I recently received an e-mail touting the all-new "Hybrid Water Heater" from GE. You may have seen these advertised during the Olympics too.
Well - I had to do a little research on this. First off - what the heck is a "hybrid water heater"? Beyond that, my question is always - does it save money? If so, how does it compare to other types of water heaters?
The "hybrid" water heater is essentially an electric water heater that utilizes heat pump technology to achieve high efficiency. I would say that's a pretty clever approach. I'm not sure about the "hybrid" label, but GE didn't get where they are because of bad marketing. I did find on the Energy Star site that this is a fairly recent technology and that there are a handful of these systems available from major plumbing suppliers.
It takes a little bit of digging, but according to the research so far the operational savings are real and compare favorably to other types of high-efficiency water heaters that operate via natural gas (or propane) - even tankless water heaters.
The upfront cost are a little higher though. The GE version retails for about $1600 and others appear to fall in the same range. When you factor in installation costs, you'll probably run a tad higher than a tankless system and maybe 1/2 the cost of a solar water heater (which, of course, has no operational cost unless a backup system is used).
Generally speaking, this technology looks like it could be a promising option for many homeowners, particularly if they do not have gas service to their home. I would certainly recommend any of my clients consider it if they are building a new home or when replacing an older system.
You can check out a couple of these new water heaters at the following websites:
GE "Hybrid" water heater
RUUD heat pump water heater