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3 Types Of Hot Water Systems Explained

14 June

Hot water systems are the unappreciated and often unnoticed heroes of our homes. For most of us, our efficient hot water system has always been there in our kitchen and bathrooms. When the season has turned cold, we don’t worry we’ll freeze our fingers when we turn on the faucet. We don’t think about it at all. We just know it’s there. We rely on water heaters daily and rarely think about how wonderful life is with our existing hot water system and how inconvenient it can be when they are not working correctly.

If it’s time for a hot water system replacement, choosing a new one can be a little confusing. You’ve had your old hot water system for years. And now you don’t know how you chose it in the first place and what other hot water system is in the market that is even better than what you had. To help with your decision for your new hot water system, we’ll explain the three types of hot water systems available in the market.

But first, let’s take a look at the exciting history of the hot water system.

Hot Water System History

The first type of hot water system was invented by a Painter named Ben Maughan in London back in 1868. It was a pretty crude contraption known as a “Geyser.”

It used a gas burner to heat a cold water pipe, and the heated water ran into a sink or tub. The main drawback was that the gas burner was not vented to the outside, and quite a few people died from exposure to carbon monoxide by using them in the cold London winters.

Around twenty years later, a Norwegian Engineer living in Pennsylvania, US, named Edwin Rudd, developed the first automatic gas storage tank hot water system.

Rudd must have been a brilliant engineer as the gas storage hot water system he invented is used in billions of homes worldwide. The Rudd Manufacturing Company has continued manufacturing hot water systems for 120 years.

Types of Hot Water Systems

Storage Hot Water Systems

The method of heating water for a storage hot water system is the same for both gas and electricity water heaters. Like the electric kettle in your kitchen, energy is converted to heat by an element and heated water. The heated water inside the tank moves or stirs the water. Then when the water has been heated and reaches a preset temperature, the element switches off.

Keeping the hot water temperature within a preset range is controlled by a thermostat. The thermostat is like an automatic switch. When the water inside the tank cools to a set temperature, the thermostat switches on and energises the element and heat the water.

Gas storage hot water systems work precisely the same way, only differing with the energy supply. Instead of an element like a kettle, there is a burner like a cooktop burner under the tank cylinder, which heats the water. Gas systems also use a thermostat which is also called a Unitrol.

Some types of hot water systems are designed to be installed indoors. Indoor gas storage hot water systems are designed to be flued or vented outdoors to prevent the problems that Ben Maughan’s invention caused. Electric storage hot water systems are safe to install indoors. The limiting factor for choosing a water heater may be the space available, which can be a deal-breaker.

On-Demand Hot Water Systems

On-demand, instantaneous or tankless heaters are another popular hot water system. These units heat water only when supply is required and can be incorporated into hot water systems that use a storage tank and solar heating.

Most instantaneous heaters work by a flow sensor activating a gas burner that heats a heat exchanger. The water supply pipes are wrapped around the heat exchanger, and the water is heated by heat transfer from the heat exchanger.

Small indoor electric instantaneous hot water systems are also available. These systems are perfect for small kitchenettes, smoko rooms and bathrooms. This water heater unit can be installed inside a kitchen cupboard without needing an additional power supply. They operate by heating water on demand.

Many people purchase an instantaneous water heater after being seduced by promises of lower energy bills. But there isn’t much of a big difference. The ongoing costs of maintaining an instantaneous system and the initial cost of supplying and installing an on-demand hot water system may not make it any better investment than a standard gas or electric storage hot water system.

The most efficient use of instantaneous water heaters is installing the unit close to where the hot water will be used. This keeps the heat loss through the pipework and fittings to a minimum.

Solar Hot Water Systems

Solar systems are great, and they are the most cost-efficient heating energy source available.

There are two types of solar hot water systems available. Active systems utilise a pump to circulate water through the storage tank and the solar collectors. Passive systems require a draw off of hot water to allow cold water to feed into the solar collectors and then into the storage tank on the roof.

Both active and passive systems require a secondary heating source that is usually electric and is manually operated via a boost button in some homes.
Instantaneous systems can also be utilised as a secondary heating method for solar systems.

Solar systems are a significant investment in your home. And careful sizing of the solar collector area is required for prominent families or large properties.

Water quality is an important consideration when installing a solar system as complex or highly mineralised waters can cause solar collector efficiency and lifespan problems.

In Summary

Hot water systems are an integral part of our homes and can perform perfectly for years with a bit of tender loving care. There are a few simple hot water system maintenance hacks that you can do yourself to prepare your hot water system for winter.

If you do need to replace or install a hot water system from Upper Coomera to Palm Beach and beyond, call our friendly team at Gold Coast Plumbing Company. We’ll help you choose the best hot water system for your home and with our full range of plumbing services, we can also cater to your other plumbing needs.