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by • December 26, 2013 • Uncategorized, Water Heating & Plumbing & ToiletsComments (3)21209

Rheem’s Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heater get’s an update – HB50RH Prestige Review

Rheem’s new Prestige Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heater Model HB50RH

I’m researching Heat Pump Water Heaters again because I’m building a lake house for a client in an all-electric area and I want to recommend the current best model.  The last time I was building in this situation I used the older model Rheem Heat Pump Water Heater called the HP50.  This was when Heat Pump Water Heaters had just entered the market and it seemed like a perfect solution for an efficient house on the lake.  We ran water to a standard electric 50 gallon tank first that could be OFF most of the time, then to the Rheem HPWH.  The idea was that the clients would only use the Rheem when it was two of them there, but when company was coming they could turn on the 50 gallon electric tank to have 100 gallons of standing hot between the two tanks.  I made this Video in 2010 about that install if you care to see more about this older model Rheem. 

Rheem HP50 still going strong after almost 5 years. 

I gave them two switches inside the house to turn on/off the primary and backup units as needed based on house occupancy.

Main= Rheem HP50  Aux=Standard Electric 50 gal tank

Rheem HP50 still going strong after 4 years in this crawlspace. 

 So, 4 years later this plan seems to be working well.  The only downside to this setup is that with 50 gallons in the HPWH and set to Heat Pump only mode you are limited on hot water output.  If you fill a tub with water, then you’ve got a very short window for a shower before you run into cold water.  This is do-able with two people in the house, but with a family of 3+ I could see this running out of hot frequently. 
  The NEW Rheem Prestige Hybrid HB50RH model.
They’ve upgraded the BTU capacity of the Heat Pump so this new shiny silver model has a 8700 BTU HP inside (almost 3/4 Ton of cooling!).  That means that the new model will go from cold water to hot much faster than before, and should be a bit faster than most other models I’ve seen on the market.  See this Link for their spec sheet.   It also has a pretty wide operation range on the heat pump from 37-120 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remember that the hotter the environment the more efficiently this unit will operate.  For us Southerners, I highly recommend using this inside your garage, OR even better inside your house so you can benefit from the cool/dry exhaust air! 
Efficiency:
 This new model is VERY efficient with an EF rating of 2.45! (I believe the old model was rated at 2.0 EF)  Most electric tank water heaters are around .85-.90 ER ratings so this unit is going to save hundreds of dollars annually vs a standard electric resistance water heater.  I’m fairly certain after doing some web searching that this is the current leader among all Heat Pump Water Heaters for best (most efficient) EF rating. 
  Lastly, they have updated the control module on this unit with some cool features.  It has a vacation mode you can set the unit to idle for 2-28 days.  That could be very handy for people who travel frequently.  It could be set to off for 2 weeks then turn on the day of your arrival!  
  Downsides:  
#1 I wish this unit had a bigger capacity tank.  I recently installed a AirGenerate ATI66 (video review link) in a clients house and he’s even having capacity issues with the 66 gallon model.  He does have two young kids who bath in a tub and he showers within 30 minutes of their bathtime however.  I think that 50 gallons can work with a family of 2, but you will possibly need to think about spacing out hot water use. 
#2  This is minor, but I wish the Rheem had a way to pipe the input/exhaust air like AirGenerate does.

AirGenerate ATI66 has a 4″ duct connection for input and exhaust air

 Bottom Line:  If you’re in the market for a 50 gallon Heat Pump Water Heater this new Rheem looks to be a winner.  I’ve found their older model to be very reliable, and I believe this is a very price competitive unit ($1100-1300ish).  In my calculations most households can save the difference between a standard electric water heater and this new Rheem Prestige Hybrid in 3-5 years so this unit will save you a TON of money on your electric bill in the long run. 
  PS> If you’ve never read Martin Holiday’s GreenBuilding Advisor article on Heat Pump Water Heaters it’s worth the read even if it’s slightly outdated.  Link here

Best,
Matt Risinger

Risinger Homes in Austin, TX

Risinger Homes is a custom builder and whole house remodeling contractor that specializes in Architect driven and fine craftsmanship work. We utilize an in-house carpentry staff and the latest building science research to build dramatically more efficient, healthy and durable homes.
Be sure to check out my video blog on YouTube, and follow me on Twitter @MattRisinger 

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  • rj

    I wonder if a heat pump water heater followed by a propane tankless would solve the problem in a more automatic manner? As long as the hp maintained hot water, it would just flow through the tankless. When the hp could not keep up, the tankless activates.

    • Cool idea. I’ll bet that would work well. But, I’m trying to avoid the expense of Propane on this new build. Tanks aren’t cheap, they need plumbed, and Propane is a lot more expensive as a fuel than Natural Gas. I think with Heat Pump Water Heaters and Induction cooktops that Propane isn’t necessary

  • Eric Torgerson

    Mark, how is the airgenerate doing mechanically? I see they are closing and their at166 units are dropping in price.