Building Construction, Renovation, Maintenance & Advice

What Kind of Water Heater Should I buy

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Heating Water - one of Life's basic needs.

We all depend on water heaters. We use them day and night for just about every day of our lives. We expect them to run endlessly without problem and they cost us money in fuel

Let us look at the different types of water heater, how they operate and what are their advantages and disadvantages.

But first let us look at the first water heater, until recently lost in the mists of time here is the story of the very first water heater.

"Eat’er, eat’er"

The sky was emptying its bladder and Eric Erectus was out hunting with his club. As he entered a clearing he noticed a person, a female. He gave her a persuasive tap with his club and, grabbing her by the hair, dragged her back to his cave.

When he got home he threw a few logs on the fire, adjusted the bone in his nose and sat pondering his catch. He was confused. He’d heard about females but had no idea what on earth you were supposed to do with them.

She looked very edible but his hunger pangs were overridden by a strange feeling stirring in his loins (it meant nothing - he had never heard of a loin and wouldn’t have known one if he tripped over it).

She was covered in thick clods of mud gathered during her unceremonious hairborne trip through a bog so Eric thought he’d clean her up a bit and then decide what to do. He started looking for some water and a fleeting thought crossed his mind that he’d invent a bucket but, fleeting it certainly was and, by the time he had realised the thought was there, it had gone. It wasn’t until another 478,279 years and 47 days had passed before the bucket was finally invented by that well known cleanser of velocipedes – the right horrible Jasper Bucket.

Eventually Eric found a pool of water in a hollow on the roof of his cave. He dragged the female up onto the roof and threw her in. As he watched the mud slowly fell away revealing beautiful succulent flesh (although it has to be said he wasn’t particularly taken by that red stuff around her mouth). “Hmm” he ugged to himself, “a few artichokes, a turnip or two and some crushed black pepper.........” (the first stirrings of nouvelle cuisine?).

“Ello, ello, what have we got ‘ere then” ugged a familiar voice behind him. It was dad.
“A female! What are you goin’ to do wi’ ‘er?” he continued.
“Eat’er, eat’er” ugged Eric pointing at the water.
“Now don’t be so hasty lad” ugged dad “ I was halfway through your mother’s left arm before I thought better of it, it never did grow back.”
He reached in to feel the tender flesh and quickly pulled out his hand - the water was hot. Hot! he had never come across hot water before and it took his breath away.
“Hhhhh…eat’er?” he ugged in surprise.
“Heat’er, heat’er” ugged Eric.

And so it was that the world’s first water heater was invented.

As for the female, seeing her clean (he’d never seen anything clean before) encouraged even more loin stirring and, after a bit of explanation from dad, Eric fished her out, bred with her and they grew old having baths and making up new words together like bug, dug, hug, ugly, ugger (as in “you silly ugger”) and, of course, ugg boots.

Back in the plasticine era there wasn't much choice but in our modern world water heaters come in all shapes and sizes and there are plenty to choose from. I received an email:

What should I consider in deciding what kind of a water heater (to be used only for one shower/day normally), gas, electric, solar, or hybrid (or perhaps nuclear for long showers?) to buy for a house I rent for, say, 5 years?

A Comparison Of Water Heaters

Generally speaking while electricity is very convenient it is not the best way to heat water (except using microwaves) gas on the other hand gives you an instant hot flame - very good for heating water.

Storage water heaters can run out of hot water and you have to wait for them to heat up again. Also a tank full of hot water is constantly losing heat unless it is very well insulated.

The prices of both LPG gas and electricity have increased rapidly over the last few years and are in constant turmoil (gas is now up to Rp130,000 a cylinder and electricity will go up again in early 2015) it is very difficult to compare costs of electricity versus gas. Solar energy is, however, as cheap as it has always been.

Whatever type of heater you choose the installation cost will vary considerably depending on how much modification is needed to existing piping.

Expected lifetime for most water heaters would normally be 8 to 10 years but may be a lot shorter depending on hardness of the water, quality of heater and standard of installation.

Electric storage heaters

Probably the most common type of water heaters around the world they have an internal water storage tank encased in insulation, the water is heated by a heating element controlled by a thermostat. Cost around Rp 6 million.

