There are a lot of things to keep in mind when choosing a new water heater. You’re probably looking for something kind to the environment and your wallet. A hybrid heat pump is the newest type of water heater.
Hybrid heat pump water heaters use less energy compared to older tank and tankless units. They can be two to three times more efficient than traditional heaters (1).
To help you choose a hybrid heat pump, we have written this buyer’s guide. In it, we take a closer look at the three best hybrid heat pump water heaters available today.
- Built-in hybrid heat pump design
- Integrated Wi-Fi connectivity
- Whisper-level quiet
- Saves money through amazing performance
- Heats during peak periods
- Durable design under warranty
- Many venting options
- Huge temperature range
- Natural gas or propane
Review Methodology: At Sensible Digs, our goal is to provide you with a trustworthy analysis of the best hybrid heat pump water heaters on the market. Our team of professionals conducts thorough hands-on research, measuring performance and evaluating criteria such as energy efficiency, capacity, and installation ease, to determine the top choices. We compare and rank each product based on data gathered, while assessing design choices and their impact on users. By sharing our experience and findings, we aim to help you make an informed decision considering key factors like cost, durability, and maintenance. Our comprehensive review highlights the unique features that set each hybrid heat pump water heater apart from its competitors, allowing you to find the perfect fit for your needs.
The Best Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heaters of 2023
Having done extensive research, we’ve narrowed down our list of hybrid heat pump water heaters to a top three. Let’s take a closer look in our hybrid heat pump water heater reviews.
Rheem Hybrid Smart Tank Water Heater
Best High-Tech Hybrid Water Heater
If you’re searching for a high-tech water heater, this unit from Rheem is Energy Star rated and very efficient. It’s an electric water heater with a built-in hybrid heat pump design.
The water heater has five settings you can choose from: energy saver, heat pump, high-demand, electric, and vacation. This lets you set it exactly as you need. In the long run, you can save more money by not heating water you won’t use.
Rheem claims the heater is whisper-level quiet, so you won’t notice when it’s running. This is remarkable, given how much water it’s capable of heating.
It also comes with integrated Wi-Fi connectivity. You can manage the heater from a distance as well as be alerted to any issues.
What We Like
If you want to save money and the environment, this heater uses minimal energy while providing you with plentiful hot water.
This 80-gallon unit can provide enough hot water for a household of three to five people, or more than three bathrooms. You won’t have to worry about harmful gases being released into the atmosphere.
Thanks to the combination of electric and hybrid, this boiler is about four times more efficient than a conventional electric unit. Rheem estimated that you can save as much as $4,500 over 10 years.
This unit is stated to be among the quietest, almost whisper-level. If you have sensitive hearing or children who are light sleepers, you’ll appreciate this. Some users have described it as refrigerator quiet — you won’t even notice that it’s on.
Integrated Wi-Fi Connectivity
The water heater features integrated Wi-Fi. Your unit will send you notifications and alerts.
If the unit encounters issues, you’ll receive an alert on your smartphone, such as during a water leak. It will also notify you when it requires servicing or other maintenance. All notifications are sent directly to your smartphone via the EcoNet app.
This allows you to set the heater as needed from a distance. You won’t need to run to the basement or garage to turn the heat down. Simply open your smartphone and adjust it from there.
The unit offers five different settings: energy saver, heat pump, electric, vacation, and high-demand. Energy saver mode is for your everyday tasks such as showering, cleaning dishes, and washing clothes. High-demand is for the times when you need extra hot water, such as during winter or when you have guests.
The standout setting is probably the vacation mode. When you choose this setting, the water heater will remain on hold for two to 28 days. If you’re going to be away for longer, you can leave it on hold indefinitely.
What We Don't Like
Recovery Time is a Little Slow
Some users pointed out that the recovery time of this unit is a bit slow. It seems to be slower in heat pump and energy saver modes. If you need hot water faster, a different setting should be better.
Doesn’t Produce as Much Hot Water as Advertised
Rheem claims that it can produce enough hot water for three to five people. However, multiple users have said the hot shower time is only around two minutes each.
|Gallon capacity||80 gallons|
|First hour rating||89 gallons per hour|
|Measurements||74 inches by 24.25 inches|
|Max temperature||145 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Warranty||10-year limited warranty plus one-year in-home labor warranty|
A.O. Smith Signature 900 Water Heater
Best Energy Efficient Hybrid Water Heater
Water heaters are pricey, but this one essentially pays for itself after a couple of years. It reduces water heating prices by up to 73 percent, saving you a little money every day. It’s predicted to save an average of 3,000 dollars over a 10-year period.
This water heater is best suited for a household of up to four people. So it’s not necessarily the best option for larger families. But when used appropriately, this has impressive efficiency and stellar performance.
