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Homeowners Warned to Avoid “Free” or Very Cheap Hot Water Heat Pump Offers

Hot water heat pumps are surging in popularity, but are some of the “free” or “cheap” heat pump offers being made too good to be true? 


The cost of heating hot water is the second largest energy expense in the average Aussie household. It’s second only to heating and cooling within the home and accounts for around 25% of energy costs. 

Enter hot water heat pumps, which use around 75% less energy than traditional hot water systems and represent huge energy savings for the average Aussie family. 

The possible savings are not to be sneezed at. For example, the ACT government estimates that the average 3-4-person household will make back the cost of a hot water heat pump in under 4 years. And that’s not even factoring in the generous government rebates offered in most states.

In other words, you’d recoup the cost of installing a high quality heat pump in less than 4 years, and from that point on you’ll be paying less than if you’d never switched.

Lots of savvy homeowners are jumping on the hot water heat pump bandwagon because they realise the sooner they upgrade, the sooner the savings start kicking in. 

But whenever there’s a hot (pun intended!) new trend, there will always be people out to make a quick buck. In the case of hot water heat pumps, there are some unscrupulous companies promoting “free” or very cheap (e.g. $33 out of pocket) upgrades to a heat pump system that may be too good to be true.

We’re seeing quite a few problems with this model in the field, which we’ll explore in detail in this article.

Problem #1: Low Quality Hot Water Heat Pumps Break Down Sooner

To make the upgrade free or cost next to nothing, some of these companies supply the cheapest of the cheap heat pump systems, usually imported Chinese brands that have been re-branded to a local sounding name.

The problem with this is that the warranty on these units is short, usually 12 months (compared to 5 years or more with a premium brand). 

So if the system fails in 18 months for example (a common occurrence according to our partners, who’ve had to pick up the pieces on many occasions), the homeowner is left without a functioning hot water system, AND they’ve used up their rebate (see below). So in effect, they’re paying more in the long run than if they’d invested in a high quality pump to begin with. 

And even if the cheap heat pump breaks down within the warranty period, some of these companies have found a loophole in the consumer laws, which allows them to simply refund what the customer paid.

So if you paid $33 out of pocket (a common offer being marketed currently) then the company can just refund your $33 and be done with it, leaving you high and dry, without a functioning hot water system and no way of getting it replaced under warranty. 

Problem #2: You’ve Used Up Your Heat Pump Rebate

Each household only gets one rebate (or interest-free loan in some jurisdictions) to upgrade their hot water system to a heat pump. So if you use up this rebate on a cheap system, that rebate is then gone for good. 

Down the track, if you need to replace or upgrade that cheap system (which happens often), you’ll be paying for it out of your own pocket. 

For this reason it’s recommended that you use your rebate by putting it towards a high quality hot water heat pump. This ensures you’ll get an efficient system that’s reliable, will do the job, and will last a long time.

Problem #3: Cheap Heat Pumps Don’t Work As Well

Perhaps the biggest problem is that the majority of these cheap heat pumps actually don’t do the job they’re supposed to do. For example, they’re often not as efficient in their operation as a premium heat pump, which means those savings you expected in your energy bills are nowhere to be seen. 

They also generally have a lower capacity so they run out of hot water faster. As anyone who’s experienced an unexpected switch to cold water in their shower on a chilly morning can attest to, this is definitely something to avoid!

Not only that, but the cheaper systems take longer to heat back up when they run low on hot water. A premium heat pump such as a Reclaim hot water heat pump can heat as much as 110 litres in an hour. 

There’s also the environmental impact of the materials used in the heat pump itself. Cheaper systems use refrigerants such as R41a GWP, which are harmful to the environment. The least harmful refrigerant on the market today is CO2, which is used for example in high quality Reclaim and Sanden hot water heat pumps.

Noise levels are another consideration. A premium hot water heat pump will run much quieter than a cheap system, which is a factor when the hot water system is close to living areas or neighbours. 

Besides the above, many free hot water heat pumps have design flaws that impact their effectiveness. In particular, they often struggle to maintain the water temperature in colder weather, which is again bad timing because that’s when you need it most.

Problem #4: Shoddy Workmanship When Installing “Free” or Cheap Heat Pumps

A fourth problem with many of these free/cheap heat pump offers is that to keep costs down, these companies can only afford to pay their installers a low fee.

A heat pump requires both a registered electrician and a plumber to complete the installation. Because the company only has a small margin to work with (usually from your rebate), they pay their installers a low rate to complete the installation. 

This means these tradies are working for close to minimum wage, which attracts inexperienced tradespeople and encourages them to work quickly, often not giving the job the attention it deserves. This then leads to problems down the track with shoddy workmanship that needs to be fixed. 

Problem #5: Hidden Costs 

Sometimes “free” is not really free! We’ve heard multiple reports of the free or cheap heat pump companies turning up to do the install, only to slug the homeowner with additional costs. 

Some examples of these hidden costs can be:
  • Extra pipework
  • Tempering valves
  • Duo valves
  • Electrical connection to the switchboard
  • System relocation

One reputable industry expert advised us that these hidden costs can add up to $200-$500 per install.

Putting it All Together

By now you can see why going for the free or cheap heat pump hot water option may not be the best course of action. Yes, you’ll save some money in the short term, but in the long run you’re likely to be worse off. 

There’s a reason why one of our biggest installers has the saying, “if you pay low, you pay twice”. That’s exactly what can happen when you choose an offer that seems too good to be true. 

This is why at Heat Pump World, we only partner with installers who supply and install premium heat pump name brands like Reclaim, Sanden, Apricus, Rheem and Stiebel Eltron, to name a few. The difference in a quality system is immediately clear. Over the long run these higher quality systems will make your investment back faster, with less hassles and higher quality of life. 

So What Can You Do Instead?

There’s an obvious difference between the cost of a quality heat pump system when compared to a cheap or free hot water heat pump – and with good reason. The old saying “you get what you pay for” rings true here, so don’t run the risk of installing a low quality, cheap heat pump system that might let you down and cost you more in the long run.

A quality heat pump system will save you money, reduce your environmental footprint and provide you with a reliable source of hot water for many years to come. 

To find out more and get a free quote on  premium hot water heat pump from a local installer, fill in our simple, free online quote form.


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