GE Pulls the Plug on the GeoSpring Heat Pump Hot Water Heater

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Assembly line in a factory

Brian Merchant / CC BY 2.0

Back in 2012 TreeHugger emeritus Brian Merchant took this photo of the first GE GeoSpring hot water heater rolling off the assembly line in Louisville, Kentucky. He noted that half the city was there to watch the event, seen as a milestone.

Benefits of the GeoSpring

This was a notable occasion for two reasons: First, it marked the beginning of production of the most energy efficient water heater on the market. Second, it’s the first new product that has rolled off the assembly line at GE Appliances in 50 years....Indeed, if it performs as GE claims it does, the GeoSpring is precisely the kind of appliance that can help Americans take major strides in improving energy efficiency. There's reason to believe the product will be popular—previous models have sold well, and outlooks are promising.

The GeoSpring water heater was a clever design with an air source heat pump mounted on an insulated tank. Heat pumps are more efficient because they move heat instead of making it, and the GeoSpring could save homeowners hundreds of dollars per year and could pay for itself in just two or three years.

The GeoSpring's Demise

But alas, that’s not good enough for the I Want It Now culture; Scott Gibson writes in Green Building Advisor that GE is pulling the plug on it writing that " 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."

Evidently they cost too much, (two to three times what regular resistance water heaters cost) and GE has been losing millions on them. But there were other issues, raised by commenters at GBI:

  • Regular water heaters are silent, while the GeoSpring had compressors and was actually noisy, some complain that it was noisier than a fridge;
  • The quality, at least at the beginning, was not very good;
  • Lack of clear contractor serviceability; the plumber doesn't know HVAC or refrigeration and the HVAC guy doesn't know plumbing or water heaters;

And my favorite comment:

People just don't care about energy efficiency here in the USA. That's my take on it. Everyone is into the house lipstick. It's not what's inside the walls but what's the wall painted with. Those concerned with true house energy efficiency is a very small minority, especially here in the USA where electricity is still cheap.

The whole story is just sad; when you read Brian’s post there was so much excitement, optimism and hope about high tech manufacturing returning to America with a great energy saving product. Except when it isn’t, and when everyone is into my favorite new term, house lipstick.