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Illinois Country Living

Doug Rye, licensed architect and the popular host of the "Home Remedies" radio show

Energy Solutions

Water heaters go smart
Cooperatives begin to promote hybrid units

For years I have been touting the importance of having an efficient water heater. The reason is simple – water heaters use significant amounts of energy, second only to the energy used to heat and cool a home.

Until now, the most efficient water heater on the market was the Marathon and I have sung this product’s praises for many years. Many electric cooperatives have sold the Marathon water heater for years and continue to do so. It is a top-notch product.

Now, General Electric, A.O. Smith and Rheem are offering excellent hybrid electric water heaters. These revolutionary new water heating products use much less electricity. For example the General Electric Hybrid Water Heater uses 62 percent less energy than standard electric units and exceeds Energy Star standards with an incredible Energy Factor of 2.35 or 235 percent efficiency. One of these new water heater units costs around $1,500, but it will save around $320 a year based upon a three-person household. Do the math and you will see there isn’t a long payback.

The hybrid water heaters use advanced heat pump technology and onboard intelligence in conjunction with traditional electric elements. The heat pump is the main way the water is heated, but the traditional elements will activate if the water is used up faster than the heat pump mode can replace. Other features on the GE hybrid water heater include an eHeat mode to maximize savings. Then there is the High Demand mode for when you have guests and need lots of hot water. When you leave for vacation, you can set the heater to turn off while you are gone and turn back on before your return. This is one smart water heater.

Although these heat pump water heaters are very different from standard water heaters, they are easy to install. It fits into a similar footprint as a 50-gallon water heater and uses existing water and electrical connections.

I realize this water heater is more costly up-front than the Marathon water heater and certainly more than a standard one. But, the good news is the federal energy efficiency tax credits have been extended, although the credit is now for no more than 10 percent of the costs up

to a maximum of $500. Visit for more information. If you are ready to buy one or think you might be, contact your local electric cooperative.

See you next month.

Doug Rye is a licensed architect and the host of the “Home Remedies” radio show. To order Doug’s video or ask energy efficiency-related questions, call Doug at 1-501-653-7931, e-mail or go to


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