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What to do if you get a noisy Rheem/Ruud heat pump water heater

Uploaded: May 22, 2022

One of the reasons that people have favored the Rheem/Ruud heat pump water heaters is because they are quiet. Rated at a low 49 dB, you could install one in most places around the house and not notice it operating. Unfortunately, that is no longer the rule. For the last two years or so, many homeowners have noticed that their newly installed Hybrid Electric Water Heaters (1) are significantly louder than that, even 60-70 dB. Says one contractor I spoke with: “It’s something about the new generation of water heaters. The earlier ones were quiet. The new ones, not so much.”

Another local contractor who has installed many of these over the years says: “We have had to make return visits to a huge percentage of our installs because the clients complain about noise. We have spent hours talking to sales reps. We now stock replacement fans and have had to send our plumbing team back multiple times to replace the factory installed fan in an attempt to quiet the machine. The product we install is listed as the quietest available, yet some of them are louder than a running gas-powered automobile.” An irate contractor made this video for Rheem, which will give you a sense of the sound the water heater is emitting and his frustration with the unit.

I spoke with Ankur Maheshwari, Director of Global Product Management at Rheem, and he confirmed that there has been an issue. “We didn’t see it in our field testing, which is very comprehensive, but it did come up post-deployment. The numbers are tiny, but we did hear about it and took immediate steps to address it.” He explained that the problem was introduced when they were making efficiency improvements, and assured me that it was fixed in Q3 2021.

Well, I’m not sure the numbers are all that tiny, given how many people have reported installing a louder-than-spec’d unit. (Up until recently, you could also read about it in the comments on the Rheem site itself. However, those comments have since been removed.) I also wouldn't say that the issue has been fixed, given that people still report the issue and older ones remain on the market. Rheem would not give me the serial numbers of the units that are quieter, despite multiple requests. They also seem to have removed any reference to the 49 dB spec from their marketing materials. One user reports that they now say units made in 2022 are quieter, but still may emit up to 55 dB when installed.


My Ruud heat pump water heater had a loud hum.

I installed a Ruud heat pump water heater recently -- an 80-gallon, 15-amp version that turned out to be manufactured in April 2021 -- and it was a noisy one. The hum at six feet was 66 dB rather than the spec’d 49 dB. My HVAC guy noticed right away since he had recently installed two quieter ones. The ambient sound level in my garage and house is 35-40 dB, so this was noticeable, even with the door to the utility closet closed and a fully insulated and quietrock’d wall between the closet and family room.

I sighed and got on the phone with Rheem, which has a dedicated support line for these issues at 1-800-995-0982. They walked me through a process, using controls on the heater, to diagnose whether the sound was an installation issue (they like to call out earthquake straps), a vibration issue with the floor, an issue with the fan, or an issue with the compressor. They may recommend one or more of a replacement fan, a foam kit, and a vibration isolation kit based on the results.

In my case the fan was loud, but the contractor was doubtful that was the only issue. Upon removing the large lid of the water heater (the “shroud”) to replace the fan, he noticed that there was no soundproofing despite the lid being essentially a large echo chamber made of thin sheet metal. Another contractor I spoke with made a similar observation, saying that the later models “have less sound absorption material than earlier versions (we disassembled a couple to see the differences)”. Unfortunately, Rheem was out of stock of the foam kits, which are supposed to address the general lack of soundproofing in the top of the water heater.

The new fan arrived the next day (at no charge). Here you can see the old fan on the left and the new fan on the right.


Rheem/Ruud Hybrid Water Heater fans, original on left and replacement on right

The new fan is heavier, with larger blades and a lower blade angle, all of which should and did make it quieter. Unfortunately, installing it was not straight-forward. There was not enough clearance to remove the shroud, so my contractor was faced with either draining, uninstalling, reinstalling, and refilling the water heater, or just slicing through the shroud. He chose the latter.



He then installed some custom-made sound-proofing, which included a thin layer on the inside of the metal shroud, some narrow rubber strips along the grill on the top, and a sound-dampening mat near the compressor.

We took bets on how much this would help and were pleasantly surprised that the sound level came down from about 66 dB at six feet to 54 dB, and 45 with the door closed. You can listen to it here with the door open and here with the door closed. Inside the house this was now barely noticeable. The kitchen on the far side of the garage behind a door was maybe 41 dB with the heater running and 40 without -- not noticeable. The family room, separated from the water heater closet by an insulated wall, is around 40 dB when the water heater is running compared to 35 when it isn’t. Unless it’s very quiet and I’m trying hard to listen for it, I don’t notice it. The schedule is set so that most of the time we’re in there it’s not running anyway.