Advantages

  • Easy, efficient and reliable, you can install and forget.
  • Good for tropical climates where heat loss is not a major issue.
  • Price is reasonable

Disadvantages

  • Uses a lot of power so is expensive and heavily loads circuits.
  • No hot water during power blackouts.
  • Once you use up the hot water you must wait for the water to heat up again.

Electric Demand Water Heaters

Not very often used in Indonesia electric demand water heaters heat the water as you use it. The water passes through the heater and is heated by an electric element that wraps around the pipe.

Advantages

  • You heat the water as you use it.
  • You never run out of hot water.
  • There is no heat loss from tanks and pipes.

Disadvantages

  • Water flow is usually low because it is difficult to quickly heat water with electricity.
  • Uses a lot of power so expensive and heavily loads circuits.
  • No hot water during power blackouts

Gas Storage Heater

Gas storage water heaters have an insulated tank that holds the water and a gas burner that heats the water usually through a flue that goes up through the centre of the heater.

Advantages

  • Hot water is available during power blackouts (as long as you are not dependent on an electric pump).
  • Environmentally more friendly than electricity production.

Disadvantages

  • Once you use up the hot water you must wait for the water to heat up again.
  • You have to regularly change the gas cylinder
  • Careful positioning is needed to protect the heater from the weather
  • More expensive to buy and install than an electric storage heater.

Gas Demand Heaters

Gas demand or ‘multipoint’ water heaters use a gas burner that heats the water as you use it the water circulating in a coil around a flue. Cost Rp 2 to 3 million.

Advantages

  • Probably the cheapest water heaters to buy and install.
  • You never run out of hot water (very good for professional spas).
  • Heats the water as you use it.

Disadvantages

  • You have to regularly change the gas cylinder.
  • Water can be very hot and there are problems with heating low water flow rates.
  • Tendency for the heating coil to block with scale from hard water.

Solar Water Heaters

Solar water heaters sit on your roof and use a panel to solar energy to heat the water which is stored in a tank (usually also on the roof). In Bali they can be very efficient. Most expensive water heaters to buy at Rp 12 to Rp 60 million depending on size and brand. They work on cloudy days because they collect infra red light. Cheap glass tube types are notorious for irreparably breaking down due to design issues.

Advantages

  • They give you free hot water (once installed).
  • You still have hot water when there are power blackouts.
  • Usually simple systems that need very little maintenance.
  • Usually have an electric element backup.

Disadvantages

  • It is vitally important to select a good design.
  • Some are very expensive so may not manage to pay for themselves.
  • They only work during the day.

Air Conditioner Water Heaters

Air conditioner water heaters work by using the heat given off by air conditioners during the refrigeration cycle to heat a tank full of water. They are simple, efficient and cost effective and collect otherwise wasted heat. Some designs have reliability issues. Cost is Rp 6 to 7 million for a standard 4 person unit.

Advantages

  • They give you free hot water if you normally use an air conditioner.
  • Cost to buy and install is little more than a standard electric water heater.
  • Backup electric elements are available.
  • Pay for themselves in about 3 years.

Disadvantages

  • You have to run an air conditioner for 2 hours to heat the water.
  • Some models have reliability issues.

Homo Erectus Cave Heater

Advantages

  • No electricity or gas bills.
  • No extra plumbing needed.
  • Cheap to install if you live in a cave.
  • Life expectancy is very long.

Disadvantages

  • You need to collect firewood every day.
  • It’s hard to light a fire rubbing sticks together.
  • High risk of falling off the roof - does not conform to Australian heath and safety regulations.
  • Major contributor to climate change.

In the intervening millennia times have changed somewhat haven't they? Homo Erectus is no more and women are treated with a lot more respect. These days you are far more likely to see a woman with a club over her shoulder dragging her hairborne husband home from the pub on a Saturday night.


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Copyright © Phil Wilson 2010
This article or any part of it cannot be copied or reproduced without permission from the copyright owner.

9 December 2017 Copyright © Mr Fixit,
Jl Bypass Ngurah Rai, Gg Penyu No 1, Sanur, Bali 80228, Indonesia
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