Hybrid water heaters cut energy costs

FRESNO, Calif.

Most of the water heaters sold are conventional ones. But sales of hybrid water heaters are growing.

"When they come to understand about the efficiency, how it costs a little more up front but will save them a lot of money over time, then they get more interested in it, so we're selling more of these models," Jan Todorski said.

Hybrid water heaters cost about a thousand dollars more than a conventional electric heater. So how long till you really start saving? Consumer reports tested three to see.

Hybrid water heaters work like conventional electric ones, but they also have a pump that draws in heat from the air to help heat the water.

Hybrid water heaters tend to be taller because the pump is usually mounted on top. As a result, you'll need at least a seven-foot ceiling and about a thousand cubic feet of space.

To evaluate, engineers set the temperature to 65 degrees in this specially built enclosure. The test results are based on how much hot water a family of four might use in a day - about 80 to 85 gallons.

It turns out that the hybrid water heaters consumer reports tested can save you more than $300 a year compared to a conventional electric water heater.

"That means they could pay for their purchase price and installation costs in as little as five years. That's a lot faster than either solar or tankless heaters," Bob Markovich said.

If you're looking to buy a hybrid heater, consumer reports says this one from Rheem is a good choice.

It costs about $1,400, plus installation. And you'll see a drop in your electric bills right away.

Consumer Reports says if you're thinking of buying a hybrid water heater, now is definitely the time to do it. That's because there's a 30 percent federal tax credit available through the end of this year.

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