How Do Electric Hot Water Systems Work (The Pros And Cons)?

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How Do Electric Hot Water Systems Work (The Pros And Cons)?

Types Of Hot Water Systems

Storage Tank

The storage tank is the most common type of electric hot water system in Australian households. These water heaters use electricity to heat cold water which is then stored at a preset temperature in an insulated water tank. The tanks can store large volumes of hot water in order to provide continuous hot water during peak hours.


Instant water heaters are popular as they are more energy efficient and require less space to be installed. Unlike storage tanks, instant water heating operates on a demand-based system, in that, cold water is only heated when a tap is turned on. This is what makes them more efficient, however it can also cause a lag in the hot water supply depending on the demand.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps function quite differently from the two previously mentioned hot water systems. Heat pumps use electricity to transfer heat. This is the most efficient form of electric water heating, however they can be prone to problems and replacement parts are often difficult to source.

How Do Electric Hot Water Systems Work (The Pros And Cons)?

Electric Storage Tank

How it Works

Electric hot water storage systems usually have one or two electric elements located within the storage tank. Cold water is transferred into the base of the tank to be heated by these elements. As the water heats, it naturally rises to the top of the tank, where it is then stored until it is required to provide hot water for use in showers, sinks, dishwashers, washing machines, and so on.

The water temperature is controlled by external thermostats, often set to 60°C, that are connected to the heating elements. This temperature is both safe as well as being the minimum temperature required to prevent bacteria growth in the tank.

If the water pressure in the tank becomes too high, water will be automatically released through a pressure relief valve, flowing through an overflow pipe.

Benefits of Electric Storage Water Heaters

These water heaters are still the most common in Australia households, so what makes them so popular?

  • Lower upfront costs
  • Many storage systems can be connected to off-peak energy periods to lower running costs.
  • Offer indoor or outdoor installation.
  • Electric storage water heaters are reliable, with a long lifespan ranging between 10-15 years.
  • These water heaters can maintain water pressure throughout the house.
  • Storage heaters are readily available and relatively easy to install.

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Limitations of Water Tanks

If long term running costs are a top priority for you, storage hot water heaters probably shouldn't be your top pick.

  • The least energy efficient model as it requires a constant energy supply to combat natural heat loss.
  • One of the most expensive hot water systems to run, especially if they aren't connected to off-peak energy periods.
  • In the case of a blackout, your house loses hot water.
  • The water tanks take up a lot of space because they need to be large enough to store your household's hot water supply.
  • They can be slow to heat.
  • They require both a plumber and an electrician for installation.

Instantaneous Electric Water Heating

How it Works

Instant electric hot water systems are a space saving innovation that provide hot water instantly when required.

Also known as continuous flow heaters, instant water heaters rely on a heat exchanger. When a demand for hot water is registered, cold water is transferred through a copper pipe coiled in the heat exchanger where it is heated before being delivered to the desired water outlet.

Benefits of Instant Water Heaters

Instant electric water heaters are a good investment for those wanting to save money on their energy bills, being more efficient than their storage counterparts.

  • Their compact design saves on space.
  • They only heat when there is an immediate demand, meaning they do not waste energy on storing hot water.
  • Offer indoor and outdoor installation.
  • Instant water heaters have a long lifespan.

Limitations of Instant Water Heaters

They are fast, efficient, and save on space, but there are some notable drawbacks to instant hot water systems.

  • Greater initial costs, sometimes doubling the standard cost of a storage water heater.
  • Installation can take longer and requires both a plumber and an electrician.
  • Instant water heaters can struggle to keep up with household demands leading to inconsistent temperatures and a lag in the hot water supply.
  • Can require frequent maintenance.
  • A power outage means no hot water supply.

Is Electric Right For You?

Electric hot water systems are reliable and generally easy to install and maintain, but with rising electricity prices, they may not be right for you. It is also worth noting that, due to their inefficiency, electric storage hot water systems are being gradually phased out in some locations. In these cases, gas and solar become the only water heating options.

If you are in need of a new hot water system and are unsure which choice is ideal for you, the team at Jetset Plumbing are always ready to help. With years of knowledge and experience, our experts will be able to evaluate your household's needs and make personalised recommendations based on their findings.

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Or, call us on 1800 443 996 to speak to a professional.

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