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Cheap Hot Water But At What Price? I've tested the water. Warm but not scalding.

Created 4/5/2016 by David Bopp
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Two years ago I wrote my original article about heat pump water heaters and my concerns.  I still won't install one in my house yet but we are successfully running a rebate program for them. 


In case you don't remember my water heater is in a small closet right off my master bathroom which is of course right off my master bedroom.  Cool air and extra noise in the master bathroom is still not a formula for marital bliss.  If I had any other location for my water heater I would dive in and give it a try.  In fact the rebates and tax credits are so good I am almost tempted to do it and only allow it to run as a heat pump in the summer when cool air is not as big a problem.  I may get there yet... but no so far. 


As to our program we decided to incentivize only Tier 2 Units since they are a little quieter, can be ducted (although we aren't recommending it), and deliver a little better efficiency.  This also allows us to exclude any Tier 1 GE's that might still be in the inventory supply chain that were manufactured overseas and had some issues.  Not that I think GE's American made units are perfect... we'll get into that in a minute.  So far we have had one distributor jump on board with both feet and the program is picking up. 


We haven't gotten much feedback yet but we have a few thoughts and comments which I'll share;


1. We did come across one member who bought a new Tier 2 GE Geospring and installed it in his house to have it produce for one day before registering an over-temperature error code and shutting down.  It wouldn't work in any mode at that point.  He reached out to see about getting it fixed and found out that we have no GE technicians anywhere near us.  He decided at that point to return it and put in a standard electric water heater.  All this is per the member not confirmed by anyone.  I don't begrudge GE that there will be an issue here and there with new units but I am sincerely hoping we get a certified tech soon.  I know they are working on it but if we can't get local support we'll have to re-evaluate our commitment.  Hopefully this will be a non-issue soon. 


2. These units do not work well with hard shut off demand response (DR).  We have been running a water heater DR using a control box in the home.  We send out a carrier-line signal and the water goes off.  Simple.  Several of our participants in the DR program upgraded to heat pump water heaters.  We thought we would leave them on the DR program to see if we could find a kW number for demand reduction.  However, we learned from GE that this is a bad idea and that if we want to do DR we need to use their controller.  This is not what we want to get into since it relies on wifi and we have been burned trying to get wifi to work in homes for load control.  We are researching the ability of our controller and their controller to talk so we can use a carrier-line signal to get a signal to their controller to shut the unit down as their programming dictates. 


3. Lack of awareness from the installers on space requirements.  We haven't had any units installed in areas that are drastically too small for them to operate but a couple have pushed the boundary of the recommendation.  When I have reached out to the homeowner to ask if they are aware the unit may not work as efficiently as possible due to the limited space they had no idea.  Either the installer did not know either and didn't read the instructions/watch the installation video or did not bother to tell the homeowner. 


I can't say at this point that we are swimming in the deep end with our program but we are wading in deeper and deeper.  I'm a little nervous we may step into water deeper than we want but also excited that this program could take off and be an excellent opportunity for our members. 


For the original article: https://conduitnw.org/Pages/Discussion.aspx?rid=779 

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