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Hot Water, Cooler Planet: SunWork Kicks Off Heat Pump Water Heater Pilot Program

With the recent U.N. climate report stating unequivocally that human behaviors have increased warming of the planet, SunWork is taking the next step in its evolution to help homeowners minimize their carbon footprint. SunWork, a nonprofit solar installer, is piloting the installation of ultra-high-efficiency electric heat pump water heaters to replace fossil-fuel-burning natural gas water heaters in Bay Area homes.

Heat pump water heaters (HPWH) use heat pump technology to efficiently heat water. They have much lower carbon footprints than gas water heaters including the once popular tankless  water heaters. According to Silicon Valley Clean Energy, “gas water heaters are typically a home’s single biggest source of emissions that are damaging to air quality and the environment” so replacing a gas water heater can significantly reduce a Bay Area homeowner’s carbon footprint. In addition, homeowners with rooftop solar installed can power a HPWH using electricity from their solar system — thus zeroing out carbon usage to heat water and saving money as well.

Reducing your carbon footprint with a heat pump water heater

 

Who is eligible for the HPWH pilot program?

The new SunWork HPWH pilot program is open to customers in the Bay Area who are currently heating their water with a gas water heater located in their garage (and with an electric service panel located in the garage as well). SunWork is providing a full HPWH installation service, including the electrical work, plumbing connections, and permitting. During the “early adopter” rollout of this service, SunWork is managing and collecting the applicable rebates for customers. SunWork will not require a specific electricity bill maximum or any income-related qualification criteria for this pilot program. More details about the products we install, their costs after rebates, and program requirements are available in the program overview.

What makes a HPWH so efficient?

Heat pump water heaters work like a refrigerator in reverse by taking heat out of the air, raising its temperature, and then applying the heat to the water in the tank. Unlike conventional water heaters that apply an energy source like gas or electricity to heat water directly, a HPWH collects and concentrates existing heat from the surrounding environment. This makes a HPWH up to four times more efficient compared to a traditional water heater.

By replacing a natural gas water heater with a HPWH, you eliminate a major source of carbon emissions and dangerous exhaust fumes in the home. In addition, since a HPWH runs on electricity, it pairs well with a PV solar system. For homeowners who already have a solar system installed, a new HPWH can potentially be powered by surplus electricity already being generated. Homeowners planning to go solar should plan to include just one or two additional solar panels to provide enough electricity for their HPWH. SunWork can help new customers plan for these electrification improvements.

Which HPWH products are offered and how much does it cost?

SunWork plans to keep installation costs affordable for homeowners using its proven nonprofit model. SunWork’s professional project team gets help from trained volunteers who want to learn more about clean technology and serve their communities by helping others to minimize their carbon footprint.

Initially, SunWork will be installing Rheem’s Ruud Ultra Hybrid Series 65-gallon or 80-gallon water heater. Total project cost including materials and installation after rebates ranges from $2,000 to $3,000 depending on the size of the water heater needed, building permit fees charged by the specific city building department, and local rebate availability. By keeping out-of-pocket costs close to the costs for installing a new fossil-fuel based water heater, SunWork can help people more easily make the shift to the newer HPWH technology.

In addition to this affordable pricing, SunWork is offering a discount subprogram available for groups of three customers installing at the same time in the same neighborhood, which reduces the price by $525 for each HPWH project.

How to get more information:

Learn more about SunWork’s Heat Pump Water Heater Pilot Program here. To find out if you qualify and to receive an estimate, send an email including your phone number and street address to HPWH@sunwork.org.

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