A hot water system is an important feature in every Australian household. You’ll want a hot water system that’s energy-efficient and is big enough and reliable enough to supply your household with all the hot water you need when you need it.
In this ultimate guide on hot water systems, you’ll have all of your questions answered regarding hot water systems, including the advantages of solar hot water, how to save power on your hot water system and what can happen if you neglect your hot water system.
What Size Hot Water System Do I Need?
This is one of the first questions you’ll need an answer to. If you live in a small place with only one or two occupants, you can probably make do with a hot water system with a capacity of around 90 litres. For larger households, you may want to consider a hot water system that has a capacity of 3 times that amount and choose a 270-litre tank hot water system.
If your hot water system doesn’t have enough capacity to supply your household sufficiently, you’ll constantly be running out of hot water and likely jacking up your power bills in the process. Size does matter when it comes to hot water systems, so you’ll want to make the right choice before purchasing one and having it installed.
Which hot water system is best?
When it comes to choosing the best hot water system for your needs, you’ll need to know the types of hot water systems and what system is right for you.
You actually have a number of choices, as you can see by the list below:
- Solar hot water systems
- Electric hot water systems
- Gas hot water systems
- Heat pump hot water systems
- Geothermal hot water systems
The top 3 on this list are by far and away the most commonly used hot water systems in Australia. In areas of the country where it’s a possibility, using natural geothermal heat to heat your hot water could be an option, but it’s not a common one.
Each hot water system can have its advantages and disadvantages, but if the main goal is to save money on your electricity bills, then the next section will clear up which system is the best from a financial viewpoint.
Gas Vs Electricity vs Solar Hot Water Systems
If you’ve been wondering – Is there a resource-efficient water heating system? – then you might want to consider installing a solar hot water system. This isn’t a complete solar power array, but rather, it’s having a hot water tank and solar panel installed on your rooftop. Rather than using electricity to heat your hot water, you’ll save loads of cash by using hot water that’s been heated by the sun’s power instead.
It’s a cheaper alternative than installing complete solar power, but one that ensures you have a steady supply of hot water without ramping up your power bills. Although there will be an initial investment to purchase and install a solar hot water system, over time, it’ll save you countless dollars on electricity. Solar power is also much kinder to the environment. Installing solar hot water can also add value to your home, should you ever decide to sell up and move.
Another common question regarding hot water systems is this one: Is electric hot water cheaper than gas?
Generally, the answer is no. Gas costs a fraction of the price of electricity. Gas hot water systems are far more energy-efficient and you’ll be able to heat up your hot water system tank at a vastly reduced cost as compared to using electricity.
What about savings with gas rebates?
Currently, for hot water systems that rely entirely on gas, there is a rebate being offered to add further savings to your pocket if you decide to choose gas over an electric-powered hot water system.
How does a gas hot water heater work?
Gas hot water works on a convection system. Coldwater is forced into the bottom of the tank where it is heated by the gas burner. Because heat rises, heating the tank from the bottom leads to ultimately having a tank filled with constant hot water. As the water gets warmer, it rises in the tank until the hottest water is at the top of the tank where the discharge pipe is located. It’s then available when someone in the household turns on a hot water tap.
How does an electric hot water heater work?
An electric hot water system heats in a similar way to gas, except electricity is being used to power a heating element located in the bottom of the tank. Once again, cold water is forced into the bottom of the tank and rises as it gets warmer until the hottest water is located at the top of the tank. A heat-out pipe then distributes the hot water throughout the home.
Energy-Efficiency Star Ratings for Gas Hot Water Heater Systems
Aside from solar-powered hot water, gas is the next most energy-efficient type of hot water system available, something that is indicated by the energy-efficiency star ratings located on the side of the system. If you compare these star ratings to what you’ll find on an electric hot water system, you’ll see that gas is the clear winner on most hot water system comparisons.
How much does it cost to replace a hot water system?
This is a very generalised type of question, as the cost can vary greatly depending on the type of hot water system, the size of the storage tank, which brand you decide to buy, how much it costs to have the old system removed and the new system installed and more.
A solar hot water system is going to cost considerably more than replacing your current system with a new electric or gas model hot water system. However, solar hot water is an investment and will save you considerable money over the long term.
