Hot Water 201: Hybrid & Heat Pump Water Heaters

You’ve probably heard of hybrid cars, but have you heard of hybrid water heaters? Last time, we discussed some of the pros and cons of using an instant water heater in your home. Instant water heaters have been around for some time, and their efficiency has been proven, but there are a number of downsides to them. The new technology on the scene is hybrid water heaters that bring new technology to improve efficiency and functionality. There are two types of hybrid water heaters these days: electric and gas. The differences between the two are substantial, so read on to learn more.

AO Smith NEXT HybridGas Hybrid Water Heaters

Gas hybrid water heaters combine a traditional instant water heater with a heat exchanger that draws heat out of the exhaust gasses. This heat is used to warm a storage tank, which allows the system to keep a small amount of hot water on hand, reducing the energy that the on-demand heating element needs to bring the water up to temperature.

The biggest benefit of this design is the elimination of the “cold water sandwich effect”. Traditional instant water heaters sense when water is moving through the pipes, and respond by heating up very quickly. Even the best designs, however, cannot heat up fully before some cold water slips past. If the hot water is turned on and off at short intervals through normal use, this can leave pockets of cold water “sandwiched” in the pipes. This may be most noticeable when taking a shower: the water temperature may fluctuate until the contents of the pipes have been cleared. The storage tank in a hybrid water heater helps to eliminate the cold water sandwich effect, making a hybrid much more practical for use as your home’s primary water heater.

GE GeoSpring Hybrid-Electric Water HeaterHybrid Electric Heat Pump Water Heaters
Hybrid heat pump water heaters are some of the highest tech water heaters available today. They use a heat pump in conjunction with a traditional electric heating element. The heat pump, which is essentially an air conditioner working reverse, pulls heat out of the surrounding air to help heat the water. Heat pumps are naturally efficient, because they gather and concentrate heat from the air, rather than using electricity or burning fuel to generate the heat. One convenient side effect of these electric hybrid water heaters is that they will help to cool and dehumidify your basement in the summertime.

The hybrid electric heat-pump technology makes these water heaters some of the most efficient available. Water heaters can account for as much as 17% of a home’s energy consumption, so an efficient water heater can save you a lot of money. GE claims as much as $325 a year in savings on your electric bill. In addition, ConEdison is currently offering rebates of up to $400 if to New York residents who replace their old water heaters with one that uses this technology.

Learn more about GE’s GeoSpring Hybrid-Electric Water Heater