From compostable drinking straws to low-flow toilets, it seems like every other product nowadays is advertised as environmentally friendly. But savvy homeowners know that many of those benefits are overblown, or come with other big drawbacks.

California is now offering rebates for energy-efficient hybrid water heaters based on the idea that they use less energy and are a more sustainable choice. But are hybrid water heaters really better for the environment?

Yes, and we’ll explain why.

Heat Pump Technology for Sustainability

Up until now, advances in water heater technology have been all about converting more of the energy the unit uses directly into heat. The least efficient way to heat up water for your bath was kettle-by-kettle over a fire. Thankfully, we invented increasingly better electric and gas technologies to heat up our water. But they still relied on generating heat.

The heat pump technology in hybrid water heaters is different. Instead of making heat, it draws in heat from other sources—typically directly from outside your home. In California, even in winter, there is enough heat that the system can take it and concentrate it, then use that heat on the water itself. It turns out that it takes much less energy to move heat than it does to make heat.

Heat pump technology is a significant breakthrough and not a minor upgrade. It represents a major step forward to reduce our energy usage and carbon emissions.

Why Hybrid?

If heat pump technology is so much better for the environment, then why include the backup electric heating system in the hybrid models? Why not just make exclusively heat pump-powered water heaters?

It can be challenging to get people to adopt the latest environmentally friendly solutions. Everyone who purchased an early low-flow toilet and hated it will have some natural skepticism about new sustainable technologies in the plumbing space (don’t worry—low-flow toilets are much better now.) If no one wants to buy a solution, is it really better for the environment?

That is why the hybrid nature of these water heaters is so important. Manufacturers now understand that a new water heater needs to deliver at least the same amount of hot water as the less-sustainable options in order to be adopted. Thanks to their backup electric system, hybrid water heaters are capable of this.

Concerns About California’s Power Grid

Expanding California’s power grid is a big challenge logistically and also in terms of our environmental impact. Where possible, it makes sense for households to reduce their energy usage to limit how much we need to expand the grid.

Replacing your current electric water heater with a hybrid will help reduce the overall energy needs of your household. If whole neighborhoods or even cities worth of people adopt them, that can make a significant reduction in the amount of energy the state uses.

What questions do you have about your water heater — hybrid or conventional? We’ll be happy to answer them and ensure you have the system that’s right for you and your family. Give us a call at (925) 872-0805. With water heater service in Milpitas, Newark, Pleasanton and more, help is never far away.

Here’s my personal promise to you: When you call or schedule an on-site estimate, there will be no pressure. No obligation. We will not sell you a water heater you don’t need or want.

Thanks for letting us be your trusted plumber.

Phil Barnett
President of Barnett Plumbing & Water Heaters