Comparing the Most Efficient Hybrid Water Heaters for Home Use

Are you looking to buy a new or upgrade your old water heater and save big?

Explore the most efficient hybrid water heaters for home use and comfortable living. Compare Rheem vs. AO Smith vs. Reliance vs. Stiebel Eltron, and get information about the Uniform Energy Factor, First Hour Rate, Recovery Rate, and warranty, to choose the best model.

What is a hybrid water heater?

American heat pumpHeat pump

Hybrid water heaters are ultra-efficient electric water heaters designed to deliver hot water faster than most standard-type heaters.

They are also known as heat pump water heaters, and they operate in the same way as the fridge, but in reverse. The heat pump technology does not generate heat directly but moves heat from one place (surrounding air) to another (water inside the tank). And it does it very efficient.

While a traditional electric type comes with an efficiency of up to 0.99, hybrids can heat water with an energy efficiency of up to 4, which is four times higher.

Fast and efficient heating is the result of a combined heat pump and electric element heating. Heat pump technology extracts heat energy from the surrounding air and intensifies the heat with a compressor. If the air temperature is lower and there is not enough heat to move, the unit turns on the electric heating element to add more power to the system.

Hybrids look like electric water heaters, with an addition of the heat pump. The footprint is similar, and they have easy access to side connections and an electrical junction box, making replacement and installation as easy as with the electrical type.

Each model is equipped with an anode rod for protection against corrosive water, a drain valve at the bottom for easy draining, and a T&P valve for additional safety.

Most hybrids can operate in mild climates while some in the cold as well, with the operating temperatures ranging from 37 to 145 F. One of the disadvantages when operating in cold weather is that the efficiency of the heat pump drops, so the unit turns on the backup electric heating to maintain the performance.

Switching between the heat pump and electric elements is possible with the use of one of several operation modes, such as:

  • Energy Saver
  • Heat Pump
  • High Demand
  • Electric
  • Vacation

The efficiency varies based on the heating mode. It is the lowest in the electric mode when the heat pump is turned off, and only the heating element is running, resulting in the highest energy costs. Homeowners can save the most when the unit operates in the "heat pump" mode only, and the heating element is not active.

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Hybrid water heater efficiency comparison

Ultra-high efficiency and significant energy savings are making hybrids smart investments and very popular these days. Below we have collected some useful data for you, including energy efficiency as the most important factor so that you can make the right decision for all your heating needs.

Here, we compare the most popular hybrid models:

  Rheem-ProTerra/Ruud Ultra/Richmond Encore AO Smith Voltex American ProLine XE Bradford White - Aerotherm Reliance Stiebel Eltron
Model PROPH80/PROUH80/10E80-HP530 HPTU-80N HPHE10280H045DVN RE2H80T10 10 80 DHPHT NE Accelera 300 E
Capacity (gallons) 80 80 80 80 80 80
Uniform Energy Factor - UEF 4.0 3.45 3.45 3.48 3.45 3.39
Element wattage (kW) 4500 4500 4500 4500 4500 1500
Annual costs ($) 149 152 152 - 173 155
Annual savings ($) - 306 306 300 305 370-740
Sound level (dBA) 49 - - 55 51 52
First-hour rating (gal/hr) 87 86 86 87 86 74.2
Recovery rate (gallons) 27 21 21 21 21 -
Warranty (years) 10 10 10 10 10 10

Thanks to the data collected from the manufacturer's sites, we can see that hybrid water heaters have many benefits; they cost less to operate than other types and last up to two times longer than the traditional type. Hybrids also have a better warranty of 10 years and can be as easily installed as the typical electrical model.

According to the above table, Rheem hybrids have the highest efficiency, FHR, and recovery rate, including the quietest operation reaching "only" 49 dBA.

Things to look for

Tank capacity

Sizing a hybrid water heater is essential and should be done carefully and with the help of an expert so you can always have plenty of hot water, the best performing unit, and the highest efficiency. Water tanks with a capacity of up to 50 gallons are recommended for families from 2 to 4 members, while 80-gal units for households with five or more people.

Note that undersized units will work hard and still won't deliver enough power, while oversized heaters would deliver plenty of hot water but cycle more frequently and put more stress on the system.

Control panel

Almost every hybrid water heater is equipped with a control panel with a digital display and user-friendly menu to select the temperature, switch between operation modes, and see useful information such as energy use, performance, leak detection, and others.

Models equipped with advanced diagnostics, including the Wi-Fi remote access, allow you to see detailed error codes on your smartphone.

Operation modes

Multiple operating modes, such as electric, heat pump, high demand, and vacation, allow homeowners to optimize performance for increased efficiency and hot water delivery.

Protection

Commercial-grade, heavy-duty or electronic anodes are must to have for long-term protection and easy maintenance.

Warranty

While most typical electric water heaters come with a 6-year warranty, hybrids have a longer 10-year warranty, which is standard today.

Conclusion

The most efficient hybrid water heaters, such as Rheem ProTerra, are ideal for large families with a high demand for hot water and who need fast, hot water delivery. In warm climates, they use heat from the outside air to heat water and cool surrounding air, while in cooler climates, they also heat and dehumidify the air.

They are designed to provide comfort and convenience, saving you hundreds of dollars per year in energy costs. The hybrids are expensive but have low operating costs that qualify for many state and utility high-efficiency incentive programs, resulting in a short payback period of only 2-3 years.

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