What We Like
Saves Money Through Amazing Performance
As mentioned, this can save you hundreds of dollars annually. It works using innovative technology which absorbs heat in the air around it. It then transfers that into energy to heat the water inside the tank, while dehumidifying and cooling excess air simultaneously.
Heats During Peak Periods
Don’t worry about everyone using hot water at once. This tank can handle it. It has two backup 4,500-watt copper heating elements that will continue heating water even during high demand.
The easy-to-use interface is super approachable. The electric design lets you adjust the temperature, switch between operating modes and review the service diagnostics. You’re in control of this excellent machine.
Durable Design Under Warranty
Backed by a 10-year limited warranty, you can rest assured this will last a long time. Besides that, it also has a protective anode rod and a ceramic tank shield. These elements increase durability and reduce corrosion, while protecting your tank.
What We Don't Like
Air Con Unit Decreases After 18 Months
Many reviewers noticed the unit’s efficiency decrease after 18 months, especially for the fan atop the machine. When you first install it, you’ll notice a nice breezy air, but after 18 months, it isn’t as cold and refreshing. Thankfully, the warranty will cover such issues.
Not the Best for Cold Areas
Because this doubles as an air-con unit, this might not be the best for people already in cold areas. Wherever you install it, it will chill that room down slightly. Not ideal if you’re already shivering!
|Gallon capacity||50 gallons|
|First hour rating||66 gallons per hour|
|Measurements||22 inches by 63 inches by 2 inches|
|Max temperature||150 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Warranty||10-year limited tank and parts; 1-year limited labor|
Rinnai CHS199100IN Demand Duo Water Heating System
Best Commercial Hybrid Water Heater
If you need a water heater for commercial reasons, this multi-tasking tank will help you out. It heats water while providing multiple venting options, making this an extremely high-efficiency tank.
Backed by a 100-year reputation and fitted with a six-year warranty, this may be pricey, but at least you’re getting your money’s worth.
What We Like
Many Venting Options
You’ll love the various venting options. You can choose from four to suit your room and air condition. This includes concentric, two-pipe, common vent, or room air.
Huge Temperature Range
You can choose to set the temperature between 98 degrees Fahrenheit and 185 degrees. This wide range is generous and super practical, especially for commercial use when you may need extremely hot water.
Natural Gas or Propane
Being hybrid, you get the choice to power this with gas or propane, depending on your personal preference and current costs.
What We Don't Like
Being a commercial unit, it is significantly more expensive than other water heaters. There are payment plans, thankfully, but remember that this is most likely a business investment.
|Gallon capacity||315 gallons|
|First hour rating||315 gallons per hour|
|Measurements||78 inches by 48 inches by 37.25 inches|
|Max temperature||185 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Warranty||6-year heat exchanger and tank; 5-year parts; 2-years labor|
|Product||Award||Capacity||First hour rating||Measurements||Max temp.||Warranty|
|Rheem Hybrid||Best High-Tech||80 gal||89 gph||74″ x 24.25″||145 F||10 years (limited), 1 year (labor)|
|A.O. Smith Signature 900 Water Heater||Best Energy Efficient||50 gal||66 gph||22″ x 63″ x 2″||150 F||10 years (tank, parts), 1 year (labor)|
|Rinnai CHS199100IN||Best Commercial||315 gal||315 gph||78″ x 48″ x 37.25″||185 F||6 years (heat exchanger,tank), 5 years (parts), 2 years (labor)|
What Is a Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heater?
A hybrid heat pump water heater functions much like a refrigerator. However, a refrigerator removes heat from an enclosed space to keep it cooled. In contrast, a heat pump traps hot air inside the tank to heat the water, which is surprisingly efficient.
A fan mounted at the top of the tank pushes air across a radiator grid filled with liquid refrigerant. As the refrigerant has a low boiling point, the warm air quickly heats the liquid and turns it into gas.
The use of artificial refrigerants such as CFCs and HFCs has been criticized. However, as manufacturers focus on the environmental impact, technology is changing. There are now hybrid heat pump water heaters that only use a natural refrigerant, CO2 (2).
An air compressor inside the unit increases the pressure of the gas, forcing its temperature to rise. Via tubes, the gas is then pumped around a tank filled with cool water, heating the liquid.
As the gas cools and turns into a liquid, it is pumped back to a radiator to restart the process.
Disadvantages of Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heaters
The main flaw is that a heat pump takes longer to warm up compared to conventional models. This is because the hybrid doesn’t use as much electricity as a regular electric unit.
It’s recommended that you buy a larger hybrid boiler, preferably around 80 gallons. This means you should always have warm water at the ready instead of emptying and reheating your entire tank regularly.
