General Electric Company has introduced what it calls a “hybrid” domestic water heater. The water heater, which is designed to have the same footprint as, and be completely interchangeable with, a standard domestic electric water heater uses a heat pump to extract heat from the surrounding air. This heat is used to heat the water. Supplementary 2500 watt conventional heating elements also provide heat for the water when the heat pump cannot keep up with hot water usage. GE claims that the hybrid water heater, branded as GeoSpring, is up to 62% more efficient than a conventional water heater.
The heat pump part of the GeoSpring is designed to work only in an ambient temperature range of 45F to 120F. The challenge is that, if located in a heated space, the hybrid water heater will remove heat from heated air and cause the furnace to work longer to replace the heat transferred to the water. If located in an air conditioned space, the hybrid heater will actually assist the air conditioning and reduce the energy usage of the air conditioning unit.
GE states that, typically, water heaters are located in what it calls “unconditioned spaces” such as garages, basements, and attics. That may be the case in the US but is almost certainly not the case in most Canadian homes where lack of heating would cause water pipes to burst in winter freezing. So, in Canada, a heat pump water heater will simply be taking heat out of the warmed air and causing the heating system to work harder, a process that will also contain some inefficiencies and which will likely end up using more energy in winter months than the hybrid water heater saves.
GE tries to address this by stating that if the heating season (furnace) and cooling season (air conditioner) are of roughly equal lengths, then the extra space heating required will be offset by the cooling energy saved and the energy savings of the hybrid water heater will still be realized. However, no data are presented to substantiate this, the statement fails to take into account the inefficiency of heating a space to provide heat to a heat pump which then heats water, and in much of Canada the cooling season is much shorter than the heating season.
GallonDaily commends GE for introducing a piece of technology that has the potential to significantly reduce energy consumption in many homes. It is the kind of technology leap that we need to address climate change and energy supply challenges. However, for it to be convincing, the Company also needs to provide information on how the water heater performs in a range of heated home situations that correspond to typical Canadian homes. Otherwise many purchasers may end up being seriously disappointed and may even initiate claims of misleading advertising.
Details of the hybrid water heater are provided by GE at http://www.geappliances.com/heat-pump-hot-water-heater/
Availability in Canada can be determined by calling GE at 855-742-6112.