Is it about time you got a new water heater? Maybe you’re looking for something easy on the environment and your pocket? A hybrid heat pump water heater is the latest type of water heater — but is it any good?
Hybrid heat pump water heaters use less energy compared to the usual tank and tankless units. These bad boys can be two to three times more efficient compared to other heaters (1).
If you want to know more, keep reading to see our buyer’s guide. Plus, see our choice of the three best hybrid heat pump water heaters.
What Is a Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heater?
A hybrid heat pump water heater works the same as a refrigerator. Now, a refrigerator removes heat from an enclosed space to keep it cooled. But, the heat pump traps hot air inside the tank to heat the water — and it’s surprisingly efficient.
How Does It Work?
The unit has a fan mounted at the top of the tank which pushes air across a radiator grid filled with liquid refrigerant. Because the refrigerant has a low boiling point, the warm air quickly heats the liquid and turns it into gas.
Many concerns have been expressed about the use of artificial refrigerants such as CFCs and HFCs. However, as manufacturers become more aware of environmental impacts, technology is changing.
You can now find hybrid heat pump water heaters that only use a natural refrigerant, CO2 (2).
An air compressor inside the unit further increases the pressure of the gas, forcing it to rise in temperature. The gas, inside tubes, is then pumped around the tank filled with cool water. As the tubes move around, the compressed gas will heat the water.
When the gas is getting cold and turning into a liquid, it’s pumped back to a radiator where it begins the process again.
There is a flaw though. A heat pump water heater takes longer to heat up compared to conventional models. This is simply because the hybrid doesn’t use as much electricity as a regular electric unit.
It’s highly recommended that you buy a larger hybrid boiler, preferably around 80 gallons. This is because a larger unit holds more water. This reduces the likelihood of an empty tank that needs to be filled and heated before you can use it again.
Now, this is where we’ll get very high-tech. Most heat pump water heaters come with backup resistance elements.
These elements turn on whenever the demand for hot water is higher. What happens is that the standard electric heating elements will automatically start, to give the unit a boost. Thus assisting the heat pump in creating more hot water — making it a hybrid.
Unfortunately, a heat pump water heater won’t work for everyone. They do require installation in a space with a warm temperature. Usually, it’s 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 space around the unit. The heat pump won’t work unless it gets the amount of needed air, and if space is tight, so is the air (4).
Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heater vs. Regular Water Heaters
There’s no doubt that hybrid heat pump water heaters are highly efficient. However, it may not be right for every family. 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. However, it uses a minimal amount of electricity compared to the standard electric unit. Heat pump units can be two to three times more energy efficient.
When comparing a hybrid unit to a gas-powered heater, we’ll have to look at the models’ Energy Factor (EF). The Energy Factor is based on the amount of hot water the unit can produce per amount of fuel consumed on a day (5).
If a unit has a high Energy Factor, it means it’s highly energy efficient. You can find a water heater’s EF on the Energy Guide label.
Gas powered heater usually have an EF of 0.57 to 0.62. Some models are better insulated which gives them a rating of up to 0.7.
Hybrid heat pump water heaters, on the other hand, reach an EF of 2.86 or more sometimes (6). There’s a significant difference, which is something to consider.
Another thing to consider though, is the cost of fuel, as gas tends to be cheaper than electricity. Therefore, a gas-powered heater with a lower EF may not necessarily be more expensive for you than a hybrid. It all depends on the cost of your electricity and gas.
Tankless water heaters are about 27 to 50 percent more efficient than regular electric heaters. It depends on your use of hot water, but, this does make it hard for the hybrid to beat the tankless (7).
Because tankless units don’t have a storage tank, they won’t produce any standby energy loss. This could also save you money. However, tankless heaters won’t work as well in a house with a high demand for hot water.
The tankless system simply can’t keep up, and you will most likely have to purchase additional units. So in this situation, the hybrid is probably your most efficient option.
2. Recovery Rate
Because heat pump water heaters don’t use as much electricity, they tend to have a much slower recovery rate. The unit has to collect heat from the surrounding air first. Then vaporize it into a gas which heats the water.
Electric heaters have two coils within the tank which quickly heat the water. A gas heater, on the other hand, uses burners at the bottom of the tank to heat the water.
Electric and gas heaters can heat 20 gallons or more per hour. On the contrary, a hybrid can take two to three hours to heat a full 50 to 80-gallon tank, depending on the unit (8).
The extra electric heating element that hybrid heat pump heaters have is also referred to as an auxiliary electric resistance element. Built-in controls turn to 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 electricity demand.
This is another reason why it’s recommended to get a larger unit. Having a larger tank allows you to use more hot water before the conventional elements are needed (9).
Even though hybrid heat pump water heaters are more expensive than regular electric heaters, they can still be worth it. A hybrid unit will last you a very long time. It’s also cheaper in the long run compared to an electric unit.