As you may be thinking, quieting the water heater required hours of labor on the part of my contractor, plus some materials expense. The number to call for reimbursement of labor is Rheem Tech Support: 1-800-432-8373. The support person there told me there is no warranty for labor on heaters bought at wholesale (which mine was), but offered that I could try emailing the receipt to [email protected] That department pointed me to Wholesale Warranty (800-621-5622, option 4 then 2), where the person said that Tech Support or Billing would handle this. Right.

As I wrote above, this experience is not uncommon. This complaint in an online forum from last year reflects an experience similar to mine: “The hybrid water heater I purchased is very noisy, 62 decibels instead of the advertised 49. I can hear it throughout my house. Rheem said that they would send me a foam insulation kit and pay to have a plumber install it. The water heater is installed per Rheem’s instruction. They say to allow for 7 inches of clearance on top and mine has 10 1/2 inches. In order to install the foam insulation kit around the fan, the 12 inch high top has to be removed. So the water heater needs to be removed and reinstalled. Rheem is refusing to pay for the labor. I was told this after waiting on hold for 90 minutes. A supervisor is supposed to call me back. Additionally, the technician on the phone denied that Rheem advertises a 49 decibel noise level. Then he said that this was only in an ideal environment.”

So. If you order a Rheem/Ruud Hybrid Water Heater, you may get a louder than expected appliance and Rheem’s support may not be of much help. As a result, I have some suggestions for you:

1. Do not install one of these if you need it to run at 49 dB. Even with a newer model or good fixes, it may run up to 55 dB or so. Walk around your house with a sound meter to get familiar with what different dB ratings sound like. I used the Sound Meter app on an Android phone, and there are similar apps for iPhone. A microwave might be a good proxy for 50-55 dB. Try putting one where the water heater would go and measure it. Or stop by to listen to a heat pump water heater at a friend’s or neighbor’s house.

2. Ask if the plumbing supply store where you are buying it will sell you one made in 2022. Those may be quieter. Rheem has not recalled the older units and they are still available on the market.

3. Make sure you have a plan for what you will do if you get a noisy water heater. You may want to check if your contractor has replacement fans and foam kits on hand, or otherwise knows how to improve the sound proofing. One contractor says he is testing out a fairly easy fix, strapping two layers of thin soundproofing material around the shroud (avoiding the air intake and outflow and display). I will update this post if that proves as effective as he thinks it will be. (See update below!)

4. Once the water heater is installed, listen to it. Listen not only from a distance of 3-6 feet, but also from any adjacent rooms, with doors open or closed as normal. A low whoosh or hum is normal when it is operating. If it seems loud, especially in your living areas, measure it and talk with your contractor.

5. Consider setting the water heater’s schedule so it runs less at certain times. For example, I set the temperature to 122 between 11am and 4pm, then set it to 118 between 4pm and 11pm. I do this so it uses cleaner energy, but it also means it runs less in the evenings when we use the family room more.



6. Do not hesitate to call Rheem at 1-800-995-0982 if your water heater is noisy. They are very familiar with these issues. Make sure to have the serial number of your water heater on hand when you call. Then call 1-800-432-8373 or email [email protected] to request reimbursement for labor.

I am sorry to have to share this information, but I want you to be prepared for this eventuality. I have no complaints about the water heater now that it is up and running. It actually works better than my gas one, which I was not expecting. (My contractor thinks that is because a valve on the gas one may have allowed the temperature to vary too much.) The heat pump water heater is very efficient, currently using around 2 kWh/day, and it is much better for the climate. I also like having an app that lets me schedule it, turn it down on vacation, etc. But it took the contractor longer than expected to install, required some creativity on his part, and added about $500 to the cost of installation.

I am also pretty unhappy with how Rheem has been managing this. While their customer support tries to be helpful, the company in general has been less than straight-forward with customers and contractors. They are not making an effort to recall the noisier units and are unable to keep the foam kits in stock.

Rheem had no comment when I sent them a preview of this blog post. Heat pump water heaters are also available from AO Smith, Bradford White, and Stiebel Ultron. Bradford White promises “average 55 dB” while Stiebel Ultron promises 52 dB at 3 feet.

Update!
A contractor for SunWork provided this helpful information about a relatively easy patch for a noisy heat pump water heater from Rheem/Ruud:

Our customer has a bedroom directly over the garage where the water heater is installed, so that's where we were taking sound level measurements.

Without mitigation, sound level readings in that bedroom were coming in at 59 dB. With one layer of mass-loaded vinyl we were reading 52 dB. Two layers gave 50 dB. Three gave 48 dB. We left all three layers in place.



