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What Is a Hybrid Water Heater? How Does It Work?

Writen by Ronald Brown

Fact checked by Natalie Bridges

what is a hybrid water heater

A hybrid water heater is one of the cutting-edge residential appliances that are shaping our lives today. We’ve seen it listed as one of the famous water heating technologies online but what is a hybrid water heater?

It is a combination of the conventional tank and electric heat pump technology. Hence, it’s also called a “heat pump heater”. It utilizes heat from the surrounding air and moves it from one location to another to heat your water.

The distinctive way of heating the water makes a hybrid electric water heater special. Scroll down to learn everything you need to know about hybrid water heaters and decide if they suit your home and lifestyle.

How Does a Hybrid Water Heater Work?

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A hybrid water heater works in the reverse mechanism of a refrigerator. While a refrigerator absorbs the heat from the insulated reservoir and pumps it into the ambient air to cool the water, a hybrid water heater extracts heat from the room air and conducts it to water in the hybrid hot water tank.

How does a hybrid hot water heater collect the thermal energy to heat your water? The electric heat pump mounted above the tank uses a compact compressor and evaporator coil to absorb the warmth of the indoor air.

The heating process maximizes energy efficiency and savings because hybrid water heaters do not generate heat. They move the air when needed instead of heating the water on demand.

  • First, the fan draws in room air through the top air filter.
  • Second, the captured heat then circulates into the evaporator coil. The refrigerant inside it absorbs heat from the room air and produces cool and dry air and dumps it into the exhaust duct.
  • Third, refrigerant is pumped through the compressor, and as the accumulated heat circulates inside, the temperature rises.
  • It then flows through a converter and heats the incoming cold water in the storage tank.
  • Finally, the heated water passes through the plumbing fixtures of your home.

Types of Heat Pump Water Heating Units

Air-source heat pumps work in their top condition when there is a minimum difference between the indoor and outdoor temperature. They come in two versions: retrofit or add-on heat pump and drop-in/hybrid heater pump.

If you have an existing gas-powered water heating storage tank, you can integrate a separate heat pump retrofit to your system and convert it into a hybrid gas water heater.

On the flip side, a drop-in/hybrid pump water heater is equipped with an air-source heat pump and a built-in storage tank. This pump type best suits applications that require the replacement of an electric storage tank.

Is a Hybrid Water Heater Energy-Efficient?

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Hybrid electric hot water heater systems are considered as the second (next to the solar-powered heaters) most energy-efficient and eco-friendly water heating systems available in the market today.

Hybrid water heaters use electricity for energy dispersion, but they don’t rely on it for hot water production. They use a much lesser amount than required to heat the water so they can cut down your electric bills over the unit’s lifetime.

They are 2 to 3 times more efficient than regular electric water heater models. The Department of Energy states that the average annual heating operation cost of a hybrid water heater is approximately 150 – 190 dollars.

Of course, the rates vary depending on the size of your household. But it is more reasonable compared to electric tankless water heaters, which use about 561 dollars worth of annual power consumption for every 3 hours of usage per day.

When there is a high demand for hot water, hybrid heaters reverse to a standard electric resistance heat. It means that all of the incoming electric energy will transform to heat energy.

A typical hybrid electric water heater offers advanced operating settings during peak hours of hot water usage like the following :

  • Efficiency/Economy mode – it allows the pump to warm water and maximizes energy efficiency.
  • Hybrid/Energy-saver mode – This mode is for daily use. It provides energy-efficient hot water with sustained heat.
  • Electric Mode – your unit operates as a standard electric water heater utilizing the heating elements only, consuming more energy.
  • Vacation Mode (not available on all models) – It sets your heater in rest/dormant mode while you are away and will not be using hot water in the meantime.

All in all, hybrid water heaters reduce your home’s overall energy consumption. They may have significantly higher upfront costs because they are more straightforward to install, unlike the traditional and tankless models. But the good news is that the payback period is shorter because of the substantial energy cost savings in the long run.

Factors to Consider Before Buying a Hybrid Water Heater

Hybrid water heaters have striking features that change how we heat our water today. But before purchasing the unit, take note of the following factors that will determine if they fit your domestic needs :

1. Energy Star and First Hour Rating

The first essential factor is the energy star rating of a hybrid water heater because it indicates its energy-efficiency level; The more the stars, the more efficient it is.

The next thing to consider is the first-hour rating which is the number of gallons of hot water the hybrid heater can supply per hour. For example, if your family uses about 40 gallons of water during peak hours, a unit with 38 to 42 gallons capacity fits your needs.

2. Location

One of the crucial factors upon choosing the appropriate hybrid model is the location. Since heat pumps use air from the surrounding area, the place should be unconditioned or semi-conditioned such as the basement, garage, and laundry rooms.

3. Size

If sized correctly, a hybrid water heater can work more efficiently. It usually has 3 sizes :

  • Small (50 gallons) – A family of two adults
  • Medium (66 gallons) – a family of two to three adults with two children
  • Large (80 gallons) – a family of 5 or more

4. Overall Energy Costs

Always look for the energy factor of the hybrid model to find out how it can dramatically impact your electric bill. The sum of the installation and maintenance fee is the total of your overall energy costs.

Conclusion

Out of the top-rated choices in the market, a hybrid water heater system is one of the most sought-after models by meticulous homeowners. After reading the beginner guide of “What is a Hybrid Water Heater? “, you have finally gained a clearer insight into how a hybrid water heater works.

Hybrid water heaters are indeed one of the most cost-efficient options to heat your domestic water supply, and I hope this article has provided you with the perks of installing one. Do you have any questions or unique suggestions? Let me hear your thoughts in the comment box below.

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