What is a hybrid heat pump water heater?

What is a hybrid heat pump water heater?

Water heaters are one of the largest, most fundamental – and yet, often ignored – home appliances. Homeowners rarely see them, but they make use of them countless times a day. A conventional water heater uses fuel – gas, oil, or electricity – to heat water and store it for later use. But in the age of renewable energy and Net Zero, this old-school technology is getting a new, carbon-neutral makeover.

Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heater Components

A hybrid heat pump water heater heats and stores water like a conventional unit; it’s the way the water is heated that makes them efficient and unique. Instead of using a heating element to warm the water, heat pump water heaters pull heat from the surrounding air and transfer it to the water tank. 

How does a hybrid heat pump water heater work?

A hybrid heat pump water heater is, essentially, an air conditioner in reverse: using compressed gas in sealed tubes, it moves heat from the air into the water tank. It does use electricity to circulate the gas, but it’s a much smaller amount than would be needed to heat the water. In fact, every unit of energy that goes into a heat pump hot water heater yields three units of energy in return: it puts out more energy than it takes in.

A gas hot water heater emits the byproducts of fossil-fuel combustion, namely destructive greenhouse gases. For safety, these hot water heaters must be vented directly outside. A heat pump unit, in contrast, creates nothing but cold air and a small bit of clean water (from condensation). 

How does a hybrid heat pump water heater work?

How does a hybrid heat pump water heater work in the winter?

Even when the surrounding air is cool or cold, these water heaters are great additions to your home thanks to the “hybrid” part of their name. They’re called “hybrids” because they also have conventional electric heating elements that can kick on in case of particularly heavy usage, or if more heat is needed than is available from the surrounding air.  

Hybrid heat pump water heater pros and cons

Hybrid heat pump water heaters are economical and efficient when compared to other kinds of home hot-water heaters.

hybrid heat pump hot water heater efficiency and energy cost

Heat pump hot water heater vs gas

Gas hot water heaters create heat by burning fossil fuels, while hybrid heat pump hot water heaters just move heat from the air into the water tank. Moving heat takes much less energy than creating heat, so for cost-efficiency, hybrid heat pump hot water heaters win, hands down. One potential drawback: a gas hot water heater will usually heat a full tank of water faster than the heat pump model.

Hybrid water heater vs tankless

Tankless hot water heaters are just what their name implies: they don’t have the big storage tanks other hot water heaters do. The theory is that by heating water only when needed, the inefficiency of having to keep a whole tank warm is eliminated, and the supply of hot water never runs out. But when compared to hybrid heat pump hot water heaters, they have some drawbacks. The first is that they use a lot of energy (usually electricity): enough to run 3 to 4 air conditioners at the same time. Second, their hot water flow rate is limited and users may find themselves wishing for more pressure. 

Hybrid heat pump hot water heater vs electric

The main advantage to a hybrid heat pump hot water heater versus an electric one is efficiency: the heat pump model uses less energy. According to the government website Energy Star, switching from an old-school electric hot water heater to a heat pump model could save the average family of four $330 a year on electric costs. And using less power is not just great for the bank account, it’s great for the environment.

Hybrid heat pump hot water heater vs solar

Solar panels are not just for generating electricity: there are systems that use solar energy directly – without converting it to electricity first – to heat water. It sounds like a great idea, but in practice, it can be problematic. Solar thermal systems are complex assemblies of valves, pumps, and antifreeze, which are all exposed to the elements. Regular maintenance is imperative and breakdowns can leave your whole system off-line. The installation costs can be steep, and of course, they can only heat water when there’s direct sunlight. Hybrid heat pump systems, in contrast, are safely sheltered indoors, are cheaper to install, and are comparatively simple to run. 

Why should you get a hybrid heat pump hot water heater?

The advantages to using the latest in efficient technology are many:

  • Efficiency: A hybrid heat pump hot water heater is one of the most efficient appliances available. Most household appliances struggle to achieve 100% efficiency: putting out as much energy as they use. Hybrid heat pump hot water heaters achieve a remarkable average efficiency rate of 300%. Hence, they are cheaper to run. Not only do these hot water heaters cost less to operate than other technologies, but they are also longer-lasting too. While conventional electric hot water heaters have an expected lifespan of 8 to 12 years, hybrid heat pump hot water heaters have an expected service life of 13 to 15 years.
  • Eco-friendly: Unlike gas heaters, a hybrid heat pump hot water heater burns no fossil fuels and emits no harmful gases (so it doesn’t need venting to the outdoors), and it is much more efficient than conventional electric models.
  • Potential Rebate/Tax Break: Depending on where you live, you may qualify for a tax break or a government-sponsored rebate when you purchase and install a hybrid heat pump hot water heater. It’s Uncle Sam’s way of saying “thanks” for doing your part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Surprise benefit: Traditional hot water heaters get hot, and that heat dissipates into the surrounding room. In the summertime, this can work against a home’s air-conditioning system. Not only does a hybrid heat pump hot water heater not get hot, it actually cools the air around it: like a hot water heater and an air conditioner all in one!

Contractors for Hybrid Heat Pump Hot Water Heater Installation

Finding the right contractor can be the key to having a hybrid heat pump water heater installed correctly and safely, and is certainly easier than doing it yourself. Beyond word-of-mouth recommendations, local building inspectors or trade groups may have a list of licensed contractors in your area.

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