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What Is a Heat Pump Water Heater and How Does It Work?

June 10, 2024
What Is a Heat Pump Water Heater and How Does It Work?

A heat pump water heater is beyond impressive. To many people, how it works is somewhat of a mystery. Once you understand how it heats water, it will make sense that it is the ultimate in efficiency. It helps homeowners qualify for tax credits, earn utility company incentives and enjoy energy cost savings.

What It Is

We’ll start with the Rheem® ProTerra® Hybrid Electric Heat Pump Water Heater. It’s a heat pump and electric water heater in one. It’s up to 4x the efficiency of a standard water heater.1 It produces zero emissions onsite and fewer greenhouse gases.

How It Works

The heat pump works like a refrigerator in reverse. It pulls heat energy from the air to heat water.

A refrigerant system absorbs heat from the surrounding air. The compressor superheats the refrigerant which passes through condenser tubing that’s wrapped around the tank. The water in the tank absorbs the heat. Presto – hot water!

The Hybrid Electric Heat Pump also has two electric elements that help heat water when the heat pump alone can’t keep up with demand. For example, when the ambient temperature nears 37°F, it’s more difficult to draw heat energy from the cold air. Electric elements will turn on to ensure you have hot water when you need it.

Heat Pump Benefits

Tax credits and incentives: Heat pump water heaters qualify for ENERGY STAR 5.0® certification, federal and local incentive programs and residential 25C tax credits. Visit our resources page and check with your local utility company for information about tax credits, incentives and rebates.

Energy cost savings: It’s so efficient that homeowners can save up to $491 per year – that’s up to $4,910 over 10 years.2 It uses 75% less energy than a standard electric water heater.3

Earth-friendly efficiency: Heat pump water heaters help minimize your impact on the environment, producing zero emissions onsite and fewer greenhouse gases through reduced energy use. This is one of the reasons there are so many programs that support making the switch to heat pump.

Smart features: Powered by EcoNet®, built-in Wi-Fi and the EcoNet app on a smart device, users have control from anywhere. Scheduling and energy usage tracking can maximize your savings and the Hot Water Availability Indicator and operation modes ensure you don’t run out of hot water.

Heat Pump Options

The Hybrid Electric is the the ideal heat pump water heater solution where 240V electric service is available. Rheem also offers 120V Plug-in Heat Pump models to replace gas water heaters requiring minimal to no electrical work. Our Rheem ProTerra Plug-in Heat Pump Water Heaters are up to 5x the efficiency of a gas water heater4.

Our ‘Which ProTerra is right for you?’ product selector tool can help homeowners find the right heat pump water heater. As always, the plumber is the best resource for water heater selection.

Rheem has also solutions for commercial spaces.

See It in Action

Make Sure You Schedule Annual Maintenance

Annual professional maintenance is recommended for your water heater to maintain a comfortable home. Find a professional Rheem plumber or contractor near you:


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1Based on comparison of a 50-gallon Rheem Hybrid Electric Heat Pump and a standard electric tank of like capacity with minimum efficiency. 2Based on estimated annual operating cost savings of the 40, 50, 65 and 80-gallon models. 3Based on comparison of a 50-gallon Rheem Hybrid Electric Heat Pump and a standard electric tank of like capacity with minimum efficiency. 4Based on comparison of 40 and 50 gallon Rheem ProTerra Heat Pump water heaters and standard gas ULN water heaters of like capacity. Efficiency varies by gallon capacity.