This is the MLV that we used (the 1/4-inch, 20 sf roll), which was great because the cosmetic defects weren't hurting anybody in this application, and you basically get three water heater layers out of it with no waste. But the B-stock is not always available.

This is the hose clamp kit that we used.

Minimum total materials cost for a one-off retrofit, without any B-stock discount, would be $156.95 before tax. If buying the MLV a full roll at a time and getting higher-count hose clamp kits, the per retrofit materials price gets down to $124.85 before tax.

Notes and References
1. Rheem/Ruud call their heat pump water heaters “hybrid electric water heaters,” referring to the fact that they have both a heat pump and an electric resistance element that can be used to fill the tank faster when needed.

2. Rheem and Ruud heat pump water heaters are the same design, same parts, and made in the same facility, as confirmed by Ankur Maheshwari, Director of Global Product Management at Rheem.

Current Climate Data (April 2022)
Global impacts, US impacts, CO2 metric, Climate dashboard

Terrific news from Australia, where Labor won the election promising to accelerate action on climate change. From CNN:

“The climate crisis was one of the defining issues of the election, as one of the few points of difference between the coalition and Labor, and a key concern of voters, according to polls.

Marija Taflaga, lecturer in politics and international relations at the Australian National University, said the swing towards the Greens was remarkable. 'I think everyone has been taken by surprise by these results...I think it will mean there will be greater and faster action on climate change more broadly.'

Labor has promised to cut emissions by 43% by 2030 and to reach net zero by 2050, partly by strengthening the mechanism used to pressure companies to make cuts.”

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Comments

Posted by Scott, a resident of Community Center,
on May 23, 2022 at 2:27 pm

Scott is a registered user.

I installed a heat pump water heater a few months ago. I would have liked to use American-made Rheem, but I had heard there were noise issues, and when I called them it was "Noise? What noise?" That was a red flag for me. I chose a Stiebel Eltron (after waiting a couple months--not sure if supply chain issues have been resolved) that I bought online. I'm happy with the noise level, and performance. Fuse Service installed for me--I was happy with them, as they were about the only contractor/installer out there that didn't try to gouge me for installation. A couple notes about temperature settings. My Stiebel manual says "Never reduce the set temperature below 122F to reduce problems with legionella." And I've gotten confusing/mixed messages about higher set temperatures: the manual also says that higher set temperature lowers efficiency; however, the City's "energy genie" consultant advised me, if I remember correctly, that a relatively high set temperature is more efficient...


Posted by Scott, a resident of Community Center,
on May 23, 2022 at 2:38 pm

Scott is a registered user.

Here, btw, verbatim is a message from Palo Alto's "efficiency genie" consultant. I can't vouch for the accuracy of its contents but have to believe he knows what he's talking about: "Now thinking about the unit as a theoretical device and optimizing the efficiency, the hotter you can keep the water, the better. This is simply because it can hold the temperature easier and allows you to remove less hot water when coupled with a mixing valve like you mentioned you have. The idea being that if you want the water to exit the tank at 120 degrees or 125 degrees which is pretty standard, you can keep the tank at 140-160 degrees which means that the tank will lose less than 1 gallon when the hot water is used. This allows the cold water entering the tank to replace the heated water that was used, to be lessened and reduce the amount you need to heat the water. If done properly, having the tank set to a higher temperature can increase the efficiency of the unit and reduce the need to heat the water as often."


Posted by Bill Michel, a resident of another community,
on May 23, 2022 at 3:03 pm

Bill Michel is a registered user.

We had a 10 year old GE, which was pretty noisy, but it was tolerable (small cellar
under the kitchen). We bought a new AO Smith recently, and it may be a *little*
quieter, but I think it's still around 60. I agree with the "microwave analogy"...
maybe put one where you plan to install your heater, and see if you can stand it.
We watched on of the videos mentioned, and it seemed that that unit had a "hum"
which was much louder than either of ours... I would say the fan noise "overwhelmed"
the hum... Another thing we found out is that the AO Smith units they sell at the big
box stores are not the same as one you would buy from a plumber... the plumber took
the part no. from ours, and said that a duct-kit was not available! Caveat Emptor!


Posted by Scott, a resident of Community Center,
on May 23, 2022 at 6:16 pm

Scott is a registered user.

