The class of hybrid water heaters is an especially interesting way to get hot water. Heat pump water heaters, or hybrid water heaters are the latest super efficient technology to hit the water heating industry. Heat pumps use electricity to heat or cool homes by moving heat from one place to another, which makes them energy efficient because they are moving heat instead of generating it directly. Hybrid water heaters use the heat in the ambient air or the earth and transfer it to the water stored in the tank to create your homes hot water.
They usually also have a backup element to heat the water when the energy transfer may not be enough to maintain hot water temperatures. Using this method of heating water, a heat pump water heater is generally 2 to 3 times more efficient than a regular electrically powered storage type water heater. Think of it working like a refrigerator in reverse. A refrigerator transfers heat from inside the refrigerator to the outside air. An air source hybrid water heater transfers heat from the outside air to the water inside of the tank.
Another efficient quirk about air source heat pump water heaters, is that they can act simultaneously as an air cooler, and a water heater, drawing heat from the air space in your home and transferring to the hot water storage tank! An amazing novelty of double-whammy efficiency! Take the heat you dont want in your homes air and transfer it to the water that you do want hot! Energy transfer at its most ingenius.
Of course the downside, is if you live in a colder climate, or have the water heater located in a cold area of the home, it will not work very efficiently. For this reason, hybrid water heaters make more sense in warmer climates generally. For someone living in a climate that requires air cooling for much of the year, such as the southern United States, a hybrid water heater can be a great investment, cooling your homes air, while simultaneously heating your water! They are in general, very efficient systems, and even in more temperate climates will reduce energy consumption compared to a regular electrically heated water heater.
These are becoming more and more popular given the enormous efficiency an relative ease of installation. Not many appliances can offer such a bang for your buck as an air conditioner/water heater.
There are also hybrid water heaters that can work off a geothermal heat pump system. You can also use a heat pump that is earth-sourced with a geothermal heating and cooling system, which draws heat from the ground during the winter, and cools the air in the summer by drawing heat away from the homes air. If you have a geothermal heat pump system for your homes heating and cooling, you can add a desuperheater to the system for water heating. A desuperheater is an auxiliary heat exchanger that utilizes superheated gases from the heat pumps compressor to heat the water. This hot water is then circulated through pipes to the homes storage water heater tank.
I highly recommend getting prices for having a hybrid water heater installed in your home, particularly if you live in a warm climate. The comfort and extreme efficiency will be well worth the investment, and should pay you back in a few years with the energy cost savings. Although not as popular as the tankless water heater systems yet, in many cases these hybrid water heater are even more efficient that tankless given their novel use of heat exchange technology.
Some of the brand names offering hybrid water heaters today are Stiebel-Eltron offering the Accelera 300, GE, Rheem and the AO Smith voltex. Do some research and comparison of price, performance and warranty before committing to any one brand. The Stiebel Eltron Accelera 300 heat pump water heater review is the cream of the crop in my humble opinion and is featured in the photos in this article.