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How to Maintain and Troubleshoot Your Heat Pump Water Heater

Keep your heat pump water in tip-top shape all year long by learning basic heat pump water heater maintenance.

Congratulations! You’re the proud owner of a heat pump water heater. 

Whether your purchase is a recent one, or you’ve had your heat pump water heater for a few years, it’s an excellent idea for homeowners to get in the habit of conducting routine water heater maintenance so that your unit continues to heat water at optimal levels all year long. 

(Still on the fence about buying one? Here’s everything you need to know about whether or not a heat pump water heater is right for you.)

Let’s Cover Heat Pump Water Heater Maintenance 

Your best bet for keeping your heat pump water heater in great shape is to regularly maintain it. This will help you extend the lifespan of your water heater, and maximize energy efficiency for the life of the unit. 

Get Familiar With Your Unit 

Upon install, ask your hot water installation professional to give you a rundown of the machine, how it works, and how to keep it well maintained. Make a visual inspection monthly to keep an eye out for leaks, rust, or other signs of wear, tear, or damage. 

Know Your Water Heaters Error Codes and How to Clear Them

If your unit is WiFi-enabled, pay attention to the notifications your water heater system sends you and make sure to read and investigate error codes as soon as possible. If your machine has an error code readout on the unit, use your owner’s manual for the hot water heater and find out what the codes mean and how they might be affecting your water heating system. Follow the manufacturer’s directions to assess the issue and clear the code, or call a licensed plumber to take care of that for you. 

Change Your Filters Monthly or As-Needed

Heat pump water heaters come equipped with an air filter, usually on the top of the unit where the water heater pulls air into the compressor. Check the filter every few months (put a reminder in your smartphone to make sure you don’t forget!). This will keep peak air flowing into your unit, helping it to work as efficiently as possible and resulting in energy savings over time. 

Before you clean the air filter, put the unit in Standby Mode according to your owner’s manual. Turn off the power to the water heater at the circuit breaker. All you have to do to clean your air filter is use a small brush like a dry toothbrush and get rid of all the debris. 

If your air filter ever appears damaged, call your licensed plumber right away to see if a replacement part is available. 

Clean the Condensate Lines

Heat pump water heaters have a condensate drain. As the unit dehumidifies the surrounding area, the moisture has to go somewhere! Make sure to clean this condensate line every year to ensure it doesn’t get backed up with sediment or mold. 

To clean the condensate lines, pour a cup of bleach in the access opening of the unit to kill any mold or mildew. Check that the bleach or water flows freely out of the lines, and unclog the lines if needed. 

Flush Your Heat Pump Water Heater Annually 

Heat pump water heaters are also sometimes referred to as hybrid heat pump water heaters. This is because they contain a backup heating electric heating element inside the tank: the same kind of anode rods used in traditional electric water heaters. That anode rod can become corroded over time from the minerals in your water, and it can begin to decay, break entirely, or heat less efficiently as it becomes corroded. One way to minimize or avoid this corrosion is by flushing your heat pump water heater annually. Just like flushing standard electric or gas water heaters, flushing your water heater is something that any homeowner can DIY if they have a few basic tools and some gumption. 

We’ve got step-by-step instructions on how to flush a tank water heater right here in case you are ready to tackle the task yourself. 

A word of caution: if your tank water heater hasn’t been flushed in more than 5 years, there may be an excess of buildup that could clog your water heater pipes when performing a routine flush. We recommend calling a professional to handle the first go-round to avoid (or take care of!) any mishaps that first time. 

Got a Problem? Let’s Troubleshoot Your Heat Pump Water Heater

There are a few reasons your heat pump water heater might not be working properly. 

If your water temperature isn’t hot enough, check the temperature setting on your unit and make sure it’s where you want it. We recommend a setting between 120-130 degrees, which isn’t so hot that the water can scald, but keeps water hot enough for a shower. 

It could also be a broken dip tube. As cold water enters the top of the storage tank in a heat pump or standard water heater, the water travels to the bottom of the tank in a dip tube so that as the water is heated, it rises to the top. If the dip tube is broken, it could be causing cold water to mix with the hot water, sending lukewarm water to your points of use instead. A water heater pro can replace the dip tube and you’ll be back to hot showers in no time. 

It may also be a broken thermostat, in which case, a service technician should have that swapped out fairly quickly. 

Got cold water instead? Here’s a few other things to check: 

  • Is the circuit breaker serving the unit on? 
  • Is the hot water heater plugged in? 
  • Did you try the reset button on the water heater? 
  • Are the cold water valves feeding into your heat pump water heater fully open? 
  • Check the hot water pipes coming out of the unit, too — are they as open as possible?
  • Check for a water leak in any of the pipes, hot or cold. 
  • Make sure the exhaust pipes leaving your home are clear and unobstructed. 
  • Clean the air filter on the unit to make sure it can access enough air to work. 

Finally: Make Sure Your Heat Pump Water Heater is Installed Right

Newer heat pump water heaters have so many advantages, so long as the water heater installation gets done right. ENERGY STAR-rated heat pump water heaters will help lower your energy cost, remove natural gas emissions from your home, and release less greenhouse gas into the environment overall. With upgraded heat pump technology, many HPWHs can now be installed in cold climates where the year-round temperature of the installation location remains between 40º–90ºF. 

These high-efficiency machines do need 1,000 cubic feet or more of space to operate in: a heat pump water heater works by drawing warm air out of the surrounding air and then condensing that heat into the water you want to use at your faucet. Once your water heater is in right, you’ll need to keep it well-maintained in order to keep your energy bills and electric use to a minimum.

If you're concerned something was installed incorrectly by your installer or you’re having issues, we are always available to schedule a service call.

Think you’ve done all you can to troubleshoot your unit and you’re still not getting the hot water you need? Here’s three signs you might need a new one.

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