When I talked to David Chisolm of A.O. Smith at IBS this year, he told me the Voltex Hybrid Electric Heat Pump Water Heater—or at least the technology behind it—was “the best kept secret” in water heating.
“This is a heat pump essentially strapped onto a water heater,” Chisolm told me. “It’s like a refrigerator in reverse.”
The pump draws in ambient indoor air and compresses it with a coil; this heats the air, which in turn heats the water. It’s a reverse refrigerator in that the byproduct of the pump is cooler, dehumidified air. With the 80-gallon tank, the heater is powerful enough to heat water for seven back-to-back showers, or to keep 4.5 showers warm simultaneously (for when you’re at your mansion and your whole family is filthy).
But what Chisolm pressed as the water heater’s most prized features were its efficiency and durability.
“This will reduce a homeowner’s water heating costs by almost 60 percent, and for some homeowners upwards of 70 percent,” Chisolm said, explaining that the Voltex has recently been updated with a new “super-efficient” line. “We’re proud to say that every new Voltex model meets the most advanced water heater specification for energy efficiency in northern climates set by the Northweat Energy Efficiency Alliance.”
For an ordinary water heater, the average annual operating cost will come out to between $500 and $600, according to A.O. Smith research. Over a typical lifespan of 12 to 15 years, that’s $6,000 to $9,000. “For this product, the annual cost is about $150,” Chisolm says. Over the same lifespan, if Chisolm’s figures are accurate, that amounts to a savings of between $4,200 to $6,750 for the homeowner. “People only think about the upfront costs, never what it will ultimately cost,” he says. “While the Vortex will be about double what you’d pay for a gas water heater upfront, you’ll makeup those costs in about two years.”