Weighing the Pros and Cons of Heat Pump Water Heaters

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Heat Pump Water Heaters

If you already have a water heater that needs to be replaced or would like to upgrade to a new water heater, one type of system you can have installed in your home is a heat pump water heater. While heat pumps have been used in residential homes since the 1940s, they became increasingly popular in the 2010s because of the boost in energy efficiency. Before you purchase a heat pump water heater for your home, you should know the advantages and disadvantages that come with this type of system.

How Do Heat Pump Water Heaters Work?

Conventional water heaters are designed to use either electricity or gas to produce heat. In comparison, heat pump water heaters use energy to move heat from the air that surrounds the system to the water that’s contained in the unit’s tank. Consider how a refrigerator pushes heat out of the storage compartment. Heat pump water heaters perform the opposite function by pulling in heat from the nearby air. It’s a highly efficient technique that allows a refrigerant fluid to be condensed and evaporated to capture heat.

Selecting the Most Energy-efficient Heat Pump Water Heater

Heat pump water heaters are popular because of their high efficiency as well as the low cost of operation. According to the EPA, heat pump water heaters that have been ENERGY STAR certified provide a lifetime savings of around $3,700, under the belief that the system will last for 13 years.

Pros of a Heat Pump Water Heater

The main benefit of heat pumps is that they are much more energy efficient when compared to traditional water heaters since they don’t use energy to produce new heat. Instead, they will collect ambient warmth before transferring it to the water that needs to be heated. You can save several hundred dollars each year in energy bills when you have this type of system installed.

Heat pump water heaters even offer rebates and ample tax benefits to homeowners. The tax incentives are available through federal programs, while the sales rebates are state-sponsored. Beginning in 2023, you can take advantage of the Energy Efficient Home Improvement Credit, which is worth around 30% of the cost for eligible heat pump water heaters. The maximum credit available for these water heaters amounts to $1,200 per year.

In California, having a heat pump water heater installed in a single-family home allows you to qualify for a rebate of anywhere from $3,000-$6,000, depending on where you live. While the upfront costs for these water heaters are high, the additional expenses could be paid back in the initial year of ownership with the savings you build up.

Heat pump water heaters are also environmentally friendly. They don’t use as much natural gas or electricity as other systems, which keeps greenhouse gas emissions relatively low. If an ENERGY-STAR-certified heat pump water heater were to be installed in place of every electric water heater in the country, annual greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by 140 billion pounds, which is the same as removing 13 million vehicles from the road.

You’ll discover that a heat pump water heater doesn’t require as much maintenance as traditional gas systems. While all system components should be examined once every year, these water heaters have a relatively basic design that allows repair work to be kept to a minimum. Since heat pump water heaters don’t rely on combustion, they are also safer to operate.

It’s also possible for heat pump water heaters to be used in combination with solar photovoltaic systems. In recent years, these solar systems have benefited from a large drop in price. If you have one of these systems installed in your home, the energy that needs to be used by your heat pump water heater can be covered with the energy that’s created by your solar system.

Cons of a Heat Pump Water Heater

The primary concern with heat pump water heaters is that they don’t work as well in colder climates. Since these systems bring in ambient warmth from the surrounding air, this process won’t be as effective if the surrounding air is cold. Certain heat pump water heaters are outfitted with a hybrid system that allows electric water heating to be switched on if the temperatures drop too much for the heat pump to be operational.

Another issue involves the high upfront cost mentioned previously. These appliances usually range from $1,500-$3,000 in price, which is much higher than the $500-$1,000 price of a conventional water heater. While your savings will eventually cover the increased costs, you may not have the budget to make such a purchase.

Keep in mind that the initial cost can be controlled somewhat depending on when you purchase the system. For instance, buying a heat pump water heater during the early winter season could be more expensive because of the higher demand at this time of the year. There’s much less demand for this type of water heater in the spring and summer months.

Heat pump water heaters are oftentimes challenging to install since they require knowledge of local geology, heat flow, and the heating and cooling needs of a home. The installation process for a heat pump water heater depends on where the system needs to be installed. It’s possible that incisions will need to be placed in the home’s siding to make room for an exterior compressor that attaches to the indoor unit.

Even though heat pump water heaters don’t use a high amount of electricity, they do require some electricity to move heat from one area to another. In the event of a power loss, this type of water heater can stop functioning temporarily. This issue can be avoided with the use of a power generator.

One potential problem with heat pump water heaters is the amount of noise they can produce. These systems are outfitted with compressors and fans that emit an ample amount of sound. Where the unit is installed will determine how loud this noise is. If the water heater is installed in a basement, the wall insulation between the basement and the first floor of your home should significantly dampen the noise.

Heat pump water heaters also have considerable space requirements. These systems usually require around 1,000 or more cubic feet of air space in the immediate vicinity, which means that they should be positioned in a ventilated space.

At Crystal Blue Plumbing Heating & Air, we offer a range of services that expand beyond repair and installation for water heaters. We can provide residents of Sacramento, CA with maintenance, repair, and installation services for heaters and air conditioners of all brands and styles. Our plumbing services are exhaustive to accommodate any need that might arise. Along with plumbing repair and water leak detection services, you can also request emergency plumbing services as well as the installation of water treatment systems. Some additional services available at Crystal Blue Plumbing Heating & Air include duct repair and replacement services and indoor air quality services. Call us today to ask about our specials or learn more about the services we provide.

How to Tell If Your Furnace Has a Faulty Gas Valve

How to Tell If Your Furnace Has a Faulty Gas Valve

Gas furnaces have numerous different components that all need to work correctly in order for the unit to ignite and heat effectively. One of these components is the gas valve, which opens and closes to control the flow of gas to the furnace burners. As with any other furnace component, the gas valve can sometimes wear out or break. Troubleshooting a faulty gas valve isn’t always easy as there are several other issues that can cause the same problems as a bad gas valve, but there are some signs that can help. With that in mind, here is an overview of how a furnace’s gas valve works and how to know if your gas valve is faulty.

