If you’re looking to install a new hot water heater or replace an old one to save on energy costs, you’re in the right place! While choosing a water heater may seem easy at first glance, there’s actually quite a bit to consider. With so many types, costs, and reviews out there, it can be overwhelming to figure out which one is right for you.
That’s where this Worcester boiler guide comes in! It’s filled with all the latest information on water heaters and boilers for 2023. But before we dive into that, let’s take a closer look at how you can find the perfect water heater for your home.
Table of Contents
- What is a water heater?
- What is the difference between a water heater and a boiler?
- The different types of water heaters and boilers
- What type of fuel do water heaters or boilers require?
- 6 signs you might need a new water heater or boiler
- Considerations before buying a water heater or boiler
- How does a water heater work?
What is a water heater?
A water heater is a device that is responsible for heating water to a desired temperature for use in your home or business. It’s typically used to heat water for taps, showers or baths but not your central heating system. If your home heating system consists of electric heaters then your hot water may be powered primarily by a water heater, as opposed to a boiler.
There are several types of water heaters, including electric, gas, and tankless models. Electric water heaters use heating elements to warm the water, while gas water heaters use a burner and a pilot light to heat the water in a tank. Tankless water heaters, on the other hand, heat the water on demand, which can result in energy savings.
Regardless of the type, the basic function of a water heater remains the same – to provide hot water for your daily needs. Hot water is essential for a variety of activities, from showering and washing dishes to doing laundry and cleaning.
Take a look at my in-depth guide about what is more efficient to run, gas or electric water heaters.
What is the difference between a water heater and a boiler?
These appliances are very similar in design and purpose, however, a boiler is used in houses that have water-fed central heating systems, whilst a water heater is primarily for heating water for taps and other outlets. A boiler is a dual-function device that provides hot water to your taps as well as your central heating system.
A water heater is a device used to heat water to everything but your heating system. This can include sinks, baths and showers. It’s also a common element built into many appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines and electric showers. Water heaters are more common in outbuildings, annexes, garden rooms and commercial settings that don’t require water heating or larger quantities of hot water.
The different types of water heaters and boilers
Here are some of the main types of water heaters available today.
Solar-powered water heaters are a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly option that use solar collectors to absorb heat from the sun. The heated fluid is then circulated to a storage tank where it transfers the heat to the water inside. These water heaters require a backup system for times when there is not enough sunlight or hot water demand exceeds the system’s capacity. While the initial cost of installation may be higher, solar-powered water heaters can save money in the long term and have a long lifespan with low maintenance.
Heat pump water heater
Heat pump water heaters use electricity to move heat from the air or ground to heat water. They work by extracting heat from the surrounding air or ground and transferring it to the water in the tank.
Heat pump water heaters can be more energy-efficient than other types of water heaters because they don’t generate heat directly. Instead, they move heat from one place to another, which requires less energy. This means that they can be up to three times more efficient than traditional electric water heaters.
One potential disadvantage of heat pump water heaters is that they work best in warm climates. They may not be as efficient in colder climates, where the air or ground temperature is lower. However, some models are designed to work in colder temperatures and can still provide hot water even in cold weather.
Another thing to consider when choosing a heat pump water heater is the size of the unit. Heat pump water heaters require more space than traditional water heaters because they need room for the air intake and exhaust. They also require a certain amount of clearance around the unit to allow for proper airflow.
Overall, heat pump water heaters can be a good choice for those looking for an energy-efficient option that can save money in the long run. However, it’s important to consider factors such as climate and space requirements when choosing a model.
Tanked water heater
Tanked water heaters are also known as storage tank water heaters, and they’re the most common type of water heater found in homes and businesses. They work by heating cold water from the main supply and storing it in a tank until it’s needed.
The size of the tank can vary depending on the model, with larger tanks typically being able to hold more hot water. The heating process is typically done with an electric heating rod or a gas burner located inside the tank. The thermostat on the unit regulates the temperature of the water and ensures it stays at the desired temperature.
One thing to note about tanked water heaters is that they do have a limited supply of hot water. Once the hot water in the tank has been used up, it can take some time for the tank to refill and reheat the water. This is known as the recovery time, and it can vary depending on the size of the tank and the heating elements.
