Today marks the opening of GE Appliances’ newest manufacturing facility–a state-of-the-art, revamped factory in Louisville, Kentucky, designed to produce highly-efficient hybrid water heaters. It also marks the debut of the next generation water heater being produced there within.
The home water heater is one of the biggest energy-consuming appliances, and GE hopes that its new GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater will help address homeowners’ desires to both save money and be environmentally conscious. It is also an evolution of a device we first covered GE was working on back in 2009.
The GeoSpring is the first hybrid electric Energy Star-qualified water heater manufactured in the U.S., and GE claims it will save the average homeowner $325 per year on their utility bills, costing an average of $195 to operate annually. These savings are made by the water heater’s hybrid design: it combines an energy-saving heat-pump with a more traditional electric heating system. Unlike conventional electric tank water heaters, the GeoSpring is designed to absorb heat in ambient air and transfer it into the water.
GE is making some pretty strong statements about the GeoSpring’s abilities, noting that although it uses 62 percent less electricity than a standard electric water heater, it also provides the same amount of hot water as standard electric water heaters, and utilizes the same electrical connections which makes it easy to install.
Pricing is expected to be between around $1,200 and $1,300 when it becomes available in March. It may also qualify for state and local tax credits as well as utility rebates.
The updated building in which the GeoSpring is being produced is the result of the company revitalizing an aging factory on American soil rather than producing the product in China. It didn’t hurt either that it was supported by state and local government incentives to the tune of up to $17 million.
GE noted this is the first new manufacturing operation in the area in over 50 years. The company sank $38 million into bringing the vacant space into what it is today, and runs the facility off of what is called Lean manufacturing principles, which use a cross-functional team of employees to design the product and the manufacturing process.
This Lean process reportedly helps increase the competitiveness of the operation by identifying and removing waste in materials and work effort often found in traditional manufacturing. It is a new way of thinking for an old company, and comes at a time when some of GE’s other green tech initiatives, such as its home energy management strategy, are getting some tinkering with as well.