In 2009, the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas were among nine U.S. utilities to introduce the ultra-efficient General Electric (GE) GeoSpring hybrid water heater to its members. GE was among the manufacturers who answered a call from the Department of Energy (DOE) to improve the efficiency of the second-highest energy-consuming component within U.S. households — the water heater.
GeoSpring heat pump technology leapfrogged the energy factor (EF) of standard electric, natural gas, propane and tankless units by more than threefold. As a reminder, when we look at the annual energy costs as a pie chart, the cost for water heating makes up the second largest slice of the pie. The largest slice represents the cost for home heating and air conditioning. Today, consumers who own a GeoSpring water heater have a much smaller slice for water heating.
Although heat pump water heating may be considered a new concept, its technology has been around since the zipper was invented. GE learned nearly 100 years ago how to move heat with the efficient use of electricity and refrigerants. The outcome was chilling as they perfected how to replace warmer air within a storage medium (ice box) with colder air and the refrigerator was born. This modern marvel appliance went hand-in-hand with America’s rural electrification movement. Next came electric washing machines, water heaters, tools and additional consumer appliances.
You may be wondering what a refrigerator and a GeoSpring heat pump water heater have in common. The answer is, thanks to refrigeration technology, refrigerators and heat pumps both can move heat efficiently. In simple terms, the refrigeration process consists of components that move heat from the inside to the outside of the refrigerator. Likewise, similar refrigeration components, or a heat pump, are moving heat from the air located within proximity of the GeoSpring into its storage tank. The GeoSpring is working just the opposite of a refrigerator. Also, the GeoSpring components are able to heat the water by using 550 watts of energy instead of conventional 4,500-watt elements. This movement of heat is what enables the GeoSpring to display an impressive EF.
If this is the year for you to replace your water heater, consider the GeoSpring. Units are available in 50- and 80-gallon models. Both adapt to existing water and electrical connections. Onboard intelligence in the water heaters senses high demand and will activate back-up electric elements only when necessary. To assure longevity, the GeoSpring has a replaceable anode rod with depletion detection. GE stands behind the GeoSpring with a limited 10-year transferrable warranty, and the DOE is offering a $300 tax credit through 2016.
Whether it’s a refrigerator, HVAC heat pump or a GeoSpring, all have heat pumps that have condensation lines and that exhaust a byproduct of hot or cold air, depending on the mode of operation. Thus, the GeoSpring requires a condensation line or means to drain a small amount of water. A drain line to outside the home or a washing machine drain works just fine. Units located inside the home need adequate space around the unit for ventilation and any required service. For details about a quick return on investment, DOE energy consumption comparisons, and optimum location, visit: geappliances.com. If you are interested in purchasing a GeoSpring, contact your local electric cooperative or 800-451-8061.
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Bret Curry is the residential energy marketing manager for Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC).