There are plenty of choices in hot water systems on the Australian market – and that means types, brands and models. While choice is a good thing, it can also be confusing.
The type of hot water system that best suits your home could be determined by your preferred power source. There are a number of other factors which will influence your choice of hot water system as well.
Whether you’re installing a hot water system in a new home or replacing an established system, it’s worth considering your options.
Choosing a Hot Water System
What are the key factors in choosing the right hot water system for your home? The main points to consider are:
- How many people are in your household?
- Are there specific times when hot water is in demand?
- What is your power source – electricity, gas or solar?
- Do you use a dishwasher?
- Does your washing machine use hot or cold water?
Energy efficiency is a crucial issue, given that more than a quarter of an average household’s energy is used for heating water. Keeping these factors in mind, let’s take a look at the five main types of hot water systems on the market.
Electric Storage Tank Systems
Electric storage tank systems are probably the most common types of water heaters in Australia. These systems operate much like a kettle, using an element inside the tank to heat the water.
These tanks are among the most affordable on the market. They come in a range of sizes and are ideal for bigger households of four or more people.
The downside with electric storage tank systems is that they’re not among the most energy efficient types on the market and can be expensive to run. The water is heated in the tank and it stays hot, usually stored at about 60°C to prevent the growth of Legionella bacteria.
While heat and energy are lost in a storage tank system – making them less efficient – these systems are a lot more energy efficient today than they used to be.
Gas Storage Tank Systems
Gas storage tank systems are similar to electric systems, except the water is heated by a gas burner instead of an element.
Gas systems are generally smaller than electric units because they heat the water much faster and are more energy efficient.
Continuous Flow (or Instantaneous) Systems
Continuous flow hot water systems heat only the water required and do not use a storage tank. Therefore, these systems don’t suffer from the same amount of heat and energy loss as a storage tank system.
An instantaneous system can operate on natural gas, LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) or electricity. Most models are powered by gas and these are available with either electronic ignition or a pilot flame.
Continuous flow systems are compact and can be mounted inside or outside. Essentially, because they only heat water when it’s needed, they can’t run out of hot water like a storage tank system.
Heat Pump Systems
A heat pump system uses electricity to move heat from one place to another. This is different from other systems which generate heat directly.
That means a heat pump system uses a lot less energy than an electric system which directly heats the water. The downside with a heat pump system is that it’s more expensive to install than a storage tank or continuous flow system but savings will be evident in power bills.
These systems don’t require roof-mounted collectors, like a solar hot water system. However, keep neighbours in mind when installing a heat pump, it can be noisy due to the fan. Heat pump systems will also struggle in colder climates.
Solar Hot Water Systems
Welcome to the 21st century – a solar hot water heater is the most advanced system on the market. It harnesses the renewable energy of the sun and can operate at low or even negative running costs.
A solar hot water system may have to be electric or gas boosted for those overcast days when the sun disappears. Most solar hot water systems incorporate a storage tank in the roof-mounted solar panel structure, but systems using a ground tank for water storage are becoming more common.
The only negative with a solar hot water system is the upfront cost. You’ll need to install solar panels on the roof which will hit the hip pocket at first, but it will pay off. Not only will your hot water system have a low running cost, you will be eligible for government subsidies and rebates.
A solar hot water system also requires plenty of sunshine, but that’s one resource Australia has an abundance of.
All of the five types of hot water systems are proven performers, so it really does come down to factors such as the size of your household and your main energy source. Then there’s the question of energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions, where a solar-powered hot water system clearly comes out ahead. The choice is yours.