Best Hybrid Water Heaters in 2021
The hybrid electric water heater is an innovative and increasingly popular household appliance, heating water for millions of homes across the US and, reportedly, saving thousands of dollars of energy bills in the process.
But what is the best hybrid water heater? Can they really outperform the traditional natural gas water heater and the standard electric water heater?
Table of Contents
- 1 Benefits Of Having A Hybrid Hot Water Heater: Pros And Unique Features
- 2 Things To Consider Before Buying A Hybrid Hot Water Heater
- 3 Who Can Install My Hybrid Water Heater?
- 4 Hybrid Water Heater Frequently Asked Questions
- 5 My Final Thoughts
We may take it for granted, but easy access to hot water has become an indispensable part of our everyday lives.
According to a 2015 survey by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the average American uses 82 gallons of water per day in their home, and since hot water flows from your shower or faucet at around 5 gallons per minute, that’s around 12,000 gallons of hot water per month for the average family of 4!
Hybrid water heaters with new additional features designed to deliver comfort and efficiency are entering the market all the time, and it can be hard to easily recognize which is the best hybrid water heater for you and your home.
I’ve drawn on my decade of experience as a licensed electrician and plumber in the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) industry, compiling this review of some of the best hybrid water heaters available on the US market in 2021.
Benefits Of Having A Hybrid Hot Water Heater: Pros And Unique Features
Things To Consider Before Buying A Hybrid Hot Water Heater
Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heater Capacity
When deciding on the right capacity hybrid water heater to purchase, it’s important to consider how many people live in your home and how often they’ll be using hot water.
One with a capacity that’s too small will mean there isn’t enough hot water to go around for everybody, and an overworked heater is likely to be more prone to breakdown and regular repair.
On the other hand, one that’s too big will mean you’ll waste energy and money on your hot water costs by heating water that isn’t actually used. Not great for the environment, and definitely not great for your wallet.
Most modern hybrid water heaters come with water storage capacities of 40 gallons, 50 gallons, 66 gallons, or even 80 gallons.
Taking the average rate of water usage at around 5 gallons per minute, the smallest 40-gallon heaters are only enough to provide for 1 or 2 people. 50 gallons is enough for 2 to 4 people, a 66-gallon heater for 3 to 5 people, and a home with 5 or more inhabitants should use an 80-gallon capacity hybrid water heater.
You can also use the government advice page on how to properly size your hybrid water heater.
Because of how heat pump hybrid water heaters work, it’s important that they’re installed in a space that has clearance on all sides of at least 12 inches. Otherwise, the heater cannot operate efficiently and safely.
A hybrid water heater uses a heat pump system to absorb warmth from the outside air and deposit it to the evaporator coil. This heating element uses a very cold refrigerant that enables it to draw heat from the air in all but the coldest climates.
The heat exchanger then heats the water within the tank to the desired temperature, and voila! Your faucets, appliances, and showers now all have hot running water!
However, if the heater is installed in a space without that 12-inch clearance, it cannot access the heat it needs from the surrounding air and your water won’t be nearly as warm as you’d expect.
It also cannot be installed in any space that’s likely to drop below freezing in the winter, such as an unheated garage or basement.
This can make storage space somewhat of an issue if you live in an apartment or small home that simply doesn’t have an available unoccupied space, in which case a tankless heater may be a better option to consider.
In 2021, energy efficiency is an important consideration for many as we look to reduce our carbon footprint and minimize the amount of energy we waste in our everyday lives.
One of the biggest advantages, and one of the most appealing selling points of a hybrid water heater, is their high efficiency compared to that of the traditional natural gas or electric water heater and tankless water heaters.
A hybrid heat pump water heater combines the best features of both these conventional methods of water heating.
A natural gas and electric water heater heat from the bottom, with hot air rising through the unit before exiting at the top, so energy wastage can be quite high.
Tankless heaters use copper piping to heat water, so they save more energy but don’t use continual storage of hot water– so you could run out before you even realize it.
By using advanced heating elements such as a heat pump and extra efficiency settings such as economy, a hybrid water heater consumes far less power to operate and uses up to 3x less energy than conventional methods of heating water, so your monthly energy cost will be much lower.
And, unlike a tankless water heater, a hybrid heat pump water heater contains a reservoir that will always hold water. This ensures that your home will never run out of hot water.
It’s perfect if, as has happened to me and probably many others, you’ve ever been late to work because your family all beat you to the shower and yours could only run cold!
