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Hot Water Buying Guide

Its early in the morning, you are looking forward to having a nice hot shower before you head off to work. But there’s a problem, when you get into the shower you are instead greeted by ice cold water. You wait a bit, but the water does not warm up, you realize that the worst has happened, your water heater is broken. Water heaters can break in a number of ways, sometimes they just simply stop working, other times they burst and flood your basement. Either way, a water heater breaking is a major hassle; not only are you going to have go without hot showers or hot water for a couple days, but you will have to get it replaced.

Now, most people will just simply replace their water heater with a similar model to the one that just broke. That is understandable, after all, you just want to get it over with and get back to your hot showers in the morning.But, by just quickly replacing your water heater, you can miss the chance to upgrade to a better product; there are water heaters out there that can save you money, saves energy, and is better for the environment. I know it can be a hassle to go online and start searching for a better water heater, so I made this guide to help you pick the water heater that works best for you.

Electric, gas, pump, or solar?

So, there are 4 methods for heating water that should you be considering: electric water heaters, gas powered water heaters, heat pumps, and solar powered water heaters. I am going to give you some basic information on each method.

Electric Hot Water Systems

  • Purchasing and installing an electric water heater is easy and relatively cheap. But, if you run the heater all day, then your electric bill will skyrocket, meaning that you will be spending more money in the long run. You can get an electric water heater that runs on off-peak electricity, but these will cost more because they need a larger tank (since the water can only be heated during the night, the larger tank helps store enough water to last all day).
  • Tank size for a four-person household will run as high as 160L and as low as 120L. If you go for an off-peak model, expect the capacity to be in the 200L-300L range.
  • They can be installed either inside your house, or outside.

Gas Hot Water Systems

  • If you have the ability to install a gas water heater, then it is a great option (not every house can support a natural gas heater). Natural gas rates are typically cheaper than electricity, and barring any rise in gas prices, natural gas will save you money in the long run. Also, unlike with electricity, natural gas rates do not have peak and off-peak hours, meaning your costs will stay the same, no matter when you heat your water.
  • With a four-person household, tank capacity will typically be in the 130L-170L range.
  • A gas water heater will have to be installed outside because they need to be able to vent properly.
  • You can find water heaters that run on propane, but I would avoid these, as they will cost you significantly more in the long run.

Heat Pump Hot Water Systems

  • An efficient form of heating water. Heat pumps work on the same logic as air conditioners, they take heat from the air and use it to heat the water.
  • They need to be installed in areas with good ventilation, which is the outdoors in most cases.
  • Heat pumps can be noisy, so if you live in a very tightly packed residential area, then you may need to avoid this option, as the loud noise will not make you popular with your neighbours.
  • They can also require semi-regular maintenance, the filters in the machine can get clogged, so you need to make sure to check them periodically and clean them if need be.
  • A four-person household will need a tank in the 270L-300L range.
  • They work best in hotter climates, but higher end models will work fine regardless of climate. Also, many of the heaters come with a booster option for colder days or days with higher than usual water demand.

Solar Hot Water Systems

  • The most environmentally friendly option, using solar to heat your water also opens up the possibility of receiving government rebates or incentives for being environmentally friendly.
  • Very expensive and time-consuming to install, but in the long run they will pay for themselves due to their low operating costs.
  • A four-person household will need a tank in the 300L-400L range, as well as around two solar panels. But the number of solar panels and the size of the tank can increase if you the panels cannot be installed in an ideal location.
  • Many solar heaters come with an electric or gas component, for those days when you need lots of hot water, but the sun is not being cooperative.

Storage Tank vs Instantaneous Flow

So, when choosing a heater, you can pick between heaters that continually heat the water in a tank, or heaters that heat water when you need it.

Storage Tank Systems

  • The more common method, most heating systems still use tanks.
  • Depending on the quality of the tank, this is the most durable option, as most high-end water tanks have a lifespan of around 10 years.
  • Will be a bit more expensive and power intensive because the water in the tank is continually heated.
  • Hot water is always available with tanks with no waiting (the only exception being if use an off-peak water heater, in which case you may run out of hot water during the day)

Instantaneous Flow Systems

  • Although called “instantaneous,” it will actually take a bit (it depends on the quality of your heater, but generally it should be around a few seconds) to heat the water. So you will have to wait for the shower or tap water to heat up.
  • Most models run on gas.
  • These models will be cheaper than tanks because instantaneous flow models are not constantly heating water, and there is less heat loss.
  • Generally, these models are more environmentally friendly and energy efficient.