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Heat Pump Water Heater DIY Maintenance + Guides

Heat pump water heaters are the energy-efficient alternative to traditional electric or gas-powered water heaters. They provide significant savings on your utility bills while also reducing carbon emissions – we love a double-duty worker! As with any home appliance, proper maintenance is important to be sure your heat pump is operating at its optimal performance and will last a long time. Below, we’re sharing our best tips and tricks to perform some DIY maintenance on your heat pump water heater, showcasing our printable heat pump water heater guides, as well as letting you know when it’s time to call in the big dogs (that’s us. The big Elephants?)

Understanding Your Heat Pump Water Heater:

Before we dive into the depths of all that your heat pump water heater has to offer, we think it’s even more important you know the basic functions of how it works. Instead of relying on conventional direct heating elements or burners like a gas or electric water heater, heat pump water heaters extract heat from the ambient air around it and transfers that heat into the water tank. This process utilizes the components inside of the heat pump water heater, like the compressor, refrigerant, and the tank itself that stores hot water. Making sure that all of these items are at their best ensures optimal efficiency for your heat pump water heater for years to come.

Tips for Heat Pump Water Heater Self-Maintenance:

Heat pump water heater parts - image source Woodfin

1 – Regularly Check and Clean Air Filters:

Your heat pump water heater has an air filter, which works to prevent dust and debris from accumulating on the coils. By checking these filters regularly (we’re talking monthly, set a calendar reminder!) and cleaning them out, you’ll maintain optimal airflow. If you find cleaning isn’t doing the trick, be sure to order replacement filters. Restricted airflow will reduce your heat pump water heater’s efficiency along with increasing energy consumption.

2 – Inspect and Clean Condenser and Evaporator Coils:

Heat is transferred in your water heater via the condenser and evaporator coils, and if dust and dirt build up on them, it will reduce your water heater’s efficiency. By inspecting the coils on your heat pump water heater, you can ensure they’re clean and efficient. The coils can be cleaned with a soft brush or a vacuum cleaner – be sure to avoid harsh chemicals or any abrasive materials as they can easily damage the coils.

3 – Maintain Adequate Clearance:

When your heat pump water heater is installed by Elephant Energy, we make sure it has adequate clearance surrounding it to allow for proper airflow. It’s up to you to keep it up – remove any obstructions like boxes, furniture, or debris that can block and restrict airflow to the unit. It’s crucial for the heat pump water heater’s function that you have optimal heat exchange and efficiency, so find a new spot to stack up your holiday decorations and boxes of photo albums!

4 – Check the Anode Rod:

The anode rod for your heat pump water heater is a sacrificial component that helps prevent corrosion inside the water heater tank. Inspect the anode rod annually and replace it if it’s corroded or worn out. A correctly functioning anode rod can extend the lifespan of your water heater and prevent costly tank repairs down the road.

5 – Monitor Temperature and Pressure:

Regularly check the temperature and pressure relief valve on your heat pump water heater to ensure it’s functioning correctly. Test the valve by lifting the lever briefly to release a small amount of water. If the valve fails to operate or leaks persistently, replace it immediately to prevent potential water hazards.

6 – Flush the Tank Annually:

Insulating the hot water pipes connected to your heat pump water heater can help reduce heat loss and improve overall efficiency. Use foam pipe insulation sleeves to cover exposed pipes, especially in unheated areas such as basements or crawl spaces. 

7 – Insulate Hot Water Pipes:

Some components of your air source heat pump, such as fan motors and bearings, may require lubrication to reduce friction and ensure smooth operation. Refer to your owner’s manual for guidance on lubrication intervals and the type of lubricant to use.

