Heat pump water heaters (HPWH) should play a bigger role in the future as part of the push toward electrification. The units work by using electricity to draw heat from the surrounding area and using that to heat water in the tank. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, these units can be two to three times more energy efficient than conventional electric resistance water heaters.
Still, adoption has been slow. That’s why Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEAA), an alliance of utilities and other organizations, started making a push to increase awareness. The campaigns target consumers in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.
NEAA launched the campaign, called Hot Water Solutions, to promote HPWH. The campaign includes a website — boringbutefficient.com. The website allows consumers to search for an installer and rebates by ZIP code. It also features products from A.O. Smith, Rheem, and Bradford White.
Bradford White executives decided to join in and launched their own awareness campaign for the region. The effort started April 1 and runs through June 30. Bradford White is targeting HVAC contractors and plumbers.
“This collaboration offers a unique way for contractors to connect with their customers," said Ryan Kiscaden, senior strategic marketing manager for Bradford White. "HPWH is an increasingly important category in our industry. By providing plumbing and HVAC professionals with comprehensive information in an accessible format, they can work with homeowners to identify the right solution for almost any situation."
HVAC Contractors Offer Consultative Approach
The campaign includes print and digital advertising, editorial, social media, and a dedicated website. Kiscaden said the Pacific Northwest is the best market for HPWH. That’s due to a combination of state legislation and a general attitude among consumers to favor green products. Bradford White is headquartered in Pennsylvania and sells products across the country. But heat pump water heaters are a harder sell in most states.
“It’s been a slow transition,” Kiscaden said.
Growth will come from better informed contractors, he said. That’s why a big part of the campaign focuses on educating contractors, along with increasing homeowner awareness.
“It does take that on-the-ground, interpersonal relationship-based selling to get contractors properly trained and comfortable with providing options to homeowners,” Kiscaden said. “If the homeowners aren’t asking for it and the contractors aren’t offering it, we’re unlikely to ever move this market,”
Most water heater sales are an emergency purchase. Selling a heat pump water heater takes a more consultative sales approach, Kiscaden said. HVAC contractors often seem more open to HPWH, he said, because they are looking for a way to expand their offerings. That said, installing these units isn’t more difficult than traditional water heaters.
The Bradford White campaign is an integrated marketing effort. It includes digital display ads, geofenced targeted ads, and over-the-top videos on sites such as YouTube. Bradford White also provided a social media tool kit for manufacturers’ reps and created a dedicated landing page. There are also print and editorial aspects to the campaign.
Kiscaden said the initial response to the campaign has been strong and the results were meeting Bradford White’s expectations. The firm may use some of the lessons it’s learned from this campaign to promote HPWH in other parts of the country.
NEAA is also expanding its reach. In February, the Alliance presented at the annual conference for the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. NEAA has also been pushing for making heat pump water heaters more available to consumers.