It was a chilly morning at the Portland, OR World Trade Center Plaza. The news was much hotter, as HVAC and plumbing contractors viewed the debut of the Rheem HP-50 water pump water heater. The three-hour workshop was part of a daylong “Pacific Northwest HP-50 Launch Event” on October 28, held for the plumbing trade, regional electric utilities, energy-efficiency organizations and local media.
Installed by Curt Cheever, president of the Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractor Association of Oregon, one of the units was generating plenty of steaming hot water onsite, despite ambient temperatures that were struggling to reach 40F. Portland General Electric (PGE), an electric utility that has served northwest Oregon since 1889 co-hosted the launch event with Rheem Water Heating, which recently became the first manufacturer to announce delivery of a fully integrated, high-efficiency, air-source heat pump water heater to both the plumbing wholesale and the utility channels.
Originally unveiled in mid-September, the new air-source HP-50 heat pump water heater offers an Energy Factor (EF) of 2.0, or more than twice the efficiency of a standard electric storage water heater. Helping to organize the event and recruit attendees were Rheem’s local sales agent Alliance Sales Co., represented by Ian Johnson, Whit Hall and Fred Allsup. Several local Rheem distributors also assisted, including George Morlan Plumbing Supply, Keller Supply, MAR-HY Distributors, and Standard Supply.
Intended for residential applications, both new construction and drop-in replacement of existing units, the HP-50 has a storage capacity of 50 gallons and meets the qualifications for an ENERGY STAR® listing. Its energy-saving design will help a family reduce its carbon footprint by nearly two tons annually. In addition, the unit qualifies for a federal tax credit of 30% of the installed cost (up to $1,500), as well as many state and utility rebates and incentives.
A Look at the Future of Water Heating?
Joe Barra, PGE Director of Customer Energy Resources, led off the morning program by welcoming attendees to the “future of electric water heating,” noting that the new HP-50 “bears little resemblance to the water heaters of the past.
“I can't compliment Rheem enough for stepping up with this product,” Barra said. “As I look back on the water heaters I’ve had in the homes I’ve owned, they have always worked and been pretty reliable. But they weren’t as efficient as they might have been. This new unit is extremely efficient — twice that of its predecessors. In some respects, it makes better use of energy than any water heater that has come before it.” Rapid payback on investment: Rheem Product Manager Jeffrey Haney followed Barra to the podium with a lengthy presentation on the product itself, including key features and benefits, how heat pump water heating technology differs from that of a conventional electric unit, and practical installation advice.
Haney also contrasted the dramatic difference in operating costs for a homeowner in PGE’s trading area: $199 for the HP-50 versus $443 for a standard 50-gallon electric water heater. By combining the federal tax credit with the $400 tax credit from the Oregon Department of Energy, a resident should recoup the additional outlay for installing the HP-50 in only 10 months, according to Haney. “These local tax credit programs help make the HP-50 a more affordable product for your customers,” Haney added. “What’s more, once payback is reached, that homeowner continues to benefit from the HP-50’s lower operating cost, saving as much as $244 annually.”
John Karasaki, P.E., who heads PGE’s Heat Pump Rebate Program, reinforced Haney’s affordability message: “The potential to cut electric water heating bills in half should get you and your customers very excited about this water heater. A payback of even one or two years will be a powerful message to carry into the marketplace. Which is why I expect tradesmen like yourselves will not find it difficult to sell this new product.”