Tanked water heaters do have some advantages, such as being relatively inexpensive and easy to install. However, they can also be less energy-efficient than other types of water heaters, since they continuously heat and store water even when it’s not needed.
Overall, a tanked water heater is a reliable and common way to provide hot water for your daily needs, but it’s important to consider the size of the tank and the heating elements when choosing a model.
Condensing water heater
Condensing water heaters are designed to be highly energy-efficient. They work by capturing the heat that would normally be lost through the exhaust gases in a traditional water heater and using it to heat the water.
When natural gas is burned to heat the water, the process creates exhaust gases that contain heat. In a traditional water heater, these gases are vented out of the house, and the heat is lost. However, in a condensing water heater, these gases are routed through a heat exchanger that extracts the heat and uses it to heat the water. This makes them much more energy-efficient than traditional water heaters.
Another benefit of condensing water heaters is that they produce less carbon dioxide emissions than traditional water heaters. This makes them a more environmentally-friendly option.
One thing to keep in mind when considering a condensing water heater is that they are generally more expensive to purchase and install than traditional water heaters. However, the energy savings over time can help offset this cost.
Overall, if you’re looking for a highly efficient and environmentally-friendly option for your water heating needs, a condensing water heater may be a good choice for you.
Tankless water heater
Tankless water heaters, also known as on-demand water heaters, heat water directly as it flows through the unit, rather than storing hot water in a tank. When you turn on the hot water tap, cold water enters the unit and is quickly heated by either an electric element or a gas burner.
One major advantage of tankless water heaters is that they provide hot water on demand. You don’t have to wait for a tank to heat up, which can be especially beneficial for large households where hot water demand is high. Additionally, since there is no tank to keep hot water in, there is no risk of running out of hot water.
Another advantage of tankless water heaters is that they can be more energy-efficient than traditional water heaters. Since they only heat water as needed, they don’t have to constantly keep a tank of water hot, which can save energy and money on utility bills.
However, tankless water heaters can be more expensive to purchase and install compared to traditional water heaters and they may require additional electrical or gas infrastructure. Additionally, if you have hard water, you may need to install a water softener to prevent mineral build up in the unit.
Overall, tankless water heaters can be a great option for those looking for an energy-efficient and convenient way to heat water. However, it’s important to consider the upfront costs and potential infrastructure requirements before making a decision.
What type of fuel do water heaters or boilers require?
These are the different types of fuel that water heaters might need to work depending on the type:
- Geothermal energy. This works if you have a ground loop system already installed.
- Natural gas. Most water heaters operate using this gas in the UK, however, it comes with a specific set of installation instructions
- LPG is used for tanked and tankless water heating systems.
- Electricity. Most water heaters use electricity to heat up water.
- Solar Energy. All they need to be able to fully function is to draw heat from the sun during the day.
- Oil. A less common and a more expensive option. Most commonly found in rural locations. The oil used for these systems is typically kerosene.
Here are a few other options but they are far less common.
- Propane. This is similar to LPG and can be used in tanked or tankless water heaters.
- Wood. Some older or alternative water heating systems can use wood as a fuel source.
- Pellets. Similar to wood, some alternative heating systems use pellets made from compressed sawdust as a fuel source.
6 signs you might need a new water heater or boiler
Water heaters are a crucial component of any home’s plumbing system, and they have a limited lifespan. Here are some signs that it might be time to replace your water heater:
- Age: If your water heater is more than 10 years old, it may be time to consider a replacement. Older water heaters are more prone to leaks and can become less efficient over time.
- Rusty water: If your hot water appears rusty or discoloured, it may be a sign that your water heater is rusting on the inside and may need to be replaced.
- Strange noises: If you hear popping, cracking, or other strange noises coming from your water heater, it could be a sign of sediment build up or a failing heating element.
- Leaks: Any visible leaks from your water heater are a clear sign that something is wrong and may require a replacement.
- Inconsistent temperature: If your hot water temperature fluctuates, it could be a sign of a failing heating element or a build up of sediment in the tank.
