Hot Water Heaters: Gas, Solar, Electric or Heat Pump?

by RobertKeith

Which is right for you? Learn the pros and cons of solar, electric, heat pump and gas hot water systems.

Whether you're concerned about carbon emissions or simply want to lower your electricity bill, it's in every household's best interests to choose a hot water system wisely.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of choice. New home buyers often inherit the previous owner's choice, for better or worse. Meanwhile, those who need urgent hot water replacement will understandably want to rush the decision.

That said, water usage can consume up to one third of a household's ongoing power costs, so those who take the time and do the research will find themselves saving money and reducing their carbon footprint for years to come.

Water Bills


Which hot water system do you use?

Electric Hot Water

This was once the default choice, and remains in many households to this day.  While they do the job, and are generally very reliable in terms of day-to-day use, they're far from energy- or cost-efficient.   While relatively cheap up-front, ongoing expenditure can make this a financial drain over time.  

If you own an electric water heating unit, the best way to offset expenses is to only draw on the power supply at off-peak hours. (Source: How to Choose a Hot Water System.)

Solar Panels
Anusorn P Nachol,

Solar Hot Water Units

This is, hand down, the most energy efficient option, and the best choice for homeowners with long-term savings in mind.  However, it's not perfect for everybody.  Ultimately, it comes down to the following questions:

  1. Can I afford the up-front cost?
  2. Do I have the space, property or permission to install solar panels?
  3. Does my area get enough direct sunlight?

It can take a few years before the initial investment starts to pay for itself.  However, government or local council rebates might exist in your area, making the decision much easier.

Of course, direct sunlight isn't always guaranteed, and supply won't always meet demand.  As such, solar power should ideally be "boosted" by another power method.  Gas boosted solar systems are widely considered among the more efficient combinations.

Gas Hot Water

According to Hot Water Systems Brisbane, this is the the best practical option when solar power isn't possible.  Gas will meet high demand and keep ongoing expenses low, making it ideal for large families and shared accommodation.

This can take two forms:

  • Natural gas - sent straight to the home via pipes.
  • Pre-purchased LPG tanks - less economical, but often the best viable choice for rural locations.  

Every home is unique, so ask your local gas fitter for a consultation to decide whether or not this is the best choice for your home.

Heat Pump

This fascinating power method is easiest to describe as a "reverse refrigerator".  Just as a fridge pumps heat inside heat out to keep food cool, a heat pump will pull outside heat in to keep water warm.

As such, this is realistically only for hot environments and areas without easy access to natural gas or solar power.  

More Water Saving & Plumbing Lenses

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Updated: 04/02/2013, RobertKeith
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