Just a couple more notes about (my) Stiebel Eltron: They do tend to be more expensive than most other models. I was also warned off them by a local, experienced contractor for three reasons (two of which turned out to irrelevant or wrong): 1) They have "nonstandard" size water connections; 2) it is hard to change the settings on it; and 3) it wouldn't be compatible with Palo Alto's future smart metering system. The first two "warnings" proved to be nothingburgers--Fuse Service had no problem with connection sizes (if you do get a Stiebel you may want to first get the installation manual online and forewarn an installer); and the "settings" are not hard to change at all (this "warning" was a head scratcher). I don't fully understand what the future smart metering will offer, but it is apparently true that the Stiebel will not be capable of that, according to Stiebel support. And I should note that I, as far as I can tell, cannot do time-of-day/scheduling of different temperatures as Sherry apparently can do with her Rheem.


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on May 24, 2022 at 11:07 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Hi. Thanks for the comments. I agree that a good setup is a smaller tank with a mixing valve. Then you can heat the water up hotter and mix it to a lower temperature, gaining the benefit of a larger tank without needing the size. And maybe there's a health benefit too wrt legionella. I've always had our tank at 120, and it's the default setting, so that's what I went with, plus I don't have a mixing valve...

BTW, someone asked if the noise is related to the unit being 15 amps. It's not. The 15 amps just means the resistance unit uses less power. That wouldn't make it noisier, and anyway my heat pump never uses it anyway because it's enormous. (In retrospect, I would have been fine with a 65 gallon one.)

Anyway, thanks for the comments.


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on May 24, 2022 at 11:31 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

I want to share this comment that a reader emailed to me:

> I was thinking about replacing my gas water heater with one,
> but was concerned that since my water heater is mounted in a
> utility closet in our family room noise would be a factor. The
> closet door is also about 4-ft from my favorite chair, which I
> use when reading or watching TV. I recall you mentioned that
> the units were quiet, which based on your article is no longer
> the case.
>
> 55-60 dB is the same volume as my old Bosch washing machine
> when its on high-speed spin, which though relatively quiet in
> the world of washing machines is still quite disturbing.
> Fortunately it is a room that we can close off to reduce the
> noise to a whisper and we don't do laundry several times a day.
>
> Thank you for writing this update addressing the noise issue. I
> think the HPHW technology is not quite ready for prime time.
> This is especially true for those of us whose water heaters are
> in the home and not in a garage away from living quarters.
>
> De-carbonization is important, but so is quality of life,
> especially since excessive noise is unhealthy. So for now, no
> HPWH for me.
>
> Noise abatement isn't rocket science. But it seems that Rheem
> and Ruud appear not to give a damn.
>
> So there won't be any heat-pump water heater in my future until
> the manufacturers up their game.

I want to share a few thoughts.

1. 55-60 is noticeably louder than 50-55. The decibel scale is logarithmic, so small changes are noticeable. I'd suggest listening to one. I shared some videos. Hopefully you can find someone who has one, or just email me if you'd like to listen to mine.

2. Many of these are perfectly quiet. My contractor just installed two that were whisper quiet. Consider checking the date when you buy.

3. There are some straight-forward ways to dampen the sound. We all used to wrap our water heaters in blankets way back when. The suggestion now is to just wrap the top (minus the air intake/outtake and display) in a double layer of soundproofing mats.

4. As I mentioned, you can set a schedule to impact when it runs if you are still sensitive to any remaining hum. These only run 4-8 hours per day in most households.

Obviously I anticipated this sort of response when I wrote this post, but still it makes me sad. There are many reasons not to adopt cleaner technologies and to continue to burn fossil fuels. Change is not easy and it is imperfect. We each have to decide for ourselves where we want to be on the curve of this change. I try to choose actions that would make my daughter/nephews/grandkids proud.


Posted by Scott, a resident of Community Center,
on May 24, 2022 at 11:50 am

Scott is a registered user.

I'm glad, Sherry, that you noted that in retrospect you would have been fine with a 65 gallon model. That is another way that people can cut down on energy use--get the right size? Our house when we moved in had 2 80-gallon heaters (!) (one "dedicated" to the master bathroom) which I'm sorry to say we used for years; then we took one out. My new hpwh is just 58 gallons (though with the mixing valve it effectively may be more). Two of us here have had no problems with that size; and my brother and family just visited--two teenage girls taking Midwestern-length showers--and we apparently had no problem (unless they were too polite to say something). Lesson? Take a hard look at how big you really need.


Posted by MP Father, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on May 24, 2022 at 1:53 pm

MP Father is a registered user.

Sherry, thank you for the informative and impartial post.

I look forward to switching over to a HPWH once the kinks are worked out. It is odd that Rheem/Rudd is not addressing nor being transparent regarding this seemingly obvious issue. Rheem has historically a good track record. Perhaps the issue is on the Rudd side?

Regardless, I appreciate you and the other contributors helping to inform the community and indirectly contribute to lower emissions.


