Improved energy efficiency, utility incentives, and a federal tax credit aren’t going to be enough to save GE’s GeoSpring heat-pump water heater.
According to published reports, GE Appliances will stop manufacturing the water heaters at the end of the year because of low sales, just four years after the energy-efficient appliances were introduced.
Editor’s note: Since this story was originally published, there has been an important development, reported here: Bradford White Buys GeoSpring Rights and Equipment.
WDRB.com reported that the suspension of operations will affect about 300 hourly workers at the Louisville, Kentucky, Appliance Park. Kim Freeman, a spokeswoman, said the workers would go to other jobs in the factory.
The hybrid appliances use the same technology as air-source heat pumps. A closed loop of refrigerant that is compressed into a liquid and returned to a gaseous state captures heat in the air and transfers the heat to water stored in an insulated tank. Heat-pump water heaters operate at an annual coefficient of performance (COP) twice that of a conventional electric-resistance water heater, according to a report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
But the water heaters cost two or three times as much as a conventional electric-resistance water heater, Freeman said. GeoSpring water heaters are made in two sizes, 50-gallon and 80-gallon. Lowe’s lists the 50-gallon model for $999 and the 80-gallon unit at $1,599, while a Whirlpool 50-gallon electric-resistance water heater sells for $399.
Hundreds of dollars in annual savings
At the GeoSpring website, the manufacturer said the units could save as much as $330 in water heating costs annually for a family of four and up to $490 annually for a family of five to six people.
Despite those savings, as well as a variety of incentives offered by state efficiency programs and the federal government, heat-pump water heaters apparently aren’t selling in very high numbers. Freeman wouldn’t say how many GeoSpring heaters the company produced, but she said heat-pump water heaters account for about 2% of the market and add up to about 60,000 units per year.
“We lose millions of dollars on GeoSpring every year,” Freeman told WDRB.
Heat-pump water heaters are made by a number of companies, including Rheem, Stiebel Eltron, A.O. Smith and Reliance. AirGenerate, which manufactured the AirTap heat-pump water heaters, reportedly went out of business.