New ways to get into hot water

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Water-heating represents about 25 percent of energy consumed in most homes. Buying a heat pump water heater, often called a hybrid water heater, can cut water-heating costs in half. Stephen Downer, GE product general manager for water products, says, “With its innovative heat pump technology, our GeoSpring water heater uses less than half of the energy of a standard electric water heater. There are very few products that can save homeowners as much money as the GeoSpring on their annual utility bills.”

Heat pump water heaters from manufacturers such as Rheem and AO Smith are available at Lowe’s, Home Depot, Sears and other local retailers and distributors. The price ranges from $840 to $1,700, but a heat pump water heater saves an average of $325 every year. The biggest factor in water-heating costs and potential savings is the number of family members in a household. The more children, especially teenagers, the more hot water your family will use.

Heat pump water heaters use electricity to move heat from one place to another instead of generating heat directly. This means they can be two to three times more efficient than conventional electric resistance water heaters.

To move the heat, heat pumps work like a refrigerator in reverse. While a refrigerator pulls heat from inside a box and dumps it into the surrounding room, a stand-alone air-source heat pump water heater pulls heat from the surrounding air and dumps it at a higher temperature into a tank to heat water.

Heat pump water heaters require installation in locations that remain in the 40-90 degree range year-round and provide at least 1,000 cubic feet of air space around the water heater. Cool air can be exhausted to the room or outdoors. Heat pump water heaters will not operate efficiently in a cold space. You also can install an air-source heat pump system that combines heating, cooling and water-heating. These combination systems pull heat indoors from the outdoor air in the winter and from the indoor air in the summer. Geothermal heat pumps also normally come with a desuperheater that provides hot water.

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