A heat transfer process that employs an energy source to heat water, water heating is essential for domestic and commercial use, commonly needed for cooking, cleaning and bathing, whereas in industrial set-ups water is very often heated to produce steam. Known by all sorts of names, locally they are commonly referred to as hot water heaters, boilers, heat exchangers or geysers and they have become a necessary part of daily life.
However, if you're in the market for a new version, the vast variety of options out there might confuse you. Visiting one of the many stores found across the island is important since salespeople can guide you and offer technical advice on the best option for your needs and budget.
The Pros and Cons of Electric Water Heaters
Among the most popular choices, electric water heaters are found in practically each and every Maltese and Gozitan household. The fact that they come in all shapes and sizes means that you can opt for a compact and space saving design which is particularly important if you would like to install one in a small bathroom or a narrow shaft. Initial costs are substantially lower than other options, however, pricing largely depends on the size and type, whereas certain well-known brands tend to be more expensive than others. Having said that, tankless like the on-demand water systems do tend to be more expensive up front.
Some other cons to consider include the operating costs, while you need to bear in mind that they tend to have a slower flow rate, which means that if you have a large family, the amount of hot water generated might not be enough for your needs. Lastly, remember that with power outages, you will be unable to have hot water.
Are Gas Water Heaters a Good Option?
A less common option locally, as their name implies these use natural gas to operate and are commonly selected by those who already have a gas line. Generally, they tend to heat water much faster than electric alternatives, while you're less likely to run out of warm water as they can easily keep up with large or increasing demands for hot water. At the same time, power outages will not affect warm water flow, while you may potentially have lower energy costs since gas is cheaper than electricity. However, if you don't have a gas line installed already, doing so can come at a hefty price, while installation is more complex and must include a ventilation system, which also needs to be maintained or repaired from time to time.
The Benefits of Solar Water Heaters
An increasingly popular solution locally, solar-powered water heaters are an excellent choice since Malta's sunny weather provides sufficient energy to operate this type of heating system at no cost and practically all year round. At the same time, compared to its electrical and gas alternatives, this heater is the greenest option. Typically these are installed on the roof of homes or of apartment blocks to gain the most sun exposure, however, new versions that are not as popular in the local market tend to be flatter in appearance. Filled with a liquid known as glycol, this goes around the outer side of the tank, helping it to heat up the water.
Although these tend to be more expensive than other forms of heating, there are many benefits that render them the ideal choice. For starters, they are highly efficient with greater durability, so much so that they can last for more than 20 years. But best of all, utilising the heated water from your solar water heater can help you save big on your utility bills since you will be using less electricity. Yet, the weather conditions must be optimal, hence you should perhaps consider installing a backup heater so you will never have to take a cold shower on a cloudy day. Furthermore, ensure you maintain your system in good condition and avoid any expensive repairs by having it checked by a professional ideally once per year.
How Do Heat Pumps Work?
A modern and highly energy efficient alternative to the typical water geysers, heat pumps can be a good alternative for those who do not have access to a roof and therefore, cannot install a solar water heater. Similarly to air conditioners, these have an externally mounted unit which uses ambient temperature to heat the water up. In contrast, some use refrigeration technology instead which works just like a fridge but in reverse cycle, whereas others draw energy from the ground or groundwater. Running efficiently both at night and on a cloudy day, with a heat pump you'll be never left with cold running water.
Should you go for a tankless heater? The options above are also known as storage water heaters since these consist of a container that keeps water continuously hot and ready to use. An increasingly popular option for small applications, tankless heaters, otherwise known as instantaneous, inline or on-demand, these are highly powerful and can instantly heat water as it flows through the device. Typically powered by electricity, these also come in a variety of sizes and locally they are usually used in small applications such as in the bathroom or kitchen sink.
Water is an important resource that we should use carefully but that's not the only thing we can do for more sustainable homes. Check out these easy ways to make your home greener.