- Increased energy bills: If your energy bills have been steadily increasing, it could be a sign that your water heater is becoming less efficient and may need to be replaced.
If you notice any of these signs, it’s best to have a professional plumber inspect your water heater to determine if a replacement is necessary.
Considerations before buying a water heater or boiler
There are several factors to consider before choosing a specific type of water heater, including but not limited to:
This is all dependent on the type of water heater you want to buy. You also need to consider the cost of using it, if you are using electricity you need an energy-efficient water heater, if you are using a gas/fuel water heater which fuel is cheaper to purchase?
Depending on the type of water heater you want, efficiency is something that needs to be considered especially with regard to saving on fuel and energy expenses.
You need to look at how much fuel the water heater burns by checking the amount of hot water produced per unit of fuel that is consumed in one day.
As mentioned above, there are different types of fuel that are needed for water heaters to work. There might be limiting factors here preventing you from buying one or the other so find out first what sources you have access to.
Keep in mind that it is much cheaper to buy gas for a water heater than it is to buy electricity, but gas water heaters are less efficient to run than natural gas models.
Here are some typical average costs for the different fuel types:
|Fuel Type||Cost per Unit|
|Electric||£0.34 per kWh|
|Oil||£0.10 per kWh|
|LPG||£0.086 per kWh|
|Propane||£0.26 per kWh|
|Wood Pellets||£0.14 per kWh|
|Natural Gas||£0.13per kWh|
If you experience frequent power outages or your house is powered by an off-grid system, an electric water heater may not be the most practical choice. In such cases, a gas-powered or solar-powered water heater could be a better option. Additionally, it’s important to note that if you have an electric water heater and experience a power outage, you may need to take certain precautions to prevent damage to the unit, such as turning off the power supply or draining the tank. It’s always a good idea to have a backup plan in place for heating water during power outages, such as a generator or a backup water heating system.
Capacity and Size
To know how big your water heater needs to be, you need to work out how many taps and appliances can run hot water from your heater at the same time.
A rule of thumb is that the bigger your household is, the bigger the water heater. Here is a rough estimate of how much hot water a household would need depending on its size.
- One bedroom:120-150 litres.
- Two bedrooms:150/180 litres.
- Three bedrooms:180/210 litres.
- Four bedrooms:210/300 litres.
- Five bedrooms: 300+ litres.
You should also take into account the temperature rise and the flow rate of your water heater.
Temperature rise is the difference between the incoming water temperature and the desired water temperature. The higher the temperature rises, the bigger the water tank will be. On average in the UK, the water temperature rise should be at least 39°C.
The flow rates are counted per litre per minute, this can be found in the instruction manual of the water tank.
How does a water heater work?
The basic working principle of a water heater involves heating water and storing it in a tank until it’s needed for use. Here’s a brief overview of how it works:
- Cold water enters the tank through a dip tube located near the top of the tank.
- The water is heated by either an electric heating element or a gas burner, depending on the type of water heater. In a gas water heater, a pilot light ignites the burner and heats the water inside the tank. In an electric water heater, the heating elements are activated by a thermostat and heat the water directly.
- As the water heats up, it rises to the top of the tank where it’s stored until it’s needed.
- When hot water is needed, it’s drawn from the top of the tank through a hot water outlet pipe.
- As hot water is drawn from the tank, cold water enters the tank through the dip tube, and the heating process starts over again.
Some newer models of water heaters, called tankless water heaters, work slightly differently. They don’t have a storage tank and instead heat water on demand as it flows through the unit. This can result in energy savings since there’s no need to continuously heat and store a large amount of water.
Finding the right water heater for your home can be a game-changer in terms of comfort, convenience, and energy efficiency. By taking the time to understand the different types of water heaters available, you can make an informed decision that meets your needs while also saving money in the long run. Keep in mind that the initial investment may be significant, but the potential savings on your energy bills and the added value to your home make it a worthwhile investment.
Don’t forget to also consider the environmental impact of your choice and explore eco-friendly options that can benefit both you and the planet. With the resources available, such as the guide above and other sources, you can find the perfect water heater and feel confident in your decision.