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How does a heat pump hot water system work?

What is a heat pump hot water system?

Heat pump water heaters are super energy efficient, using only around 30% of the energy utilised by traditional electric storage systems - even though they run on electricity. They utilise renewable energy without needing extra roof panels like solar, by absorbing the heat in the surrounding air to heat water.

How does a heat pump hot water system work?

Heat pump systems are also referred to as ‘air-source heat pumps’ and work like a fridge in reverse - they grab the heat from outside the storage tank and transfer it to the water inside through a heat exchange system.

In essence, heat pump HWSs take ambient heat from the air around the system and transfer it to an super cold liquid refrigerant, which travels around in copper piping. The liquid is then transferred into a compressor, where it is compressed and as the pressure rises, the temperature increases. Following on from this, the liquid then travels to the condenser, where the heat from the refrigerant is moved to the water in the storage tank. Finally, the expansion valve reduces the pressure and the cycle commences again.

Heat Pump Hot Water System.*

What are the installation requirements for a heat pump hot water system?

Heat pump hot water systems are really easy to install, with similar installation requirements to an electric storage hot water system. As long as you have an appropriate place to put the water heater, and you have electricity, then you can have a heat pump. This does not mean however that heat pump HWS is for you - always check you have the correct weather!

What are the pros and cons of a heat pump HWS?


  • Environmentally-friendly.
  • High energy efficiency.
  • Lower greenhouse gas emissions than traditional systems.
  • Easy to install and connect.
  • No need to solar panels.
  • Long-term money savings.


  • High upfront costs.
  • Not ideal for really cold climates.
  • Installation location needs to consider the noise - similar to that of an air conditioner
  • Unreliable if not installed properly.

Who does a heat pump hot water system suit?

Heat Pump Hot Water System efficiency in Australia.*

Because of the way the heat is absorbed from the outside air through the heat pump system process, they generally work best where the ambient temperature is higher than around 19ºC consistently. While they will work in cooler climates, the compressors will need to work harder and may not last as long, adding to costs.

Heat pumps are super energy efficient, using around 1/3 the amount of electricity of a standard electric storage tank, however this has to be checked against whether it is being compared to a storage tank system that worked on off-peak electricity rates. Heat pumps operate as and when they are needed, meaning they will often run during peak electricity tariff times if required. The additional costs of electricity at peak times may well offset any savings made by using less electricity overall. You and your hot water specialist must carefully consider the running costs.

Heat pump systems come into their own in areas where solar collectors are not a desirable or viable option, and where gas is not available. - BUILD
Brisbane Plumbing and Drainage

If you would like further information in relation to installing a heat pump hot water system in your home or workplace, give Brisbane Plumbing and Drainage a call today on {{ context.constants.company_info | parse_json | dig: 'secondary_phone' }} and we can assist.

Need some more help?

Learn more about how hot water systems work here, or head to one of our specific information pages below:



Red Energy :

Energy Rating

Australian Government - Your Home :

Department of the Environment and Energy (Energy Basics) :

Department of the Environment and Energy (Hot Water Systems) :

Canstar :

Sustainability Victoria :

*Photo courtesy of Energy Rating.


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