Are you considering the best option for heating water in your home? It’s an important question, because hot water heating is responsible for around 30% of the energy use in a typical Kiwi home.
The two most popular options for water heating in New Zealand are electricity and gas. An electrical system relies on a hot water cylinder, which heats up the water it contains, so the hot water is sitting in the tank when you need it. A continuous gas system (also known as a califont) uses a gas burner to heat up water instantly, on demand.
Why would you choose a gas water heating system? Let’s take a look at when it makes sense to select gas over electricity:
Limitless hot water, when you need it
In small households, a water cylinder may be perfectly capable of holding enough hot water for one or two consecutive showers. But for larger households, it can be a real juggle to make sure mum, dad, and three teenagers can each enjoy a hot shower at the same time of day. A surprising number of households need staggered showering systems to ration out the hot water in the house or are left with no hot water to do the dishes after everyone has finished in the bathroom.
That’s not a problem with a gas hot water system. You get limitless hot water on demand, because the gas is instantly heating up the water as it flows through the system. The amount of hot water isn’t limited by the size of your cylinder, so even the largest families can have consecutive showers. Everyone can have their shower when it suits them best, and nobody is left out in the cold. Although, ideally, you should keep your showers short to reduce your energy bills and water use.
Ideal for small homes with limited space
With a gas hot water heating system, you don’t need a hot water cylinder. This can free up a surprising amount of room in a small house. When space is at a premium, this can be brilliant – we’ve seen hot water cupboards converted into laundries, pantries, toilets and extra storage spaces.
Set the temperature to suit your needs
Hot water cylinders need to be set at 60oC to prevent the growth of legionella bacteria, which causes legionnaire’s disease. It should be leaving the tap at no more than 55oC to prevent burns. An Otago University study found 41.9% of homes had water that was below 60oC (too cold to be safe) and 27.3% had water above 70%, which was dangerously hot. This is not a concern with a gas continuous flow system. There is no cylinder, so there’s no large body of water where legionella bacteria can accumulate. This means you can set the temperature at a level below 60oC without being concerned about bacterial growth, preventing the risk of scalding. Many people choose a maximum of 50oC, for instance.
A cost-efficient method of heating water
Gas is the most affordable way to heat water, according to Consumer NZ research. It costs between 10c and 17c to heat 20L of water by 50%, compared to between 13c and 35c with an electric hot water cylinder. One reason is that gas continuous hot water systems don’t allow for as much heat loss. A cylinder can lose quite a lot of heat, which is why insulating the cylinder and the pipe is recommended. In contrast, a califont isn’t storing heat, so no heat is being lost. Only the hot water you need is being heated, not a whole tank, and it’s only heated when you need it, rather than sitting there hot in case it’s required.
Could gas be right for you?
To find out more about gas hot water systems, and whether they could be right for your household, visit our website or read love living in your home.