Most heat pump water heaters come with backup resistance elements, which are activated when the demand for hot water is higher. They assist the heat pump in creating more hot water, which is why it’s called a hybrid.
A hybrid heat pump water heater won’t be suitable for everyone. They need to be installed in warm surroundings, usually between 40 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit (3).
A hybrid heat pump water heater also requires quite a lot of space. It needs at least 1,000 cubic feet of air around the unit. The heat pump won’t work without enough air; if the space is tight, so is the air supply (4).
Benefits of a Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heater
1. Environmentally Friendly
On average, a water heater accounts for about 18% of the energy used in a home. Installing a more energy-efficient water heater could cut this in half (5).
One of the main benefits of hybrid units is that they release almost no greenhouse gas emissions. By switching to a hybrid heater, you could significantly reduce your carbon footprint.
2. Modes and Settings
A hybrid water heater usually features a range of operating modes. Almost all models feature digital, LED-lit panels which make them easier to operate. Some even have a remote control or can be operated via Wi-Fi.
Here are some of the modes or settings your unit might have (they could be named differently):
- Efficiency or heat pump mode: This setting only uses the heat pump, which saves energy.
- Hybrid or automatic: This is the unit’s default setting. It provides the required hot water while still saving some energy.
- Standard or electric: The unit only uses the electric elements to heat water. This is the quickest way to heat water but also the least efficient.
- Vacation mode: This is also known as sleep mode. It can be used whenever you go away to save even more energy (6).
When using a hybrid heat pump water heater, you eliminate the risk of toxic gas combustion and exhaust. The unit only uses the surrounding air and a small amount of electricity as fuel.
You don’t have to worry about boiling hot water coming from a showerhead or faucet. Hybrid heaters heat the water slowly but they don’t overheat it.
Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heaters vs. Regular Water Heaters
There’s no doubt that hybrid heat pump water heaters are very efficient. However, they won’t be appropriate for every situation. Let’s take a closer look at some of the differences between hybrid heaters and regular boilers.
A hybrid heater uses electricity to power the pump, which captures heat from the surrounding air. Even so, it uses a minimal amount of electricity compared to a standard electric unit. Heat pump units can be two to three times more energy-efficient.
To compare a hybrid unit to a gas-powered heater, let’s look at the models’ Energy Factor (EF). The Energy Factor is based on the amount of hot water the unit can produce, per the amount of fuel consumed in a day (7).
If a unit has a high Energy Factor, it is highly energy efficient. You can find a water heater’s EF on its Energy Guide label.
Gas-powered heaters usually have an EF of 0.57 to 0.62. Some models are better insulated which earns them a rating of up to 0.7.
Hybrid heat pump water heaters, on the other hand, reach an EF of 2.86 or sometimes even more. That’s a significant difference.
However, you should also consider the cost of fuel, as gas tends to be cheaper than electricity. This means a gas-powered heater with a lower EF won’t necessarily be more expensive to run than a hybrid. This all depends on the cost of your electricity and gas.
Tankless water heaters are about 27% to 50% more efficient than regular electric heaters. This depends on your hot water use but it does make it hard for the hybrid to beat the tankless (8).
As tankless units don’t have a storage tank, they won’t cause any standby energy loss. This can also save money but tankless heaters won’t work as well in a house with a high demand for hot water.
A tankless system simply can’t keep up and you will likely need to purchase additional units. In this situation, the hybrid is probably your most efficient option.
2. Recovery Rate
Because heat pump water heaters use less electricity, they tend to have a much slower recovery rate. The unit first needs to collect heat from the surrounding air, then evaporate it into a gas that heats the water.
Electric heaters have two coils inside the tank that quickly heat the water. A gas heater uses burners at the bottom of the tank to heat the water.
Electric and gas heaters can heat a 40-gallon tank in a couple of hours. A hybrid can take two to three hours to heat a full 50-gallon to 80-gallon tank, depending on the unit (9).
The extra electric heating element of hybrid heat pump heaters is also known as an auxiliary electric resistance element. They automatically use this conventional element whenever demand is high, or when the tank is running low on hot water.
This element makes the unit less energy efficient as it increases the electrical demand.
This is another reason why it’s best to get a larger unit. A larger tank allows you to use more hot water before the conventional elements are called upon (10).
Although hybrid heat pump water heaters are more expensive than regular electric heaters, they can still be worth it. A hybrid unit should last you a very long time. They are also cheaper in the long run than electric units.
A gas-powered heater can last a long time depending on maintenance and water quality. However, a hybrid heat pump water heater should still outlast a gas unit.
Again, hybrid heaters and tankless units are close rivals. In fact, most tankless models have an estimated lifespan of 20 years. Hybrid units usually include a 10-year warranty.