GE GeoSpring hybrid water heater offers energy savings

| by Gary Wollenhaupt
GE GeoSpring hybrid water heater offers energy savings

Product Review: GE GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater

MSRP: $1,699
Advertised online at $1,599

Highs: Saves up to 62% on water-heating costs, fits in a standard water-heater footprint
Lows: Needs a drain, may make rooms colder, works best in warmer climates
Bottom line: What’s a little inconvenience when it comes to halving your water-heating bill?

Residential water heaters are one of the highest energy-consumption products in U.S. households, right behind heating and cooling systems. So any chance to cut costs when it comes to taking showers or doing dishes can pay off big time.

Fortunately, many new appliances are designed to help homeowners do just that. Take a look at GE’s GeoSpring hybrid water heater, which offers up to 62 percent savings in energy use under the right conditions.

GE calculates users could save up to $320 per year in utility costs. (Find out how much you could save here.)

The 50-gallon GeoSpring was the first Energy Star-rated heat-pump water heater, creating the category. Now other manufacturers have followed. Some other models have advantages over the GeoSpring, such as the 80-gallon tank capacity of the hybrid from AOSmith, which can handle the hot water demands of a larger household.

GE's hybrid system uses heat-pump technology in combination with traditional electric elements to pull heat from surrounding air and transfer it to the tank. This system supplies the same amount of hot water as a traditional water heater for a morning shower or laundry loads, but uses less electricity to do it.

The tank portion of the hybrid-electric water heater includes standard components such as two electric heating elements, a pressure-relief valve, an internal porcelain-lined tank and an anode rod.

The hybrid difference lies just above the tank, where the heat-pump compressor and evaporator are integrated into the electric water-heater unit. The evaporator draws in ambient heat from surrounding air using two variable-speed fans. Condenser coils wrap the tank all the way to the bottom to transfer this heat into the tank and heat the water.

The GeoSpring can be set to operate in the following modes from its digital control panel:

  • eHeat. The water heater only operates the heat pump to heat the water. This is the most efficient setting.
  • Hybrid. Uses the heat pump as the primary means of heating water, with the standard electric elements on standby for faster temperature recovery times. This is the default mode.
  • High Demand. Set this mode if you’re having guests or an increased demand for hot water. Uses the hybrid mode, but alerts the water heater to recover temperature faster by cycling in the heating elements sooner and for a longer period of time.
  • Standard. Operates like a standard electric water heater without the heat pump. Used for cold situations where the heat pump would not function properly.
  • Vacation. The system drops the temperature set point to 50 degrees Farenheit to save energy, while also preventing the water from freezing. Input how many days you’ll be away from home, from three to 90 days. The unit will return to the previous setting a day before you are scheduled to return.

Keep in mind the heat-pump water-heater concept suffers from the same problem that heat pumps for the house encounter: it becomes less effective as the ambient air temperature drops. That means finding the right installation spot is essential.

If temperatures drop below 45 degrees, the GeoSpring will automatically switch itself to standard mode. And even at 45 degrees, GeoSpring is 180 percent efficient, more than twice that of a standard electric water heater. And when the ambient temperature drops below 45 degrees, the heat pump cycles off to prevent the coils from freezing and it reverts to a standard electric mode until temperatures rise above 45 degrees.

Reviews on several sites say the heat-pump fan can be noisy, and that because the unit blows out cool air, it might make its surroundings uncomfortably cool. Condensation from the heat pump means a drain has to be installed. However, the sound level is 58 decibels, which is about the same sound as an over-the-range hood fan. So this is less noisy than even most HVAC systems that are often nearby. The condensate line of the GeoSpring can be tied to the existing HVAC condensate drain already installed. This is the only Energy Star electric water heater that fits into the same footprint with both electrical and plumbing located on top, the same as a standard water heater.

Overall, however, the GE GeoSpring Hybrid offers an attractive energy-saving option for heating water if installed within the guidelines. Do your research to make sure it will deliver savings in your situation.

Topics: Appliances, Energy Star, Going Green, Product Reviews, Water Heaters

Companies: GE Appliances, Energy Star

Gary Wollenhaupt

Gary Wollenhaupt is an experienced writer and editor, with a background as a daily newspaper reporter as well as corporate and agency public relations and marketing. He is constantly looking for affordable green upgrades to make to his home in eastern Kentucky.

wwwView Gary Wollenhaupt's profile on LinkedIn

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