The new Rheem Heat Pump provides the benefits of a solar hot water heater without the need to install solar collectors (panels). Operating on the principal of transferring heat from the air into the water, it uses only one third of the electricity of an electric water heater which can save up to two thirds on a customer’s hot water energy bill.

New building regulations have recently been introduced in many states of Australia, with the intention of reducing the greenhouse gas emissions new homes produce. The new Rheem Heat Pump can reduce household Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GGEs) by up to two thirds and is, therefore, eligible for use in all states across Australia.

The Federal Government has introduced a Renewable Energy Certificates (REC) initiative to encourage the installation of energy efficient solar and heat pump water heaters. A measure of the New Rheem Heat Pump’s efficiency can be expressed in the large numbers of RECs it achieves.

In Queensland water heaters in new homes must have a five star gas rating, be solar-powered or a heat pump. For unrestricted use in Class 1 buildings, the product must achieve a minimum of 22 Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). The vast majority of the Qld population live in Zones 1 and 3, where the Rheem Heat Pump produces 28 RECs.

In NSW any type of water heater can be installed but it must conform to the BASIX code for new housing. With a minimum target of 40 points for the house design to achieve, and when connecting to electricity, heat pump BASIX scores are second only to electric boosted solar water heaters.

When choosing to install a water heater to meet Victorian PIC regulations, the code requires new houses to have a gas-boosted solar system. Other ‘renewable’ solutions, including heat pumps and electric boosted solar systems can be used only where reticulated gas is not available. Other states and territories have no specific regulations.

The new Rheem Heat Pump can be installed by conventional hot water trades rather than a refrigeration mechanic as the heat pump module comes fully charged with refrigerant from the factory. Connecting and commissioning the unit is similar to installing a conventional electric storage water heater.

It is manufactured and transported in two components, which allows for easier handling during transit and onsite. The heat pump module is mounted on the top of the storage tank during installation to form a standard cylindrical shape, making for efficient use of space.

Unlike conventional systems, the new Rheem Heat Pump introduces the concept of ‘top-down’ heating. Using vapour compression technology, the process begins when a fan draws surrounding air into a series of evaporator coils. Heat is absorbed from the air by the refrigerant gas and the gas is compressed to produce even more heat.

The heat is then transferred from the gas to the cold water pumped up to the heat pump module from the bottom of the tank, through a flat plate heat exchanger. Heat is transferred from the refrigerant gas to the water in the heat exchanger, and hot water (60°C) is delivered back into the top of the tank, heating the tank from the top-down. This provides more usable hot water, faster.

Faster heating and more efficient electricity use is achieved when the surrounding air is warmer, so the Rheem heat pump works best during the day. The heat pump produces 51dBA (at 1.5m) or about the same amount of noise as a domestic air-conditioner. The unit can be fitted with a timer to prevent it operating at quiet times like late night and early morning.

The heat pump can also be used in cooler climates. With its unique freeze mode, at temperatures below 5°C the water heater switches to electric booster element heating. This ensures plenty of hot water will be available regardless of the weather. In this mode, the unit will operate silently. The product even has a limp mode that will guarantee hot water, even if the heat pump module were to fail.

The Rheem heat pump has a five year warranty on the cylinder, three years on cylinder replacement labour, and two years on the sealed system, including labour and one year on parts, including labour. This applies to single family domestic dwellings only. All other applications attract a three year warranty on the cylinder, and one year on the sealed system, parts and labour.

The new Rheem Heat Pump is available from most plumbing supply merchants.