Canstar Blue’s hot water systems review has compared Solahart, Vulcan, Chromagen, Dux, Rinnai, Thermann, Rheem, Bosch and AquaMax on effectiveness, ease of use, quietness, reliability, value for money and overall satisfaction.
See our Ratings Methodology.
You might think (understandably) that all hot water systems are basically the same – after all, they all do more or less the same thing, right? Well, they certainly all heat up your hot water so you can enjoy nice showers at the end of a long day – but how they go about doing it, plus how reliably they do it, and how much they cost to do it, can vary greatly. Finding the best water system for your home is no easy task. You first need to understand what different types of systems are available, get to grips with their ongoing running costs, and find a product that meets your needs and budget.
To help you find the best hot water system for your home, Canstar Blue has asked more than 900 Australian households for their feedback on the hot water system(s) they’ve purchased and used in the last five years. Brands were rated on effectiveness, ease of use, quietness while operating, reliability, value for money and overall satisfaction. Those which received the minimum survey sample size (30 responses) are compared in our report.
Our latest results reveal that Solahart is still the hot favourite, returning to the number one spot as sole winner (it was a joint winner with Vulcan in our previous ratings). Solahart was seen as the best brand for overall satisfaction and most other categories, receiving five-star reviews across the board.
Here are the best brands of hot water systems in Australia, as rated by consumers in Canstar Blue’s recent review:
Solahart was a clear winner in our latest hot water systems ratings, having achieved the only five-star review for overall satisfaction. Meanwhile, Vulcan, Chromagen, Dux and Rinnai went with the flow and landed on four stars. Thermann, Rheem, Bosch and AquaMax eventually rounded up the scores for overall satisfaction with three stars each.
While most brands received a respectable four stars in the majority of the categories, Chromagen managed to stand out. It was the only brand other than Solahart to earn full marks in any category, namely value for money.
Now we know which brands are rated best, let’s dive into detail about the types of hot water systems that are available in Australia, what they are likely to cost you upfront, and how much they’re likely to add to your ongoing energy bills.
The humble hot water system might seem like an unlikely culprit for large energy bills – but did you know that the cost of heating water can make up to around 30% of an average Australian household’s total electricity bill? Your system may be costing you big time – depending on the type that you have – so we’ve compared electric, gas, solar and heat pump hot water systems to help you find the best and most cost-effective water heating solution for your home.
Basically, hot water systems come in two fundamental designs – ‘storage’ and ‘continuous flow’ (also known as instantaneous).
You’ll find these two types of systems available in electric, gas, solar and heat pump varieties – each with pros and cons to their energy source. The example pictures are courtesy of Rheem.
Electric storage hot water systems heat water using an electric-powered element which sits at the base of the water tank. Continuous systems work in a similar way, but instead the element is coiled around the pipes to rapidly heat the water inside.
Electric hot water systems usually have relatively low upfront costs, and can be a reliable way to keep your water warm. The majority of large electric storage hot water systems are connected to controlled load tariffs and do the majority of their heating at off-peak periods to help reduce your energy bills.
Electrical hot water systems are almost always the most expensive long-term hot water solution if used on a continuous day rate tariff. The electricity that powers them may also have high greenhouse gas emissions if the power does not come from renewable sources such as solar PV, wind, or from a hydro scheme.
Storage gas water systems use a gas burner to continuously heat and maintain water in a tank at 60°C. Continuous flow systems also use a burner which ignites only when the water is needed.
Gas hot water systems will produce few greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, depending on your location, gas systems are usually considered to have lower usage rates compared to electricity, making them a more cost-effective option long term.
Gas hot water systems are only really viable if you’re connected to mains gas, as using LPG bottles is more expensive, and creates the risk of running out of hot water. Gas hot water systems must be located outside, or have an exhaust vent if they are located inside.
Solar hot water systems are storage units which generate heat from the sun using panels installed on the roof of the property. This heat is used to warm and maintain the water in your tank. When there is insufficient solar generation, systems can be boosted to a temperature of 60°C by either electric or natural gas boosters. Solar water systems can be split-system or combined.
