Water heaters have come a long way since the clunky, energy-hungry water tanks typical in older homes of Australia. With electricity expenses rising by the day and our impact on the environment growing, homeowners can no longer afford to maintain and pay for old technology and are turning to environmentally friendly options to offset their growing costs.
A little-known fact is that water heating accounts for 15-27 per cent of household energy use in Australia, making it the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions for households. So, selecting an energy-efficient water heater ticks more than one box when it comes to efficiency; heaters with a low power expenditure have minimal negative effect on the environment which saves you dollars in your monthly power bills.
From tankless water heaters to solar energy options, you won’t be stuck for choice when the time comes to replace your old heater. Here are the different types of water heating systems available to you today and how they rank on the efficiency scale.
Solar boosted water heaters
On average, solar water heaters produce less than a quarter of a tonne of CO2 yearly and only increase if power is boosted by electricity. Its low power expenditure is probably why over 2 million Australian homes are now partially or completely reliant on solar energy.
Solar boosted water heaters are a great example of how developments in renewable energy have made less energy-hungry and cost-effective options more accessible to everyday Australians and are widely recognised among installers as being the most energy-efficient water heaters available to the Australian market.
You’re probably wondering; how do they get their energy? The power that the system’s panels generate is fed through an evacuated tube collector system that uses a series of glass tubes to house a heat pipe in a vacuum. For maximum temperature control, water tanks are typically stored on the roof or at the base of the house where the environment is often warm during the day.
Though a solar power unit may require a boost of electricity in the winter months and are generally more expensive to purchase and install, you can save an average of 50-80 per cent of your water heating energy usage and minimise your environmental impact tenfold. Plus, if you select a system with a good reputation, your set up and installation expenses will eventually pay for themselves!
Instantaneous natural gas/LPG
Based on a family of four, a single Instantaneous natural gas/LPG water heater emits an average of one tone of CO2 each year. Coming in close second place to solar water heating regarding energy efficiency, natural gas or LPG instantaneous water heaters can offer households a much more affordable option for water heating than standard tank heaters.
How they work is quite simple. Cold water is pushed through heated coils of copper piping, thus warming the water passing through on its way to the tap or showerhead. When a hot tap is turned on, the burner is triggered, and the flow of water is activated. These hot water systems heat water only as you need it, so by foregoing the storage of ready-to-use hot water, you save money on the energy they don’t use due to standby heat loss.
A quick tip; LPG emits a very similar level of greenhouse gas than its natural gas alternative, but it does generally cost more to run. If you’re tossing up whether to go for LPG or natural gas, our advice is to go natural gas; they always meet minimum energy performance standards and the difference in ongoing cost between the two is often marginal.
If you opt for continuous flow gas water heaters, try to select a solution that has an Australian energy rating of five stars or above so you know exactly how much energy the system requires in comparison to traditional alternatives.
As another efficient way of heating household water, heat pumps use a complicated process to warm the water within the tank by using the air around its external environment. They consist of two components – a tank and a compressor – and work by moving water from one place to another as opposed to more conventional methods of direct heating. It’s this process that makes them two to three times more energy-efficient than your more traditional tank-style water heaters.
Because heat pumps rely on its external environment to generate heat, tanks need to have exposure to around 28 cubic metres of fresh air to draw from. For this reason, we strongly suggest installing in open environments such as the side of your house or backyard. Keep in mind, heat pumps tend to generate a lot of noise so make sure you don’t install too close to your neighbours or nearby bedroom windows!
Just like solar heaters and continuous flow gas heaters, heat pumps tend to be more expensive to install than traditional storage heaters but their low power usage and therefore low running costs offset their higher purchasing and installation costs down the track. Because they run off electricity, they aren’t quite as efficient as the above alternatives but can be your best option if gas or solar isn’t a viable option for where you live.
Electric water heaters
On the flip side, electric water heaters are widely considered to be the most inefficient of the bunch and therefore, the most expensive to run. In fact, because they run on electricity from non-renewable energy, an average household tends to emit around eight tonnes of greenhouse gas each year!
They’re old technology and because of this, they’ll tend to cost a lot less to install. But, beware; If you’re in the market for a new water heater it’s tempting to opt for the options that present lower upfront costs but its inefficiency means you could be looking at energy bills that are 16 times more than that of a solar heater! Electrical water heaters may have a cheaper price tag for the unit, but they can cost you a lot more to maintain and run in the years ahead.
Still need help in determining what system will work best in your home? Speak to someone from the friendly team. As Adelaide’s preferred choice for hot water repairs and emergency installations, we offer hot water inspections for as little as $99. Contact us here.