In recent years, there has been a conscious push in the residential and commercial water heating industries for more sustainable and efficient solutions that help homeowners and facility managers save money, energy, as well as meet environmental-social-governance metrics.
This comes as government and utility decarbonization efforts continue to grow across the country, putting a spotlight on sustainable heat pump technology. Because heat pump water heaters move energy rather than generating it directly, they are four to five times more efficient than conventional water heaters. Switching to a HPWH significantly lowers a home’s or facility’s energy bills and carbon emissions, while also producing substantial upfront and long-term savings—making them an ideal solution for the global effort to decarbonize buildings.
While heat pump water heaters are not new to the market, they do represent the direction it’s heading.
Evolving regulatory standards set forth by governments and sustainability commitments in the private sector are driving the rapid adoption of heat pump technology. As heat pumps continue to increase in popularity, manufacturers are emphasizing the advantages of this technology beyond its efficiency. Adoption of heat pump technologies has seen the incorporation of features such as demand response capabilities, anti-leak technology, improved refrigerants and more.
New Standards Drive Heat Adoption
International, federal, state and local governments continue to adopt regulations and standards that are steering the building sector and regulated utilities in a more sustainable direction.
Many focus on the adoption of high-efficiency water heating technology such as heat pumps. In the U.S., these regulations have typically focused on the West Coast, but they’re now spreading throughout the country. Heat pump technology has advanced enough that units perform well in a variety of climate zones, including regions of the country that experience colder conditions on a seasonal basis. This has made the adoption of the technology easier in regions like the Midwest and Northeast, where this was previously a barrier to the market.
These new standards are now impacting every region of the U.S., where there is a national regulatory desire to utilize water heating technology that decreases greenhouse gas emissions. For manufacturers, this means a focus on creating heat pumps that exceed current minimum regulatory standards to ensure that they will be compliant for many years, even as regulations continue to evolve.
Units like A. O. Smith’s Voltex AL (anti-leak) hybrid electric residential heat pump water heater are designed with this ethos. This model provides homeowners with one of the highest Uniform Energy Factors on the market. With a UEF up to 4.02 (66-gallon model) and 3.8 (50-gallon), homeowners get roughly $4 of hot water for every $1 of energy spent.
Additionally, these units are up to five times more efficient than a standard electric water heater, reducing annual energy bills by up to 78%, or up to $607 per year.
This new model also connects to local utility smart grid programs to automatically shift electricity usage during peak periods for the lowest utility rate available, helping homeowners save money, while also decreasing the demand on the electric grid during times of peak usage.
There is also a push for the adoption of heat pump technology in the commercial water heating market, which partially stems from corporate sustainability commitments. More and more businesses are establishing their own independent sustainability goals outside of those required by government regulations. To help reach these goals, building owners and facility managers are turning to heat pump technology.
Units like Lochinvar’s new VERITUS Air Source Commercial Heat Pump Water Heater support these efforts. The VERITUS unit has a high coefficient of performance, raising the bar on efficiency levels and maximizing energy savings for building owners.
Variety of Applications
As more customers adopt heat pump technology, manufacturers need to shift their focus to prioritize sustainability and efficiency features, beyond high efficiency rates, and develop heat pumps that fit a wider variety of applications.
Lochinvar is leading efforts in the commercial space, expanding its portfolio to fit more applications with units such as the VERITUS HPWH. It features a modular design, allowing for multiple units to be banked together to support large commercial hot water demands, providing built-in redundancy, and matching the capacity to the demand. Lochinvar’s SmartTouch Control takes installation flexibility to the next level—allowing units installed outdoors to be controlled by an indoor touchscreen control. The LCD touchscreen easily walks installers and facility managers through the setup and troubleshooting.
Meanwhile, on the residential side, contractors are looking for features that will promote homeowner peace of mind. A.O. Smith’s Voltex AL HPWH does just that. The Voltex AL HPWH is equipped with anti-leak technology supported through the unit’s fully integrated iCOMM connectivity platform, which sends notifications through A.O. Smith’s mobile app in the event of a detected leak. These notifications allow homeowners to contact a technician, preventing damage and extending the life of the unit. In a separate effort to preserve the unit’s longevity, A.O. Smith introduced a smart anode, which adapts to local water conditions to prevent corrosion, extends the life of the unit, and notifies the homeowner when it needs to be replaced.
Training the Pros
With many new technical advancements also comes the need for comprehensive training resources. Both A.O. Smith and Lochinvar offer best-in-class courses focused on a variety of water heating technology through A. O. Smith University and Lochinvar University. The brands have adapted their training so there are a variety of resources available specific to heat pump technology. The prioritization of educational resources that promote contractor familiarity with new technology is critical to the successful adoption of heat pump water heaters.
The ever-growing global spotlight on heat pump technology means that developing and adopting HPWHs must remain a top priority for manufacturers and contractors alike. Brands like A.O. Smith and Lochinvar are prioritizing customer needs by creating a portfolio of products that represent the industry’s shift toward a more decarbonized future. Through regulatory changes and the subsequent technical advancements comes a more sustainable future for the water heating industry.
Josh Greene is corporate vice president – government, regulatory and industry affairs, A.O. Smith. Jennifer Russell is segment development manager, Lochinvar.