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Is There Any Such Thing As A High Efficiency Electric Water Heater?
I’ve replaced many electric water heaters over the years and every time I do I feel bad that the people are stuck with an electric heater. There is
nothing that makes the electric meter spin quite like an electric water heater. It’s like Pat Sajak spinning the wheel on Wheel of Fortune. High efficiency electric water heater was like saying fuel efficient Cadillac Escalade.
With the advent of the point of use and tankless hot water heater it has made things a little easier on homeowners who are stuck. However, no electric water could match the operational cost of LP or natural gas water heaters. Even using a tankless electric water heater where heating only happens when hot water is in use still takes a ton of energy.
Of course jacketing has improved over the years to lessen heat loss and so have controllers but the bottom line is, it’s fairly inefficient to transfer heat from an electric heating element to a storage tank full of water.
Rheem Changes the Game With The First Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heater
That was until Rheem introducing the first ever hybrid electric heat pump water heater in 2009. Their Prestige/Performance series are the first water heaters to add a touch screen control. Here is a stat for you the average cost per day to operate the Prestige water heater is 60¢. These are truly high efficiency electric water heaters.
So how do hybrid heat pump heaters work?
Quite a few of the popular water heater manufacturers make hybrid heat pump heaters and they all work in relatively the same way. Have you ever felt the back of a refrigerator? You can feel the hot air coming out because the refrigerator is moving the hot air from inside and expelling it outside. The Hybrid does the exact opposite; it pulls warm air in, intensifies the heat and transfers it to the water. So basically the heat pump is helping heat the water before the electrical element has to do any work. During times of peak demand i.e. early mornings, before bed, the heater uses the electric heating element almost exclusively. Here is another added benefit of the heater, it actually air conditions the space it sits in because it is pulling warm air out of the air to heat the water.
With the Rheem Prestige series, smart controls can be set to accommodate a schedule or they will learn based upon your usage patterns, which increases the water heaters efficiency even more. The control monitors consumption and provides contractors with a detailed diagnostic tool to help with installation and/or maintenance. This is all part of Rheem’s bigger plan to add future connectivity between other Rheem products i.e., heating/cooling systems, pool, and spas. This will allow for automation as well.
So are there high efficiency electric water heaters? Yes there are, but be aware that their initial cost can be double that of a traditional gas or electric water heater. The silver lining is that very little if any re-piping needs to be done to accommodate these new hybrid water heaters. Because they are storage tank type heaters they have a similar footprint.