Water heaters that use heat pumps rather than electricity or gas can reduce energy consumption and save customers money. But Southern Company and the manufacturers developing these water heaters for consumer use don’t just rely on laboratory results to measure the energy efficiency. They have placed these new water heaters and other technologies in 50 test sites across the southeast, where sensors and monitors track how they perform in the real world.

In this video, Chris Gray, Research Engineer for Southern Company, explains how field evaluations like the Residential Water Heating pilot program can help manufacturers improve technology based on actual on-site performance and customer feedback.

Heat-pump technology uses 50% less power to heat water over traditional water heaters. While electric water heaters use resistive elements to turn electricity into heat, and gas heaters burn natural gas or another fuel source - heat pumps absorb heat from the surrounding environment and use it to heat the water. Energy-efficient technology like heat pump water heaters help reduce the number of power plants that need to be built and the amount of natural resources used, while lowering customers' energy bills.

Southern Company and its partners in the project install the technology in participants' homes and train them how to use and maintain the equipment. This pilot program is part of the company's goal to spend $1 billion on energy efficiency and demand control programs between now and 2020.

Homeowner Paul Fetsko has been participating in the pilot program for two years, helping Southern Company to see how the product performs long term.

"The pilot project really turned out to be really great for us as a family, from the installation and setup, and then the follow-up,” says Fetsko.

To learn more about this and other exciting energy-efficiency projects check out Idea Power from Southern Company