How energy efficient a hybrid water heater is represented by its Uniform Energy Factor (UEF) rating. This is calculated based on per unit of fuel consumed to heat the water for your home on a regular day. An energy-efficient water heater will have a higher energy factor rating.
Natural gas and standard electric water heater typically have energy factor ratings of between 0.65 and 0.95, while the best hybrid water heaters are much more highly rated, coming in at an average of between 2.75 and 3.5.
The first-hour rating of a unit is another good way to estimate how energy efficient the unit will be. This rating tells you how many gallons of hot water a unit can generate within the first hour of being switched on.
Considering this factor along with the tank capacity can give you a good idea of whether the heater will be able to keep up with the demands of your home.
Additionally, many modern hybrid water heaters have recently been awarded certified by Energy Star ⓒ, meaning they meet very high standards of energy efficiency set by the federal mandate.
The high energy efficiency of most modern hybrid water heaters means your lifetime savings on water heating costs could be between as much as between $1320 and $5560, or between $160 and $490 a year.
You can use the government’s estimation guide to calculate a good idea of how much your home can specifically save by installing a hybrid water heater. Hybrid Water Heater Buying Guide.
Stiebel-Eltron ACCELERAⓇ 300 Heat Pump Water Heater
Stiebel-Eltron is a German HVAC manufacturing company, founded in Berlin by Dr. Theodor Stiebel in 1924. It’s an internationally operating brand that employs over 3700 staff worldwide and has forged a reputation for quality and innovation regarding renewable energy resources.
The first thing that will strike you about the ACC300 is that it is a big, hefty, and solidly-built example of German engineering.
Seriously, the higher water tank capacity models of this unit weigh around 300lbs, and are almost 6ft4inches tall! So you’ll definitely need a good amount of space for this to be properly installed.
The 80-gallon capacity can easily provide sufficient hot water for a family of between 3 and 5 people, and Energy Star Ⓒ certified energy factor rating of a whopping 3.39 ensures it does so while keeping your energy usage as low as possible.
The simple and easy-to-read LED display doesn’t offer the same performance modes as some other hybrid water heaters, but then it doesn’t need to when it’s built to operate with such an impressive energy factor rating.
There’s no Wi-Fi remote controlling option here, so you’ll need to install it somewhere you can easily reach to change settings.
If placed inside the home, the heat pump technology that absorbs heat from its surroundings can double as a kind of air conditioner, with further energy savings.
The Stiebel-Eltron ACC300 is a big heater, with a big upfront cost and even bigger energy-saving potential, forgoing advanced features in favor of sturdiness, reliability, and simplicity.
Rheem PERFORMANCE PLATINUM™ EcoNet Enabled Hybrid Water Heater
The Rheem Performance Platinum range of hybrid water heaters comes from a brand recognized for its quality, affordability, and durability. Rheem has been manufacturing HVAC products for almost a century, and this expertise shows in that they regularly produce hybrid water heaters that are impressively efficient and user-friendly.
This unit can turn cold water into hot water at an ambient operating range of between 37°F and 145°F, which is far and away from the widest and most dynamic range for this type of heater.
Extra unit operating modes can be turned on according to your current needs and desires. High demand mode uses both the heat pump and backup electricity supply for the quickest water heating during times of high demand such as in the morning when your household is showering or washing. This mode is also the least energy efficient.
Energy-saving mode fully utilizes the compressor and gives excellent energy efficiency with low power consumption.
Vacation mode maintains a steady hot water temperature of around 90°F for a programmable period of between 2 and 28 days, so you’ll never have to come back from time spent away from home to cold water again!
The Performance Platinum unit comes with smart home technology and Wi-Fi connection capability, allowing users to control their settings and energy usage through the designated EcoNet app.
This inclusion of smart home technology such as an LCD screen, integrated water sensor alerts, and an audible alarm that lets you know of any potential issues before they arise, is all very nice to see at this comparatively low price point.
That’s not to say that Rheem hybrid water heaters are cheap– they still cost a fair amount more than standard electric and gas tank hot water heaters and are the costliest heater Rheem offers- but they’re super-low energy consumption more than makes up for that.
A.O. Smith Voltexⓒ FPTU-50 Hybrid Electric Water Heater
It’s fair to say that hybrid water heater reviews would be incomplete without looking at a unit from AO Smith, the largest manufacturer, and marketer of the electric heat pump water heater in North America today.