Looking for more information regarding best practices, frequently asked questions, and troubleshooting? Download our user guides, made in house by our team of HVAC experts, here:

AO Smith (Model HPTU-80)
Rheem (Model PROPH5)

When to Call in the Experts:

As listed above, there’s a ton you can do as a homeowner to maintain your heat pump water heater by yourself. However, it’s good to know what situations call for professional experience:

1 – Electrical or Mechanical Issues:

If you encounter any electrical or mechanical problems with your heat pump water heater, such as compressor failure or motor issues, it’s best to contact a qualified HVAC technician. Attempting to repair complex components without proper training and tools can be dangerous and may void your warranty.

2 – Warranty Coverage:

By choosing Elephant Energy to install your heat pump water heater, you’ll receive a one year labor warranty. You’ve also got a ten year parts warranty for any part or equipment failures. Keep in mind, it’s imperative that you follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance guidelines and seek authorized service providers for repairs. Attempting DIY repairs or neglecting maintenance could void your warranty and leave you liable for repair costs.

Continual, regular maintenance is key to both maximizing the performance and lifespan of your heat pump water heater as well as ensuring you’re keeping a climate-friendly home running its best. Take the time to read and revisit this guide for our DIY tips, to download our helpful user guides, and to remind yourself when it’s best to call in the experts. With the right care and attention, your heat pump water heater will provide reliable hot water for years to come, all while helping you do your part in decarbonizing as well as saving money, too!

Ready to get started? Join us in building a brighter future by electrifying everything, starting with homes. Your choice today shapes our collective tomorrow!

Ultimate Heat Pump Water Heater Guide

Elephant Energy’s Guide to Heat Pump Water Heaters 

Note: A lot of the information in this guide initially came from Carbon Switch‘s Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heater Guide (with their permission). We have adapted it based on our experience installing dozens of hybrid heat pump water heaters in Colorado’s Front Range and New England.

Continue reading “Ultimate Heat Pump Water Heater Guide”

Water Heater Repair – Finally Enjoying a Bubble Bath!

Water Heater Repair - Finally Enjoying a Bubble Bath - Elephant Energy

It feels like a perfect day to do a water heater repair and send another old, inefficient fossil gas appliance to the recycle yard.

To be replaced with a BETTER electric-powered Heat Pump Water Heater! Upgrade and modernize your home. #ElectrifyEverything #EnergyTwitter #HeatPumpCurious

Why is it better?

Boom! 22 year old water heater recycled!

  1. More Hot Water – As the family has grown, the water demands have increased so we installed a larger tank. Hot showers for everyone! And maybe the occasional bath. Treat yo’self!

  2. Increased Safety – Added a thermal mixing valve (aka anti-scalding device) to protect kids from burns . Also added a thermal expansion tank to reduce the risk of over-pressurizing the tank.

  3. Enhanced Control – Onboard thermometer allows you to control the temperature in the tank . Plus put the unit in “vacation” mode so you aren’t heating water when you’re away .

  4. More Resilient – Anti-Leak guard w/ automatic shutoff in the event of a leak = peace of mind that your home won’t flood .

  5. Lower Operating Costs – This beast is 3x+ more efficient than non-heat pump water heaters. Reduce the amount of money you send to fossil gas fracking by $100s per year .

  6. More Flexible – You can choose how quickly and efficiently water is heated by toggling between high demand (faster, less efficient heating with electric heat strip) vs. normal demand (slower, more efficient heating with the heat pump). or

  7. Smarter – Ever wondered how much your water heater was costing you? With the app, you can see your energy usage (data!) and know for sure how much that 25 min shower is costing you.

  8. Cost Savings – In Boulder, Colorado, there are ~$2,000 in rebates and incentives for transitioning away from “natural” aka fossil gas to the BETTER electric heat pump units.

If any of these speak to you, we’d love to help YOU with water heater repair and upgrade your home with a new heat pump water heater! Elephant Energy is your go-to source for energy-efficient upgrades to your home. We make homes more efficient, cleaner, and more comfortable with heat pumps, mini-splits, EV chargers, induction ranges, and air quality improvements. Contact us for a quote today!