For an electric hot water system or a gas hot water system, the price is going to vary depending on the brand and size of the system.
You’ll need to discuss prices with your plumber, who will help you choose the right hot water system for you, remove your old one and replace it with a brand new hot water system of your choice.
Mistakes to Avoid When Replacing a Hot Water System
One of the most common mistakes would be replacing your old hot water system with a new one of the wrong size; meaning, you might choose one that’s either too big or too small for your needs.
Incompatible metal pipes are another issue to be aware of. For example, if the new system comes with copper connectors, but the existing pipes in the house are galvanised steel, the two metals are incompatible and, if they touch, could create a corrosive charge that weakens the pipes and leads to a water leak. A special fitting needs to be used to join copper to galvanised steel so the two don’t touch.
Once a new hot water system has been installed, wait until the tank is completely filled with water and the heating element is covered before firing it up, otherwise, you could fry the hot water system.
Also, be sure to ask your plumber: Are there restrictions on what to install? The reason being is that there may be local restrictions put in place by the council on what type of hot water system you can legally install in your area. You don’t want to make a mistake and install a system that’s not allowed to be installed under the bylaws in your area and then have to remove it.
What is the cheapest hot water system to run?
The cheapest hot water system to run is definitely a solar hot water system as once installed, the water is heated by the power of the sun and not electricity. If you want to save thousands of dollars on your power bills over time, then invest in solar hot water.
The next most energy-efficient and cost-effective way to deliver hot water to your home is with a gas hot water system. Gas systems run economically and gas is cheaper to buy than purchasing electricity from the grid.
While there’s certainly nothing wrong with having a hot water system that runs on electricity, just be aware that this is the most expensive system to operate.
How can you save power with an electric hot water system?
If you’re currently running an electric hot water system, here are some quick tips on how you can reduce the cost of electricity to run it:
- Take shorter showers and time them if necessary
- Install a low flow showerhead and low flow tap fittings
- Use a front-loading washing machine instead of a top-loading model
- Wait until your dishwasher has a full load before using it
- Only use cold water when you can
- Insulate those hot water pipes to reduce heat leakage
- Repair dripping and leaking taps
- Install a smaller hot water system if practical
How long should a Rheem hot water system last?
Rheem is a brand that’s synonymous with hot water systems in Australia as it’s one of the most recognisable brands in the industry. For decades, Rheem hot water systems have been serving up hot water to Aussie homes and it’s a very respected brand.
To answer the question regarding how long a Rheem hot water system will typically last, the best estimate is between 5-15 years. How long your Rheem system lasts depends on the quality of the water in your region and how often you have a professional come in and service your Rheem hot water system.
If the water is good quality and you have your hot water system serviced every few years, you can extend the lifespan of your Rheem hot water system.
No Hot Water? What Do You Do?
What happens if your hot water system is not getting all that hot or stops heating altogether? What do you do?
Your best option is to call in a plumber as soon as possible. Your hot water system likely needs to be repaired or possibly even replaced with a brand new one.
Let’s look at some signs you need water heater repair:
- Water is not very hot
- The water is discoloured
- The hot water runs out too fast
- Weird noises coming from the hot water system
- Water is leaking from the tank
- There is no hot water
- The system is very old
If your hot water system is experiencing any of the above symptoms, it’ll be time to call in a plumber.
What Happens When You Neglect Your Hot Water System?
Like most things in life, your hot water system needs to be serviced periodically to keep it healthy and in good working condition. If you neglect to look after your hot water system, you’re bound to experience some problems, with the most serious being that your hot water system packs it in altogether and dies.
Even if it manages to survive after years of neglect, you’ll find that it doesn’t heat efficiently, will use more electricity to keep the water hot (for electric models), and may even start to leak due to corrosion. You may even find the water looks a rusty colour. That’s not something you want when taking a shower or washing your clothes.
Because hot water systems are generally hidden away somewhere in most homes, people tend to completely forget about them, unfortunately.
Always have your hot water system serviced periodically by a licensed plumber to ensure it’s in tip-top shape.
Before deciding on the best hot water system for your needs, take some time to do your research on hot water systems, work out how much you can afford to spend and talk with an expert to get the best advice on quality hot water systems and which one would suit your specific needs the best.
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Original article by Refined Plumbing Sunshine Coast