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The Voltex hybrid water heater mates a heat pump water heater with an electric storage water heater. Heat pump water heaters are very efficient. The operate much like your refrigerator or air conditioner. They pull heat out of the air and instead of transferring it to back to the air as your air conditioner does, it uses it to heat water.
Pulling latent heat out of the ambient air is much more energy efficient than just generating the heat with electricity. By limiting the electric heating elements to back up heating when the heat pump can't meet demand, and letting the heat pump do most of the work, you get a very energy efficient water heater. Any tank standby losses are small compared to the energy savings from latent heat recovery.
Heat pumps are not perfect. A heat pump has a harder time pulling heat out of the air as the temperature decreases. By the time the ambient air temperature reaches 40 to 45 degrees heat pumps are no longer efficient. The lower the ambient temperature the longer it takes the pump to heat the water too.
The voltex units wrap the storage tank with a long copper pipe under the insulation to transfer the heat from the heat pump to the water instead of using an internal heat exchanger. Since heat pumps need a lot of air to obtain the needed heat, you should not use them in small rooms like closets or utility rooms unless the room is well vented.
Voltex hybrid heat pump water heaters have several modes of operation that are selectable from the control panel.
The most energy-efficient setting using only the heat pump for heating the water. The electric heating elements will not operate in this mode.
uses the heat pump for efficiency, but will use the element for quick recovery
following increased hot water usage. It's more efficient that electric only but
not as efficient as heat pump only operation.
conventional mode, the heater works like a conventional electric water heater.
In this mode you won't save any energy over a conventional storage water heater.
Vacation mode keeps the tank temperature at 60 degrees F (15.6 degrees C) during vacation or extended absence to reduce energy costs and to provide freeze protection for the water heater.
A.O. Smith has two models, a 60 gallon model and an 80 gallon model.
The 60 gallon model when in Efficiency mode has an energy factor of 2.4 and a first hour recovery rating of 51 gallons.
In Hybrid mode it has an EF of 2.33 and a first hour recovery of 68 gallons.
In Electric mode the EF is .88 and the recovery is 66 gallons.
As with the other models discussed the Voltex is Eligible for the 30% Federal tax credit.