Internet Connected Water Heater

So I have to admit that I’m the crusty old curmudgeon who is way behind on things like home automation. After a recent issue with my water heater I opted to replace it with one that utilizes heat pump technology. I know a lot of people are installing tankless models and I strongly considered that path. My challenges were as follows–

  • Relatively High Demand (replacing an 80 Gallon Conventional Electric)
  • Conventional 80 Gallon Electric Models are difficult to purchase (at least in consumer models)
  • Tankless Owners seem to prefer gas over electric models
  • Venting a tankless gas heater would require relocation of plumbing

Given these constraints, I stumbled into the hybrid water heater models. These are big tank models that utilize heat pump technology as a preferred method of moving heat into the water. As demand increases, traditional resistance coils can be invoked to generate heat.

The goal is to be more efficient than tankless models and have the option for rapid recovery. My biggest concern was the added complexity and additional components that could fail. Nonetheless, the energy ratings were very good and there are some rebate programs and tax incentives to offset the cost. I ultimately chose a GE Geospring 80 gallon model.

This model offers a $50 WiFi connect module that I purchased a couple of weeks after I installed the unit. The module leverages the Internet to reach out to the GE cloud and allow remote administration. So it allows things like changing the temperature, invoking or revoking vacation mode, and changing how aggressively the resistance coils engage (modes-heat pump, hybrid, high-demand, resistance only). There is literally an app for that.

This also allows for integration with IFTTT Recipes. I now have a schedule that lowers the water temperature and places the unit into heat pump only mode during the day. As our early morning shower time approaches, the temperature is raised and the unit switches into high demand mode. After the morning routine, I give it a break by lowering the temperature and placing it in heat pump mode.

IFTTT Integration

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 8.05.51 PM

Conclusion

I despise complexity without some good reason for it. Had I been able to purchase a conventional 80 Gallon heater for a reasonable amount of money, I would’ve probably proceeded in that direction. Given the constraints I was facing, I felt like this was probably the best choice. The opportunity to save energy in the process should be a great additional benefit and the ability to integrate this into IFTTT is just too cool not to share. I just hope that I don’t run into any premature component failures.

Disclaimer: This article includes the independent thoughts, opinions, commentary or technical detail of Paul Stewart. This may or may does not reflect the position of past, present or future employers.

About Paul Stewart, CCIE 26009 (Security)

Paul is a Network and Security Engineer, Trainer and Blogger who enjoys understanding how things really work. With over 15 years of experience in the technology industry, Paul has helped many organizations build, maintain and secure their networks and systems.
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6 Responses to Internet Connected Water Heater

  1. David Hake says:

    I also have a conventional “builder’s special” water heater and looked at both tankless and hybrid models for larger capacity and energy savings. One thing I didn’t consider until I read a review was the hybrid heat pump uses your already conditioned air to transfer heat to your water. This is beneficial in the summer months however it adds additional load during the winter months. I believe it the hybrid units are still more efficient but you do loose some. The ideal situation is a geothermal unit that using the same thermal transfer system that your home a/c and heating uses. My brother installed this style of system in his new home and has found it very efficient. Let me know if you see a decrease in your electric bill, month over month.

    • What would be really cool if you could couple everything together that requires heat exchange. Cold air is a byproduct (which can be good or bad depending on the time of year). My water heater is in an unfinished portion basement so the impact is negligible either way.

      Another thought I had was that it’d be cool appliance manufacturers made our appliances work together. Heat is a byproduct of refrigeration. Cold is s byproduct of heating. If we could make our heat systems, water heaters and refrigerators work together by plumbing the refrigerant, I think that’s increase efficiency. Then utilize an outside unit to do the additional exchange. Obviously coupling to geothermal would also be a huge plus.

      • You idea is so obvious, why hasn’t this been done before? Some systems output cold, some output hot.

        Why not use cold water (~55 degrees F) from the tap to partially cool the fridge, and take that warmed water as a feed into your water heater?

  2. David Hake says:

    I agree but innovation is driven by profit. The majority of consumers are uneducated and prefer color changing led lights and pandora in their refrigerator vs a highly efficient, long lasting unit.

  3. Pingback: Saving Money with IOT Water Heater - PacketU

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