Global warming, meet hybrid heating. General Electric, working with Oak Ridge National Laboratories, has developed an electric household water heater that runs on half the electricity of standard water heaters sold today. The first-of-its-kind appliance meets stringent new Energy Star criteria designed to save Americans $780 million per year.
The GE Hybrid Electric Water Heater will consume 2,300 kWh per year rather than the standard 4,800 kWh per year, saving the average family of four $250 to $300 annually. “It will give you as much hot water and have the same recovery times so you won’t run out of hot water, but it will use half the energy to do so,” ORNL’s Patrick Hughes said in statement.
Moveover, the potential energy savings are colossal; if current water heaters were switched to GE’s hybrid, the annual savings would be akin to the output of 176 coal-fired power plants, saving 12 million tons of carbon emissions. The hybrid heaters could begin replacing some of the 44 million water heaters in the U.S. as early as October, though a devoted manufacturing facility in Louisville, Ky., won’t come online until 2011.
The technology cuts energy consumption by absorbing heat from ambient air and transferring it to the storage tank, a process that requires far less energy than creating heat from scratch. Between four- and five million water heaters ship annually, and both GE and ORNL hope the Hybrid Electric Water Heater will catch fire with consumers eager to cash in on tax rebates and do a little good in the meantime. The result could be spell big energy savings for a world short on fossil fuels and a tidy, socially conscious profit for GE.