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The Rheem hybrid water heater is a combination storage electric tank type water heater and heat pump water heater. Heat pump water heaters can pull heat out of the air, just like your air conditioner, but instead of putting the heat back into the air like air conditioners, it puts it into the water with a heat exchanger.
Moving the heat from the air is much cheaper than generating the heat directly with electricity. By controlling the use of the electric heating elements and the heat pump properly the elements become back up sources of heat and the highly efficient heat pump supplies the water heating energy. When more hot water is need than the heat pump can deliver the heating elements are turned on to help meet the demand.
Rheem has come out with 40 and 50 gallon hybrid water heaters using heat pump technology. The Rheem Hybrid is ENERGY STAR rated and qualifies for Federal tax credits through December 2010.
It features a 10-year warranty, an energy factor (EF) of 2.0, and has 2-1/2 inch thick foam insulation. Its operating range is from 40 degrees to 120 degrees, has built in freeze/overheat protection, and touts a washable air filter for the heat pump.
The Rheem unit has three modes of operation. It has heat pump only which is the most efficient and you might be able to leave it in that mode continuously if you live in say Florida. Rheem calls this mode the "Energy Saver" mode.
The second mode of operation is called the "Normal Mode" which utilizes the heat pump and the heating elements. Normal mode will use more energy but will be able to provide more hot water. In normal mode the heat pump is utilized when the water temperature drops below either 110 degrees or 105 degrees depending on what you have the water temperature set at on the control panel.
A third mode of operation is "electric elements only" and the water heater effectively becomes a standard electric water heater and the heat pump does not run. If you leave the water heater in the electric only mode, after two weeks it automatically resets to the previous setting whatever it was.
There is also a "vacation" mode that maintains the water in the heater at 90 degrees.
The Rheem Hybrid Electric Water Heater qualifies for Federal tax credits up to $1,500. The Federal tax credit is limited to 30% of energy efficient building property and cost of installation through 2010, with a total limit of $1,500.