How Does a Furnace Gas Valve Work?

To understand exactly what a furnace gas valve is and how it works, it is first necessary to know a bit about the sequence of operations that occurs whenever a gas furnace starts. When your thermostat detects that the temperature has dropped below what you have it set to, it sends an electrical signal to the furnace’s control board.

Once the control board receives the signal for the furnace to start, it then powers the unit’s draft inducer motor. The inducer creates a draft that draws any latent combustion fumes out of the furnace, which is important as these fumes are inflammable and could prevent the furnace from lighting if they remained in the combustion chamber. The draft created by the inducer produces suction that activates the furnace’s pressure switch.

Once the inducer motor is running, the control board sends a signal through the furnace’s safety circuit. The pressure switch is what closes the safety circuit so that the signal travels back to the control board. If the pressure switch doesn’t activate for any reason, then the safety circuit will remain open. This means that the signal won’t travel back to the control board and the furnace won’t continue trying to start.

If the safety circuit is closed and successfully sends the signal back to the control board, the control board then signals the furnace’s electronic igniter to start. Most modern furnaces use either a direct-spark or hot-surface igniter that works to light the unit’s gas burners. If your furnace is more than 12 years old, it may instead use a traditional pilot light to ignite the burners. Furnaces with a pilot light skip this step since the pilot has a constant flame that will light the burners as soon as the gas starts flowing.

As the control board signals the electronic igniter starts, it also signals the gas valve to open so that gas will start flowing to the burners. The furnace will then immediately light as soon as the gas starts flowing. The furnace’s flame sensor should then detect the heat from the burner flames almost immediately. If the furnace doesn’t light or the flame sensor is dirty or malfunctioning and doesn’t detect the flames, the control board will then automatically signal the gas valve to close. This is an important safety feature as it ensures that gas won’t continue to flow if the furnace doesn’t light.

If the furnace does light successfully, it will continue to run for a few seconds to ensure that the unit’s heat exchanger fully warms up. Once the heat exchanger is warm, the control board will then signal the blower motor to start so that air is drawn into the furnace and circulated throughout the ductwork. Now that you have a basic understanding of the role that the gas valve plays when your furnace starts, let’s look at the different signs that can indicate your furnace’s gas valve is faulty.

Furnace Fails to Start

A faulty gas valve will usually prevent the furnace from igniting. The furnace will still try to start, and you will hear the inducer motor run for a minute or so, but then nothing else will happen since the gas valve won’t open and no gas will flow.

In order for the gas valve to open, a current has to flow across it. If the current doesn’t flow across the gas valve because its wires are loose or frayed, then the valve won’t be able to open. The valve can also simply break or wear out and thus get stuck in the closed position.

If you hear your furnace’s inducer motor start and the unit doesn’t light within 60 to 90 seconds, you’ll need to have it inspected by a technician. The technician will first inspect the gas valve’s wires to make sure that they aren’t burned, frayed, or otherwise damaged.

If the wires aren’t in good condition, they will first need to be replaced before the valve itself can be checked. If the wires are fine, the technician will then use a multimeter to measure whether the gas valve is receiving a 24-volt current from the control board. If no current is flowing to the gas valve, it usually indicates that the control board is faulty and needs to be replaced. If the current is flowing and the gas valve isn’t activating, then it means that the valve itself is bad and needs to be replaced.

Gas Valve Doesn’t Make a Clicking Noise

You can also sometimes tell if your gas valve is faulty by listening to your furnace as it attempts to light. After the inducer motor has been running for around a minute, you should hear an audible clicking sound once the gas valve opens. If you don’t hear the gas valve click open, it indicates that either the valve or the control board is malfunctioning. If the valve does click open but the furnace still won’t light, the problem is most likely related to a faulty electronic igniter.

Furnace Was Flooded

If your home ever floods and your furnace ends up submerged in water, you will always need to have your gas valve replaced. This is because any exposure to water will instantly ruin the valve and its wiring. If your furnace is ever flooded, you will want to have it inspected before you ever try to use it as there is always the chance that the gas valve could get stuck open and create a major safety hazard.

Gas Leak

All modern furnaces have a number of different safety features that should prevent gas from flowing if the furnace isn’t lit. However, there is a chance that something could fail and cause the gas valve to not close when it should, and this can result in gas starting to leak out.

Although natural gas is odorless, gas companies add a special chemical to it that gives it a distinct rotten egg odor. If you do ever smell gas in your home, you will want to take immediate steps to protect your family due to the risk of a catastrophic explosion. If the smell is fairly faint and confined to the area around your furnace, you should immediately close the main gas shut-off valve and then quickly vacate the house until you can have your furnace and gas line inspected.

If the gas smell is strong or permeates throughout much of your home, you should immediately get yourself, your family, and any pets out and far away from the house. You may also want to quickly open a few windows on your way out and leave the door open as this will help the gas to disperse and reduce the risk of explosion. Once you are a safe distance away, you will then want to call the fire department or your gas company’s emergency line to report a gas leak.

Expert Heating and Cooling Services

If your furnace fails to light, the certified technicians from Crystal Blue Plumbing, Heating & Air can inspect it and quickly determine whether the issue is caused by a broken gas valve, faulty control board, or some other problem. We specialize in furnace and air conditioner repairs, as well as maintenance and installation, and we also offer a full range of plumbing services. Give us a call today to schedule a furnace inspection or if you need any other heating, cooling, or plumbing service in the Sacramento area.