10 things to know before buying the best hot-water system for you

Need to buy an LPG hot-water heating system and want the best system for your needs?

In this article we answer the big questions on system types, water usage, energy efficiency, and how to have a conversation with a gas installer.

In four minutes or less we’ll have you ready to hit the retailers with confidence in search of the best hot water system for you.

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1. What system is right for you?

There are two main water-heating methods you can choose from that connect to LPG: natural gas and electricity. These are tank and instantaneous (or continuous flow) water heaters.

Regulations aimed at reducing energy consumption and waste mean that a new electric storage system isn’t a viable option for new homes.

Electric storage systems use heating elements to heat a tank of water that varies in size from about 25L on the low end to more than 400L in large properties. As these systems are not 100% insulated, there’s always potential for heat loss, which can be quite expensive in an electric system. 

Tank heaters are much larger than instantaneous, and instantaneous styles are gaining in popularity, mainly due to their compact size and energy efficiency.

Tank and instantaneous (continuous flow) water heaters

System overviewHot water is released from the top of the tank when the hot tap is turned on; cold water enters the bottom of the tank to top it up.Cold water passes through when the hot tap is turned on; only the water you need is heated
Best place for itWhile they’re insulated to retain heat, outside in the sun is bestFlush against an outside wall, though they’re small enough to go inside
Good to knowSupplies hot water at a higher pressure than instantaneous systemsYou may never run out of hot water
WatchpointsMay corrode over time, though regular maintenance and corrosion-attracting features (anode rods) can help keep corrosion at bayHot flow may not turn on with some of the low-flow shower heads, though the trigger point can be adjusted as a workaround
Who loves it5+ people households1-4 people households

2. Are there restrictions on what to install?

Depending on your building and household, it could be better for you to install one type of gas hot water system over another.

Local water quality plays a part – storing water that’s considered poor quality or “hard” can lead to tank corrosion of your storage tank and piping (to name but a few of the issues it can cause).

In this case, you could be better off going with an instantaneous system where the water passes through and heats as you go.

Hot water system storage – tanks and instantaneous systems are typically stored outside for venting purposes, though they can be installed indoors if needed, so long as they can be flued into the outdoors.

3. What size and type of hot water system will you need?

Your average Australian household uses around 40–50 litres of hot water per person per day. A too-small system and someone misses out on a hot shower or the flow is slowed. A too-large system and you’re paying for resources you don’t use.

Go through the following with your installer:

  • The number of people living there.
  • Everyone’s schedule – all showered in the morning or evening, or no pattern?
  • Is anyone a fan of long, hot baths?
  • Do you use cold or hot water for laundry?
  • Do you have a dishwasher or do you wash the dishes by hand?
Hot-water heater tips
Before you buy a gas hot-water system, engage an installer such as a plumber or hot-water installation specialist. They can help guide you on what’s best for you by looking at your water usage, household size, and a few other factors.
(Be sure to read this article first so you’re armed with key information and have the lingo down pat.)

Size guide for water heaters

How to sizeGood to know
Storage tanks Number of people• 1-2 person household could install a small storage tank (90L approximately)
• 4-person household needs a tank of about 135–170L
• 5+ households could find a large tank more economical to install than multiple instantaneous systems (around the 200-300L range)
InstantaneousNumber of hot water outlets and peak usage• 2-bathroom household needs 22–24 L/minute flow rate
• If 2 people shower at once, you need a minimum flow rate of 14L/minute
• You can install more than one system and dedicate them to different parts of the house

4. Is there a resource-efficient water heating system?

The labelling of energy-star rating information isn’t regulated yet by government in the same way that it is for fridges and other appliances.

Ask the retailer or your installer to provide the detail and do your own research – aim for a 6- or 7-star rating on combustion efficiency. Generally, a higher rating indicates lower running costs.

Water-heating tanks are insulated, but nothing is perfect and there is always some heat loss over time, so it’s good to install them in an insulated spot or possibly in a sunny space.

5. What are some gentler choices for the back pocket and the planet?

Water heating comprises around a quarter of your energy spend, so it really does pay to get the best bang for your dollar.

When updating your system, you want something that helps to reduce your current water consumption as much as possible. Some hot water systems have been in place a long time and may no longer be what your household needs or in line with current recommendations.

  • Get the appropriate size system for your household.
  • LPG gas could give you bigger cost savings than natural gas and electricity.
  • If you’re in a warmer climate, consider a gas-boosted solar instantaneous system.
Hot-water heater tips
While energy efficiency is measured by how the appliance heats up and combusts, it’s the combustion factor that’s key. This tells you how effectively the fuel can be transferred to heat.

6. Where can you buy the most reliable hot water heater?

From the department-style electronic and household retailers right through to speciality stores and the manufacturers direct, you’ve got loads of purchasing options. As with any big purchase, get three quotes once you’ve decided on the gas hot water system that is right for you.

7. What’s the best brand of gas hot water system?

One of the biggest brands is the Rinnai Infinity 26, however Vulcan, Rheem and Dux hot water system products are also popular. Customer reviews alongside advice from a trusted installer will heIp with decision making, so hit the product comparison and review sites to find out more.

8. Which retailers sell gas heaters?

You should be able to find hot water systems at Bunnings, Appliances Online, The Good Guys and through local specialists.

Your installer may be able to get a trade discount for you, but this approach may limit your choices.  

9. What about savings with gas rebates?

Pensioners in certain states and territories qualify for rebates on gas connections. If you haven’t taken advantage of the gas rebate schemes for LPG and natural gas, this could really help you.

Hot-water heater tips
Hot water heating systems range in price from $900 to $2,000+ and typically come with a decent warranty. A 10-year warranty is recommended.

10. What else do you need to consider to buy the best gas hot water system for you?

With LPG or natural gas, you have a range of appliance options to choose from. Type “compare gas hot water systems Australia” into Google to get going on your search for a new hot water system.

So, what else should you consider?

Installation costs

Installation costs can differ greatly based on the size of the job. If you substitute the current hot water tank with the one that is of the same capacity and in the same location, the installations costs range from about $275 to $700.

But, if you choose to move the whole hot water service to another location in the house or on the property, then the construction costs may be as high as $1100 to $2500 depending on the plumbing and electrical work needed.

Water temperature

Temperature controllers allow you to set the hot temperature of the water you like. Turn on the hot tap and enjoy, no more matching hot to cold!

Simply set the perfect water temperature, switch on the hot tap and enjoy – controllers help to save water and reduce temperature swings.

The gas storage tanks are very quick to recover from temperature variations – mainly because they can apply a heat source to the liquid mass. This mass maintains its temperature in a pretty stable manner.

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