A gas-powered heater can last you a long time depending on maintenance and water quality. However, a hybrid heat pump water heater should still outlive a gas unit.
Again, hybrid heaters and tankless units are in close competition. In fact, most tankless models have an estimated lifespan of 20 years. Hybrid units usually come with a 10-year warranty.
Benefits of a Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heater
One of the great things about hybrid units is that they have almost no greenhouse gas emissions. By switching to a hybrid heater, you could reduce your carbon footprint.
2. Modes and Settings
A hybrid water heater can come with a variety of operating modes. Close to all models feature digital, LED lit panels which make them easier to operate. Some will even have a remote control or can be operated over WiFi.
Let’s see some of the modes or settings your unit might have (they may be named differently).
- Efficiency or heat pump mode: Choosing this setting, you’re only using the heat pump, which means you’re saving energy.
- Hybrid or automatic: This will be the unit’s default setting. It means it provides the needed hot water while still saving energy.
- Standard or electric: The unit is using only 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’s a great option for whenever you’re going away to keep saving energy (11).
When using a hybrid heat pump water heater, you’re eliminating the risk of toxic gas combustion and exhaust. The unit only uses the surrounding air, and of course a small amount of electricity, as fuel.
You also don’t have to worry about boiling hot water spewing out of the shower head or faucet. Hybrid heaters heat the water slowly, but also do not overheat the water.
The Best Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heater of 2020
Now that we’ve seen what a hybrid heat pump water heater does, it’s time for some shopping inspiration. Hybrid heaters are relatively new, but we managed to find a top three for you. We searched through users’ favorites and expert recommendations — let’s have a look.
1. Rheem Hybrid Smart Tank Water Heater
If you’re searching for a high-tech water heater, look no further. This one from Rheem is Energy Star rated and super 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 will allow you to set it exactly as you need. In turn, you can save in the long run by not wasting energy heating unused water.
What’s more, Rheem claims that it’s whisper-level quiet, so you won’t notice if it’s on or off. This is incredible considering how much hot water it’s capable of producing.
Now let’s get technical — this is a smart unit after all. It comes with integrated Wi-Fi connectivity. You can manage the heater from afar as well as be alerted to any issues.
- High efficiency.
- Super quiet.
- Integrated Wi-Fi connectivity.
- Features different settings.
- The recovery time is a little slow — about 29 gallons per hour.
- Doesn’t produce as much hot water as advertised.
Why We Love It
If you’re looking to save money and the environment, this is worth a look. It uses minimal energy while operating, providing you with an ample amount of 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 escaping into the atmosphere.
Thanks to the mashup between electric and hybrid, this boiler is four times more efficient than a regular electric unit. Rheem estimated that you can save up to $4,500 over the course of 10 years.
This unit is supposed to be super quiet, almost whisper-level. If you have sensitive ears or a small baby that’s trying to sleep, you’ll appreciate this feature. Some users describe it as refrigerator quiet — you won’t even notice it’s on.
Integrated Wi-Fi Connectivity
The water heater comes with integrated Wi-Fi. Your unit will send you notifications and alerts.
If the unit should fail, you’ll receive an alert on your smartphone, for example, of a water leak. It will also notify you if it requires servicing or other maintenance. All notifications are sent directly to your smartphone through the EcoNet app.
This feature also allows you to set it as needed from afar. You don’t need to run to the basement or garage to turn the heat down. Simply open your smartphone and correct it from there.
Features Different Settings
The unit gives you the option of five different settings: energy saver, heat pump, electric, vacation, and high-demand. Energy saver mode is for your everyday routines such as showering, dishes, and washer. High-demand is for the times when you need extra hot water, for instance, during winter.
The standout control setting is probably the vacation mode. As you choose this setting, the water heater will remain on hold between two to 28 days. If you’re going to be away for longer, you can also leave on hold indefinitely.
Keep In Mind
The Recovery Time Is a Little Slow
A few users pointed out that the recovery time of this unit is a bit slow. However, it seems to be slower in heat pump and energy saver modes. So, if you need hot water faster, try a different setting and it should be better.
Doesn’t Produce as Much Hot Water as Advertised
Rheem advertises that it can produce enough hot water for three to five people. That said, quite a few users said that 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|
2. GE GEH80DFEJSR Hybrid Water Heater
Having hot water while saving money and energy is every homeowner’s dream. This water heater from GeoSpring is a perfect example.
It is a combination of standard electric elements and advanced heat pump technology. GeoSpring claims it’s 70 percent more efficient than a regular 50-gallon electric water heater.
They’ve even included some fun technology. Similar to the Rheem water heater above, this one also has five different settings for your particular needs.
Even better, there’s a removable filter. Since the boiler creates heat from the surrounding air, dust and debris are bound to build up inside. The filter prevents these harmful substances from entering, keeping the fans and evaporator working.
- 70 percent more efficient than a regular unit.
