A hybrid water heater or heat pump water heater is a home appliance that is capable of generating electricity directly to heat the water within the tank like a standard water heater, but can also use a heat pump mechanism to pull in warm air, extract the heat from the air to warm the water, and expel the cold air. This hybrid function increases efficiency without sacrificing functionality.
Learn more about these high-efficiency appliances to determine if a hybrid water heater is suitable for your home.
What Is a Hybrid Water Heater?
Hybrid water heaters use two different mechanisms to heat the water within the storage tank, which is why they are often referred to as hybrid appliances. Another term used to describe these appliances is heat pump water heater. This is because the main function of hybrid water heater is a heat pump mechanism that pulls in warm air from the immediate vicinity. Through the use of refrigerant and evaporator coils, the heat is then extracted from the air to heat the water within the tank and the cold air is expelled from the water heater.
However, when the demand for hot water is too great, simply extracting heat from the area cannot keep up with the heating requirements. In these situations, the hybrid water heater switches to a secondary heating method that uses electricity to power heating elements located in the base of the water tank, just like a standard water heater. The combination of these two heating methods in one unit is what led to the popularity of heat pump water heaters being labeled hybrid water heaters.
Hybrid vs. Tankless Water Heaters
In order to select the best water heater for your home, it's necessary to understand the difference between hybrid and tankless water heaters. While both hybrid and tankless water heaters offer an efficiency improvement over standard water heaters, there are several key differences between these appliances to keep in mind.
- Hybrid water heaters are typically the most efficient option because, instead of using electricity to create heat, these appliances can use the existing heat in the surrounding area to warm up the water within the tank. This type of water heater is more expensive to purchase and install than a standard water heater, but tends to be more affordable than a tankless water heater. However, it's necessary to note that hybrid water heaters require a lot more space than both standard and tankless water heaters for the heat pump to function properly. Additionally, the efficiency of a hybrid water heater can drop if the air filter is not replaced regularly.
- Tankless water heaters don't require a storage tank full of water to provide hot water to the home, so they take up a lot less space than other water heater options. Instead, these water heaters use gas or electricity to rapidly warm up the water as it flows through the water heater, providing hot water on demand to the entire home. This functionality increases the efficiency of the appliance because it does not need to heat and reheat a standing tank of water repeatedly throughout the day. However, tankless water heaters cost more than both standard and hybrid water heaters. Additionally, a single tankless water heater may not be able to keep up with hot water demands for a larger home, so you may need to purchases two whole-home units or individual on-demand water heaters for each faucet, shower, tub, and appliance that requires hot water.
Moderate installation price
Requires 1,000 cubic feet of space
Water is heated and stored in an insulated tank
Air filter must be regularly replaced
High installation price
Small size can be installed in a range of locations
Heats water on demand so users never run out
Just one unit may not be able to meet the demands of larger homes
Is a Hybrid Water Heater Right for Your Home?
Hybrid water heaters can work in temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit, they are highly efficient, and can help save about $425 per year for a four-person family. However, there are several drawbacks to investing in one of these appliances. The first is that they cost more than a standard water heater. While you will quickly make up the difference due to the high efficiency levels, you may not have the money sitting around to pay for the initial purchase and installation.
Additionally, hybrid water heaters require about 1,000 cubic feet or about the size of a 12-foot by 12-foot room to function properly, so if you don't have the space, a hybrid water heater may not be the best option. Water heaters are long term investments, so when you are trying to figure out which option is best for your home, it's important to weigh the various factors carefully before coming to a final decision.
Do hpwh work in cold climates? (n.d.). https://www.energystar.gov/products/ask-the-experts/do-heat-pump-water-heaters-work-in-cold-climates
Heat pump water heaters. (n.d.). Energy.Gov. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/heat-pump-water-heaters