With electricity and water rates on the rise, all Australians are feeling the pinch of the ever-increasing cost of living. Families who depend on a consistent source of hot water for baths and showers are particularly vulnerable. So too are restaurants and home businesses who rely on instant hot water every day to provide their services.
The most common solutions given to address rising costs are to:
- combine our energy services and lock ourselves into a contract with an energy supplier for 2-5 years; or
- reduce our energy and water consumption.
Option B seems easier, but there’s more that we can do to reduce our costs than simply using less water, or turning off lights and appliances when not in use.
How to save on your energy bill without sacrificing hot showers!
It could be time to retire that old energy-draining, water-wasting hot water heater. While it may have served you well over the years, it can’t compete with modern, more energy-efficient heating systems such as:
- water recirculating pumps
- continuous flow/instantaneous
- heat pumps
To help determine the best hot water system for your needs, let’s take a closer look at each of these heating solutions.
Water recirculating pumps
When you turn off your hot water tap, the water that was flowing through it stops, but the water that is still in the pipes then sits there and cools over time. This is why you usually need to wait for the water to “heat up”. You’re actually waiting for fresh hot water to flush out the cold water sitting in the pipes between your tap and your hot water system.
Obviously, this can lead to quite a lot of water being wasted, which doesn’t help your water bills or your efforts to save water if you depend on rainwater tanks.
A hot water recirculation pump does just that – it recirculates hot water. When you turn the hot water tap off, the pump will send the water in the pipes back to the system to be reheated, sending fresh hot water ready for use.
If you’ve ever stood beside a shower as you wait for hot water to arrive, you’ll appreciate the benefits of a water recirculating pump.
The pros and cons of hot water recirculating pumps vary depending on what type of pump you choose. There are 3 main types of pump that can be used alongside your existing system:
- A basic circulation pump – constantly circulates water through your pipework.
- On-demand circulation pump – uses sensors to keep water flowing once taps are used.
- Timer pump – can be programmed to activate/deactivate according to your usage needs.
Consider cost and convenience when determining the best recirculation pump to complement your existing gas, electric or solar system.
Instantaneous or continuous flow hot water systems
Unlike most other systems, a continuous or instantaneous hot water system doesn’t store heated water in a tank. Instead, it heats water as you need it by pushing cold water through copper piping that is heated either by a gas burner, or electric elements.
This means you’re only using gas or power to heat your water when you need it, rather than keeping a tank of water heated for use.
So which is best – gas hot water systems or electric?
That will depend on your situation. Gas systems can be more cost-efficient if you’re connected to natural gas. However, most gas hot water systems will require a power source for ignition, so they’ll still use a small amount of electricity each time they’re used.
If natural gas is not connected to your home, then you would need to buy bottles, which can become expensive. So it pays to check your running costs and your consumption patterns before deciding if gas is best, or if an electric hot water system provides better value.
Solar hot water systems
If you have the roof space and want to support renewable energy sources, then you might be best with a solar hot water system. These use an array of solar panels which are made up of collectors. Fluid-filled copper pipes run through the collectors and transfer heat from the sun into the fluid, which is then used to heat water in the tank.
There are two main styles of solar hot water systems:
- Roof-mounted – the tank is located on the roof with the panels
- Split-system – the tank is located on the ground away from the panels
The best system for your home may depend on the structural integrity of your roof or space on the ground for your water tank.
Other considerations are your risk of frost and hours of sunlight. In winter, you may need to back up your solar with an electric or gas booster, as there may not be enough available sunlight to adequately heat your water. Similarly, frosts can freeze water in external pipes, so you may want to look into systems that are suited to your location.
The most energy-efficient system of all is a heat pump. It works in a similar way to an air-conditioner or refrigerator, but rather than generating cold air, they generate hot water.
These units pull warm air into an evaporator, where the heat is absorbed by liquid refrigerant, turning it into gas. This is then compressed, which raises the temperature of the gas, which is then passed through copper coils housed within the water tank. As the gas cools and condenses back into a liquid form, it’s heat is transferred to the surrounding water.
Because heat pumps don’t use electricity to heat water directly, but only to move heat around, they are far more efficient than most other systems. They are sometimes referred to as solar heat pumps, as they use heat in the air generated from solar power.
Upgrade your hot water system today
The decision to upgrade an old, inefficient system will greatly reduce your daily energy costs and save you money for more important things than paying utility bills.
To tackle your utility costs, get in touch with the team at Chiswick Plumbing. We can assess the energy efficiency of your current hot water system and recommend an energy-saving system for your home.