The unit comes with an impressive energy factor rating of 2.78. By using advanced heating elements, the AO Smith Voltex can reduce energy usage by 73% whilst dehumidifying and cooling surrounding ambient air– perfect for use in hotter climates.
The large LCD screen uses status icons to show the selected operating mode (of which there are 4 including vacation and energy saver), the safety lock features, and heat source indicators.
There’s also a generous 10-year warranty included with every purchase so you won’t have to outsource expensive part replacements in the future.
One downside is that although AO Smith claims that the inclusion of a magnesium power anode offers superior protection against corrosion, I found that after a month of steady usage the anode started to give off an unpleasant sulfur smell which smells like bad eggs. Not great if the unit is installed somewhere inside the home.
Who Can Install My Hybrid Water Heater?
I’ve seen plenty of how-to guides around online that offer instructions on how to install a hybrid water heater yourself. This can save you money on upfront labor and installation costs– probably between $400 to $750. They’re relatively easy to install and hook up to your water supply if you know what you’re doing with the right knowledge, tools, and equipment.
However, unless you have some experience of installing electrical appliances yourself, I’d recommend using a licensed HVAC contractor to install your new hybrid water heater or you risk damaging the unit as well as your water supply.
Incorrect installation can be unsafe to you, and anybody else living in your home, and can end up landing you in hot water!
It’s also unlikely that a brand will honor your warranty if they deem any issues further down the line to be caused by something that wasn’t done right during the installation process, so you’d end up spending the money you thought you were saving anyway!
Hybrid Water Heater Frequently Asked Questions
Is Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heaters Worth It?
Hybrid heat pump water heaters are an innovative and energy-efficient solution to the world’s water heating needs.
They come with higher upfront and installation costs, but because of their high thermal efficiency, hybrid water heaters can offer high energy savings which in turn reduces your monthly energy bills. Using a hybrid heat pump water heater can net your lifetime savings of between $1320 and $5560!
If the initial outlay isn’t a problem for you, then a hybrid water heater can definitely be seen as a worthwhile investment for you and your home that should last around 20 years with proper care and maintenance.
What Brand Of Water Heater Is The Most Reliable?
Reliability is an important factor to consider when deciding which hybrid water heater unit to purchase. It’s something that isn’t always easy to measure since a proper answer requires consistent use over a long period of time to be accurately gauged.
A.O.Smith, one of the US’ oldest and most recognizable water heating brands- founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1874- is also one of the best when it comes to building reliable and energy-efficient hybrid water heaters.
They offer a 10-year limited warranty that indicates your hybrid water unit should last at least a decade, and I’ve found that most can last twice as long with proper care and maintenance over its lifespan.
Rheem is another well-established company with a reputation for making quality, affordable water heaters. As you would expect from a company with almost 100 years of experience within the HVAC industry, Rheem’s hybrid heat pump water heaters are also some of the most reliable around.
How Much Does A Hybrid Hot Water Heater Cost?
While, as discussed previously, many hybrid heat pump water heaters consume up to 3x less energy than a conventional electric water heater, they also come with a higher upfront cost.
In fact, most hybrid water heaters by top, established brands cost between $1200 for 50-gallon tanks and $2500 for an 80-gallon tank unit. The gallon capacity is certainly the biggest influencer in determining how much you’ll be paying upfront.
How Big Of A Hybrid Water Heater Do I Need?
The size of a hybrid water heater that’s right for you and your home will depend on a number of factors, including the number of inhabitants living and using water in your home, the tank capacity and storage space available to hold the hybrid water heater, and the unit’s first-hour rating.
Most hybrid water heaters come with a 40, 50, 66, or 80 gallons of hot water tank capacity. I’d recommend a 40-gallon heater for a 1 or 2 person home, 50 gallons for 2 to 4 people, 66 gallons for 3 to 5 people, and an 80 capacity heater for 5 or more inhabitants.
My Final Thoughts
I’ve found hybrid electric water heaters to be an energy-efficient and easy-to-install option to heat the water you need to use in your home. They take up less space than traditional heaters by using a small storage tank, or even no tank at all.
They may come at a premium initial outlay, but in return for that, you’re getting access to some of the latest energy-saving technology that could save you thousands of dollars off your energy usage bills in the future.
With that in mind, I’d highly recommend considering a hybrid water heater over traditional gas or electric tank water heaters.
If you don’t mind the upfront cost and have the high demand and storage space to properly use it, the Stiebel-Eltron ACC300 is the best hybrid hot water heater on the US market today.