Hot water systems are the unappreciated and often unnoticed hero of our homes. We rely on them daily and rarely give thought to how wonderful life is with them, and how much of an inconvenience 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. To help with your decision we explain the three types of hot water systems available today.
But first, let’s take a look at the interesting history of the humble 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 that was named 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 draw back was that the gas burner was not vented to 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 that is still used in our homes today.
Edwin must have been a brilliant engineer as the gas storage hot water system he invented is used in billions of homes worldwide and the Rudd Manufacturing Company has continued to manufacture 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 electric. Like the electric kettle in your kitchen, energy is converted to heat and by an element and the water is heated. Convection movement of 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 temperature of the hot water 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 allows the element be energized and heat the water.
Gas storage hot water systems work in exactly the same manner with the only difference being the energy supply. Instead of an element like a kettle, there is a burner like a cook top 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 waters systems are specially are designed to be installed indoors. Indoor gas storage hot water systems are designed to be flued or vented to outdoors to prevent the problems that Ben Maughan’s invention caused. Electric storage hot water systems are safe to install indoors and it is only the space available that is the limiting factor when selecting a system.
On Demand Hot Water Systems
On-demand, instantaneous or tankless heaters are another popular type of hot water system. These units heat water only when supply is required and can be incorporated into a hot water systems that use storage tank and solar heating.
The majority of instantaneous heaters work by a flow sensor activating a gas burner which 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. These units can be installed inside of a kitchen cupboard and do not need 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 and in some situations there is an overall saving. The ongoing costs of maintaining an instantaneous system and the initial cost of supplying and installing the system may not actually make it any better an investment than a standard gas storage or electric storage hot water system.
The most efficient use of instantaneous water heaters are by installing the unit as close to the point where the hot water will be used. This keeps the loss of heat through the pipe work and fittings to a minimum.
Solar Hot Water Systems
Solar systems are great, 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 through the solar collectors. Passive systems require draw off of hot water to allow cold water feed into the solar collectors and then into the storage tank on the roof.
Both active and passive systems require a secondary heating source which is normally electric and is in some homes manually operated via a boost button.
Instantaneous systems can also be utilized as a secondary heating method for solar systems.
Solar systems are a significant investment in your home and careful sizing of solar collector area is required for big families or large properties.
Water quality is an important consideration when thinking of installing a solar system as hard or highly mineralized waters can cause problems for solar collector efficiency and lifespan.
Hot water systems are an integral part of our homes and with a little tender loving care can perform perfectly for years. 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. then call our friendly team at Gold Coast Plumbing Company. We’ll help you choose the best type of hot water system for your home.