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Heat pump as an energy saver

Want to cut the cost of heating the hot water in the house? A hot-water heat pump may be the way to go.

Heat pumps are used widely in some parts of the country to heat and cool the house at a significant saving in money. The system works well, especially in areas where the climate is not too severe. In the same way, a water-heating heat pump can cut costs in a big way as well, say the makers.

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Introduced to the market in the 1950s, the water-heating heat pump failed to take off at the time because energy was still dirt-cheap and the materials that go into the pumps cost a bundle.

Alas, times have changed. Also, the heat-pump systems themselves have been improved.

Result: Hot-water heat pump manufacturers -- there are more than a dozen -- look for a massive breakthrough in demand over the next few years.

By 1990 the demand is put at more than 3 millions units a year.

A deterrent today is the price. While a standard hot-water heater can be bought and installed for a couple hundred dollars, the price of a hot-water heat pump now runs up to $1,000 or more. But as demand goes up, the cost will drop. Too, as output climbs and more companies get into the fray, further improvements in the system will follow.

How much of a saving in fuel? At the nationwide average of 6 cents a kilowatt/hour for electricity, the savings can range up to 50 or even 60 percent over conventional electric and oil-fired hot-water systems. In some high-rate parts of the country, the saving is less.

Natural-gas water heaters still are considered less costly right now, but with the inevitable rise in the cost of gas over the next few years, the competitive position could do an about-face in favor of the heat pump.

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Essentially, while a heat-pump water heater runs on electricity, it uses a lot less of it to do the same job.

Two basic designs now exist, one developed by E-Tech Inc. and the other by Energy Utilization Systems Inc., both located in Pittsburgh. Both companies say they are stepping up production to meet the projected demand.

Two basic designs now exist, one developed by E-Tech Inc. and the other by Energy Utilization Systems Inc., both located in Pittsburgh. Both companies saya they are stepping up production to meet the projected demand.