Homeowners rarely think about their water heater or its vital contribution to the convenience of modern living. Likewise, relatively few think about hot water’s surprisingly high price tag—$400 to $600 per year for an average family, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR program. How could an everyday home essential cost so much? There’s a simple explanation: conventional water heaters are notoriously inefficient, accounting for about 20 percent of total household energy consumption (and 20 percent of each utility bill). The good news is that in recent years, a flood of innovative, high-efficiency water heaters have come onto the market. Unfortunately, too many homeowners fail to capitalize on this technology, opting instead for the default solution—an energy-guzzling conventional model. To transition smoothly to a high-efficiency unit, experts recommend beginning to plan for a new water heater well before you’re faced with an emergency situation. Only then can you survey all of the options and decide which type of water heater would be best for you. There are pros and cons to each competing water heater technology, of course, but heat pump water heaters may be the most intriguing. Continue reading to find out why.