How Hybrid Water Heaters Function

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Hybrid water heaters are capable of saving families hundreds or even thousands of dollars in energy expenses each year.
iStockphoto/Georgios Alexandris

Unless you’ve experienced the inconvenience of a broken water heater, it’s unlikely that you’ve given much consideration to the large apparatus situated in your closet or basement. Most people don’t think about water heaters until they stop working and they’re left with cold showers.

Remarkably, water heaters weren’t even on Energy Star’s radar until recently. Energy Star is a government program that certifies energy-efficient appliances. Despite water heaters generally consuming the most energy of any household appliance, Energy Star didn’t start regulating their energy usage until 2008 [source: Green].

Now, there is a movement towards making water heaters more energy-efficient. This could result in significant energy savings, as roughly 17% of a home’s energy usage comes from its water heater [source: Green]. These savings are beneficial not only for the environment and the future, but also for your wallet. It’s estimated that hybrid water heaters could save the average family hundreds or even thousands of dollars in energy expenses each year.

Although it may sound too good to be true, there are only a few hybrid water heaters currently available on the market, with several more expected to be released in the next few years. Hybrid water heaters are more expensive than conventional water heaters, with the current models costing between $2,000 and $3,000. This article will help you stay up-to-date with the most recent advancements in hybrid water heater technology, so that when a model that meets your requirements becomes available, you’ll be ready to purchase.

When you hear the term “hybrid,” you might think of a tank that is charged with a battery and can also run off gas, similar to a hybrid car. Continue reading to learn about the technology behind hybrid water heaters and discover if your assumptions are correct.

Hybrid Water Heater Technology

Hybrid water heaters essentially blend the technology of traditional tank and tankless hot water heaters.

Conventional tank heaters heat from the bottom, with the air rising through the tank and exiting from the top, resulting in a significant amount of heat being wasted. Tankless models also heat from the bottom, but the water flows through copper pipes. However, tankless models have been criticised because they don’t store water and don’t provide hot water to multiple locations in your home.

The technology behind hybrid water heaters varies depending on the model. One of the few models currently available on the market, the Eternal Hybrid, uses multiple passes of heat and water to heat more efficiently. The device has 44 pipes that heat up, and the water flows around them for rapid heating [source: Eternal Water Heater]. In contrast to a tankless system, the hybrid heater contains a reservoir that always holds some water, ensuring that you never run out of hot water.

This isn’t the sole technology that hybrid water heaters can use. General Electric is planning to release a hybrid electric water heater at the end of 2009, which will absorb heat within the air and transfer it to the water using hybrid technology [source: GE]. Hybrid WaterHeater Incorporated is also developing a heater for 2011 that will combine several technologies, including fuel cells, batteries, and supercapacitors [source: Hybrid WaterHeater Inc].

If you want to learn about the advantages of a hybrid water heater compared to the one you’re currently using, keep reading.

What’s in a Name?

When you hear the word “hybrid,” you may think of a car that runs on a combination of electricity and gasoline. However, hybrid water heaters are still in development and may consist of a variety of technologies. The word “hybrid” actually refers to a combination of tank and tankless water heater technology [source: Hot Water Facts].

Advantages of Hybrid Water Heaters

The primary benefit of hybrid water heaters is their efficiency. Water heaters can be incredibly inefficient, especially since their energy consumption wasn’t regulated until 2008 [source: Green]. This is particularly concerning because they are often the most energy-consuming appliance in a home, accounting for almost one-fifth of your total energy use!

Since these models are more energy-efficient, using them will save you money. But what are the particular benefits of each model?

  • The Eternal Hybrid boasts a 98% efficiency rate [source: Eternal Water Heater]. A.O. Smith has a hybrid model called the Vertex Power-Vent Gas Water Heater, which operates at 90% efficiency [source: A.O. Smith]. GE’s model is expected to be 50% more efficient than their current models [source: GE].
  • GE’s savings should amount to around $250 per year for an average family. Hybrid WaterHeater Inc. claims that its energy savings could be as high as $2,160 per year [source: Hybrid WaterHeater Inc]. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until 2011 to try that one out.
  • If you’re looking for easy installation, GE’s and A.O. Smith’s models are designed to match the conventional tank designs that are commonly found in homes. Or, if you’re looking for space-saving options, the Eternal Water Heater is approximately half the size.

