Feature

Decoding hot water systems

Have you got the right kind of hot water system? Find out the energy requirements of solar, electric, or instantaneous in your home.

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The efficiency of a hot water system isn’t only about the amount of stars it's been awarded.

To be considered efficient it also needs to be correctly sized and positioned in your home, along with considerations for climate.

There are 4 common types of hot water systems, and choosing the right one for your needs is the first step towards saving water, and saving energy.

Electric storage heater
The electric storage heater system heats water before it is required, storing hot water in a tank and keeping it at an appropriate temperature until it is needed. As the water heats it rises to the top of the storage tank which is regulated by a thermostat. The tanks are highly insulated, but can still require an injection of energy to keep the temperature at the required level.

With an electric storage heater choosing an appropriate size is key to making sure that everyone in the household has access to hot water at all times. For 1-3 people, a 250L tank should be adequate, 3-5 people and 315L may be required, 5-8 and a 400L tank is recommended. The location of the water tank is also very important as energy is lost while the water it pumped through piping.

Solar hot water
A solar hot water system uses panels absorb heat from the sun, heating water stored in tanks that can be located in/on the roof or at ground level depending on the system requirements.

Solar systems are typically the cheapest hot water system to purchase and can provide up to 80% of the energy required for a home, which equates to a huge savings over time.

Areas that are prone to frost, or that have poor water quality should purchase closed circuit systems.

Instantaneous electric hot water systems
The opposite of a storage system, an instantaneous system heats the water as it is required. As the water not stored, these systems lose less heat to the environment, but require large amounts of energy to sufficiently heat the water on demand.

With instantaneous water heating systems, more power is typically used in peak periods which can increase energy costs. The dwelling may even have to be upgraded to a three phase supply to cope with the increased electricity demand.

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If you’re considering upgrading your hot water system, take advice before making an expensive purchase. Ensure that you are making the right choice for your household, family, and climate to get the best out of a new hot water system. Check out the Australian Government's Your Home: Australia's guide to environmentally sustainable homes for more info.