- Five different settings.
- Removable filter.
- The unit is louder than most hybrids.
Why We Love It
70 Percent More Efficient Than a Regular Unit
GeoSpring has combined a traditional electric unit with advanced heat pump technology making this 70 times more efficient. Its efficiency is due to the two fans that draw heat from the air into the boiler.
The air then goes through an incorporated compressor and evaporator which transform the air into heat.
Lastly, the heat travels through coils wrapped inside the tank, going to the bottom. Here it meets with the water, thus providing you with hot water. GeoSpring claims you can save up to $365 a year on heating expenses.
Five Different Settings
Similar to Rheem, this boiler has five different settings: heat pump, hybrid, standard, high-demand, and vacation. GeoSpring recommends that you set it in heat pump mode for maximum savings (12). When in heat pump mode, it operates as explained above — by drawing in the surrounding air.
However, they do also mention that the recovery time is a little slower in this mode. So if you have a higher demand for hot water, set it to hybrid or electric. If you have a larger demand, then use the high-demand mode — this will, of course, draw some more power.
When the heater is in a hybrid mode (hybrid, high-demand, and heat pump) it draws in air. The air goes through the filter, sorting out any present dust or dirt and preventing it from damaging the evaporator. So, for highest efficiency, it’s essential that the filter is clean.
Fortunately, this is an easy task. All you have to do is remove it and give it a turn with the vacuum or rinse with warm water. If the filter is too dirty, the unit will automatically switch to electric mode.
Keep In Mind
The Unit Is Louder Than Most Hybrids
Hybrids are usually considered quiet, but a few users noted that this unit is louder than others. It’s not a huge issue since most will place it in their garage or basement.
|Gallon capacity||80 gallons|
|First hour rating||94 gallons per hour|
|Measurements||72.5 inches by 25 inches|
|Max temperature||140 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Warranty||10-year limited warranty on parts plus one-year warranty on the appliance|
3. Stiebel Eltron Heat Pump Hybrid Water Heater
Hybrid heat pump water heaters generally work best in warmer climates. But this model from Accelera thrives when the temperature rises. What makes this perfect for the summer are the fans pumping cool air into the room.
Stiebel claims that it helps cool down the room, much like an air conditioner. They also state that if the climate where you live is cooler, you should place it in the basement. Here it works as a dehumidifier.
What we love is that it will save you up to 80 percent on your hot water costs. When in heat pump mode, it uses less energy than a toaster. It’s Energy Star rated and has an energy factor of 3.39.
Inside the tank, Stiebel utilizes electric anodes. These are some of the best and rarely, if ever, require maintenance. The unit is also super quiet — it’s sound-deadening insulated at the top and bottom.
- Multiple uses.
- Uses less energy than a toaster.
- Very quiet.
- The unit is quite large.
Why We Love It
At the very top of this unit, there’s a compressor motor, and on the other side, a fan. The compressor draws in warm air from its surroundings, then cool, dehumidified air comes out from the fan.
If you live in a warm climate, this will help cool down the room where the boiler stands. On the other hand, if the climate is colder, it can dehumidify the room.
Uses Less Energy Than a Toaster
This unit is quite energy efficient — Stiebel states that it uses less energy than a toaster. It requires 240 volts and a single 15-amp circuit breaker. To give you an idea of how efficient this unit is, DOE estimated that it uses around 1289 kWh a year.
In other words, this boiler can save you a lot of money that would be otherwise wasted heating water. Some reviewers even claim that they only need it to heat water once a day, thanks to the superior insulation.
Having a loud boiler is never fun. Fortunately, most heat pump water heaters are quiet — this is no exception. The unit is insulated at the top and bottom, ensuring that no loud noises escape.
Because it’s so quiet, you can place it nearly anywhere in the home without fear of it waking you up in the night.
Keep In Mind
The Unit Is Quite Large
One of the biggest drawbacks of this boiler is its large size. It’s approximately 74 inches high, 23 inches wide and weighs around 297.6 pounds. You may have to compromise a bit of space to fit this.
|Gallon capacity||80 gallons|
|First hour rating||74.2 gallons per hour|
|Measurements||73.625 inches by 23 inches|
|Max temperature||140 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Product||Award||Gallon 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 in-home labor|
|GE GEH80DFEJSR||Best For Maintenance||80 gal||94 gph||72.5″ x 25″||140 F||10 years (limited) on parts, 1 year on appliance|
|Stiebel Eltron||Best For Warm Climates||80 gal||74.2 gph||73.625″ x 23″||140 F||10 years|
The Best of Both Worlds
Hybrid heat pump water heaters are rising in popularity. They give you the best of both worlds — combining energy-efficient technology with standard electric-powered units. They’re capable of outliving your old gas-powered unit and saving you money over time.
We hope that you found our guide helpful. If you have any experience you want to share or any further questions about this product, please let us know below.