If you need a new water heater installed, you may want to switch to a more energy-efficient model if you have an old tank heater now. A new tank model will probably be more efficient than an old water heater since newer units have more insulation, but you might want a tankless or hybrid water heater instead. A hybrid water heater could save quite a bit of money on operating costs in the coming years. Here's how a hybrid water heater works and how it's installed.
How A Hybrid Water Heater Makes Hot Water
A hybrid heater works with electricity and a heat pump. The heat pump works in a manner similar to how a heat pump for heating and cooling your home works. Rather than create hot water from electricity, the heat pump moves heat from air to the water.
It does this by using refrigerant coils. A hybrid water heater has a fan unit on top of the tank reservoir. The fan draws in room air and blows it across evaporator coils with refrigerant in them. This makes the refrigerant warmer as it flows through the compressor and the condenser coils that are wrapped around the bottom of the water tank. The coils then transfer heat to the water. This system works on the principle that heat always moves toward colder temperatures.
This type of water heater is a hybrid system because it needs electricity to power the fan and because it also has an electric heating element that acts as a backup during periods of high demand for hot water. You can set the heater to operate in heat pump mode only, electric mode only, or hybrid mode. Operating in heat pump mode gives you the most savings on your power bills.
How A Hybrid Water Heater Is Installed
A hybrid heater is installed much like a traditional water heater in that it's connected to electricity and hot and cold water lines. However, there are a few special considerations for a hybrid water heater installation. Since a fan unit is on top of the tank, there needs to be more room for the water heater to fit in a space than is needed for a traditional tank heater. You can probably use the same location as your old heater as long as the hybrid tank can fit.
Another consideration is that the fan pulls in warm room air, so there needs to be sufficient ventilation. You may not be able to put the heater in a laundry closet or other small space without adding a vent that allows air to be pulled from a nearby room.
Plus, a hybrid tank blows out cool, dry air. This might be a benefit if you place the unit in your basement since it could act as a dehumidifier, but your installer may recommend venting the air outside so it doesn't cool down your house if you place the water heater in a closet. Normally, a hybrid water heater doesn't need to be vented since no combustion fumes are involved.
Another difference with a hybrid water heater installation is that it needs to drain water. This happens because the heat pump creates condensation as it pulls moisture from the air. The condensation has to drain away so it doesn't get the floor wet. The plumber may install a condensate pump and pump the water to a nearby floor drain, laundry drain, or to a drain that leads out of the house.