The Eternal model also has practically zero greenhouse gas emissions [source: Eternal Water Heater]. As a result, it is one of the cleanest-burning household appliances available, not just among water heaters.­

If you need to replace your water heater or want to be more environmentally friendly and save money, consider replacing your current water heater with a hybrid one. However, don’t rush out to purchase one right now since there are only a few models available on the market. Wait a few years, and you’ll have more options to choose from.

For more information, check out the links on the following page.

Forget Coal

General Electric’s hybrid electric water heater is 50% more efficient than their other models. If they were installed in every American home, up to 30 coal-fired power plants could be eliminated [source: Green]. That’s a significant reduction in pollution!­

Hybrid Water Heaters – More Information

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Sources

The following is a list of websites that provide information on hybrid water heaters. A-1 Plumbing and Emergency Rooter, A.O. Smith, Energy Star, Eternal Hybrid, Forster, Lyndsey, GE, Green, Hank, Hot Water Facts, Hybrid WaterHeater Inc., and TIAX are all included in the list. Each website offers their own unique perspective and information on hybrid water heaters. The list includes links to each website for easy access to the information.

FAQ

1. What is a hybrid water heater?

A hybrid water heater is a type of water heater that combines the features of both a traditional tank-style water heater and a tankless water heater. It uses electricity to heat the water and stores the heated water in a tank for later use.

2. How does a hybrid water heater work?

A hybrid water heater works by using a heat pump to extract heat from the surrounding air and transfer it to the water. It then uses electricity to heat the water further and store it in a tank for later use.

3. What are the benefits of a hybrid water heater?

The benefits of a hybrid water heater include energy efficiency, cost savings, and longer lifespan. It uses less energy compared to traditional water heaters, resulting in lower energy bills. It also has a longer lifespan compared to tankless water heaters, reducing the need for frequent replacements.

4. How energy-efficient is a hybrid water heater?

A hybrid water heater is highly energy-efficient, as it uses a heat pump to extract heat from the surrounding air and transfer it to the water. This process is more energy-efficient compared to traditional water heaters, resulting in lower energy bills.

5. How much does a hybrid water heater cost?

The cost of a hybrid water heater varies depending on the brand and model. On average, a hybrid water heater costs between $1,000 to $2,500, including installation.

6. How long does a hybrid water heater last?

A hybrid water heater has a longer lifespan compared to traditional water heaters. On average, it can last up to 15 years, reducing the need for frequent replacements.

7. How much space does a hybrid water heater require?

A hybrid water heater requires less space compared to traditional water heaters, as it is compact and can be installed in smaller areas. It also eliminates the need for a separate tank and can be mounted on a wall.

8. How often should a hybrid water heater be serviced?

A hybrid water heater should be serviced annually to ensure optimal performance and prevent any potential issues. Regular maintenance can also prolong the lifespan of the water heater.

9. Can a hybrid water heater be installed in any home?

Yes, a hybrid water heater can be installed in any home as long as there is enough space and proper electrical and plumbing connections.

10. How much hot water can a hybrid water heater produce?

A hybrid water heater can produce up to 80 gallons of hot water per day, depending on the brand and model.

11. What are some of the drawbacks of a hybrid water heater?

Some of the drawbacks of a hybrid water heater include higher upfront costs compared to traditional water heaters, the need for annual maintenance, and a slightly longer recovery time for hot water compared to tankless water heaters.

12. Is a hybrid water heater worth the investment?

Yes, a hybrid water heater is worth the investment as it is highly energy-efficient, cost-effective, and has a longer lifespan compared to traditional water heaters. It can help homeowners save money on energy bills and reduce their carbon footprint.

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