Posted by ljse, a resident of Atherton,
on May 24, 2022 at 2:50 pm

ljse is a registered user.

We installed an Eco2 heat pump because our contractor warned us about the noisiness of the Rheem heat pumps (which they install in garages to mitigate the noise issue). The Eco2 heat pump is more expensive but we didn't want the noise and it was not possible to put a heat pump in our garage. A nice bonus: the Eco2 refrigerant is CO2, not Puron.


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on May 24, 2022 at 9:52 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@ljse: Yes, the contractors I've spoken with all speak highly of the Eco2 heat pump water heater (which used to be called Sanden). It is powerful and quiet. As you say, it costs 50-100% more than these other options and you need a space for the outdoor unit, so it's not for everyone. But it's a great option. Thanks for mentioning it, and glad to hear you are happy with it.

BTW, there are some great bills being proposed to encourage more development of heat pump tech in the US (outside the US it's much farther along). You can read more here and here. It can't happen too soon!


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on May 25, 2022 at 8:17 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

FYI, I have updated this blog post with information about a relatively simple but effective fix. See "Update!" above. Thank you to the contractor who provided the description and pictures!


Posted by kate19, a resident of Diablo,
on May 25, 2022 at 7:49 pm

kate19 is a registered user.

I bought Ruud, but according to the advertisement, the machine works smoothly and does not make noise. But that's the opposite of me. It is too loud, affecting my daily life.


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on May 25, 2022 at 10:37 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@kate19: I'm sorry to hear that. I hope you can use some of the tips in this post to reduce the sound.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on May 26, 2022 at 3:27 am

Brian is a registered user.

We installed a Ruud 65 gallon HPWH last year, and it's much louder than I expected from the research I did prior to installation. I tried to measure the actual sound level using an iPhone app (Sound Level Analyzer LITE). While the app seemed to be precise and sophisticated, I couldn't figure out how to calibrate it to the ambient sound level. The unit is in our garage, but adjacent to the master bedroom, so the noise is a problem when we're trying to sleep. We mitigated it by using the schedule to turn it off at night. This has worked pretty well, and the 65 gallon unit is sufficient for our small family. We set the temperature to 122F. I will probably try the “Update" fix recommended by SunWork that you included. One other problem I have had is the Econet app that controls the system is buggy and sometimes turns the heater off for a day or two. I have to monitor it closely and reset the system when it goes off. And calling for service can be a problem, because the Ruud water heater and the Econet app seem to be different companies. When you call one of them, they blame the problem on the other.


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on May 27, 2022 at 11:34 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Brian, please let me know if the sound mats help! I haven't heard of any issues with the Econet app, but I'll keep an eye on it. Thank you for adopting a HPWH early and pushing the industry to keep getting better.


Posted by Eduardo, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Jun 2, 2022 at 8:49 am

Eduardo is a registered user.

Thanks for the pointer, Sherry. I'll try the mats.

I did a quick reading on my Rheem. Our heater is in the garage. The dBA in my case is around 55 but the dBC (and C, and Z) are all higher, around 65.

We will try the mats. I'll also see if I can figure out what fan we have. We installed last year so I assume we have an older / louder model.


Posted by Eduardo, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Jun 27, 2022 at 9:44 am

Eduardo is a registered user.

I contacted Rheem and they sent me a new fan. The fan supposedly has the new motor but it looks like the old fan (as per the image that Sherry sent). I confirmed with Rheem that it is newly manufactured but I have not yet installed it so I don't know if the sound will be lower. I'll report afterwards.


Posted by Eduardo, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Jul 9, 2022 at 9:46 am

Eduardo is a registered user.

We replaced the fan on our Rheem. We also cleaned the air filter on the WH (I had overlooked to do that in the past), and our installer (AwesomePlumbing) also added a rubber insulator between the WH and the garage wall to reduce vibration.

The new setup is much quieter. Inside the house reading is DBC: ~44, DBA: ~35. In the garage it is higher, at 6 feet, facing the fan, DBC: 60, DBA: 52.

I don't doubt that the numbers would be lower with more insulation and with the new blade design but the new motor reduced the lower frequencies and the garage wall stops those, so we are happy.


Posted by Paly Grad, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive,
on Aug 19, 2022 at 4:42 pm

Paly Grad is a registered user.

Are A O Smith heat punp water heaters quiet or noisy?

Are there any 110 volt heat pump water heaters or are they all 220 volts?


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Aug 20, 2022 at 2:04 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@PalyGrad: I haven't heard that AO Smith models are unduly loud. I have seen one or two in garages and they seemed fine. Rheem now has two 120-volt models on the market. I will talk about them a little in tomorrow's post.


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