Eltron Accelera 300, (currently one of the most efficient HP water heaters on the market).
It is primarily fear of the unknown which causes otherwise intelligent people to choose older, less efficient technologies. New technologies are not well understood, making them questionable. An old style water heater is what you grew up with. You're comfortable with them. Cultural trends are also a factor. At present, it is common to think in the short term, and to make purchases using short term thinking. There are multiple reasons for this, but much of it has to do with our buying habits and role models. How often do you see someone on TV thinking hard and weighing all the factors before making a purchase? That would make for boring television. Impulse buying is much more fun. Fortunately, we're not actually TV characters. We are capable of independent thought, and of making comparisons. We don't need to rely dysfunctional television role models. We can become our own role model.
There is also something to be said for environmentally responsible behavior. While it is true most people are quite comfortable with unthinkingly adding to global warming, the real question is, “Are you one of those people?” Most people don't “think” about the long term impact of heating with natural gas, even though it is a pollutant. Natural gas is made up primarily of methane, which is also described as one of the most potent greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere. The various small leaks in the piping and equipment do as much damage as carbon monoxide exhausts. Environmentally responsible people are aware of their impact on this planet, and make an effort to minimize the damage, erasing it completely wherever possible. “Are you one of those people?”
In warmer climates, HP water heaters can be installed indoors, or out of doors, freeing up space.
Unlike solar power, heat pump water heaters are not affected by cloudy days.
A smaller gas bill.
Heat pump water heaters can be used to supplement air conditioning.
Heat pump water heaters make great dehumidifiers.
It does not pollute the atmosphere in any way, shape, or form.
It uses significantly less energy, and is more cost effective, than gas heated water tanks.