Solar hot water systems could reduce your hot water system’s energy consumption significantly, although the potential savings are disputed and naturally subject to your personal circumstances, including where you live. Solar hot water systems are generally considered as the most environmentally-friendly option. Accredited solar systems might also be eligible for STC rebates from the Federal Government through the Clean Energy Regulator, as well as other state-specific rebate schemes.
Solar hot water systems have the greatest upfront costs – anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000 after rebates, depending on the system size and excluding any installation costs. Some solar hot water systems may also be unreliable on overcast days, but most models will kick-over to natural gas or electric back-up heating if the water isn’t hot enough.
Heat pumps include a fan that draws warm air into the system, which is transferred to the water storage tank. It’s essentially a reverse fridge. Rather than pumping out hot air to keep your fridge cool, it pumps hot air in to heat the water up.
Heat pumps are one of the most energy-efficient hot water solutions. While they need electricity to run, they are said to be roughly three times more efficient than traditional electric water heaters.
Heat pumps are only really suitable in warm environments. While some heat pumps come with boosters, if the climate isn’t suitable, there is little benefit in spending the extra money on a heat pump. They are also considered unreliable and servicing costs are generally expensive.
Our recent survey found that households that have purchased a new hot water system in the past five years spent an average of $1,305. Respondents reported buying the following types of hot water systems:
Less than 1% were unsure which type of system they have, or said they have another type.
Notably, the majority of survey respondents only purchased their new hot water system because their old one failed (58%). However, 21% said it was because they wanted to upgrade their hot water system, while a further 14% did so because they wanted to increase their water capacity.
The following table – courtesy of the Victorian Government – provides an example of the estimated running costs of different types of hot water systems. As mentioned, natural gas boosted solar storage hot water systems are the cheapest over time, with an annual cost of only $65 for a medium-sized household (three people). LPG gas and continuous flow electric systems prove to be the most expensive, costing more than $600 and $900 a year respectively. However, running your system on a controlled load tariff can reduce running costs significantly, as the table shows. The following calculations, based on a three-person household in Victoria (120L/day), should be treated as a general guide only:
|Water Heater Type||Energy Star Rating||Annual Energy Cost||Annual GHG emissions (kg/yr)|
|Natural gas – storage||5.5||$350||775|
|Natural gas – instant||7||$295||690|
|LPG – storage||5.5||$560||910|
|LPG – instant||7||$465||795|
|Peak tariff – storage||n/a||$925||3420|
|Peak tariff – instant||n/a||$780||2875|
|Off-peak tariff – storage||n/a||$700||3935|
|Natural gas boosted||High efficiency||$65||165|
|LPG boosted||High efficiency||$95||185|
|Electric boosted – peak tariff||High efficiency||$260||950|
|Electric boosted – off-peak tariff||High efficiency||$185||1040|
|Peak tariff||High efficiency||$245||895|
|Off-peak tariff||High efficiency||$160||885|
Annual costs based on Melbourne household with average daily hot water use. For gas instantaneous and gas boosted solar water heaters, running costs take electricity use into account. Electricity tariffs based on general usage rate of 31.9 c/kWh, and off-peak rate of 20.9 c/kWh. Natural gas tariffs based on typical declining block structure for house with gas heating, water heating and cooking. Natural gas tariffs used for gas storage and instantaneous water heaters: 2.49 c/MJ; 2.46 c/MJ. For solar-natural gas boost, tariff of 2.36 c/MJ has been used. LPG tariff based on bulk supply (210kg cylinder) in Melbourne area: $1 per litre or 4.0 c/MJ. Energy tariffs do not include the annual supply charge or cylinder rental fee.
Solar and heat pump water heaters efficiency levels are based on the following STC allocations in Zone 4 (southern Victoria): solar gas boosted – standard (29), high efficiency (33); electric boosted solar – standard (27), high efficiency (31); heat pump – standard (28), high efficiency (35).
If you’re connected to mains gas and your home receives at least moderate amounts of sunlight, then the most ideal system for you could be a solar storage hot water system with gas boosters. If your home doesn’t get much sunlight, the next best thing in terms of running costs would likely be a continuous flow gas system.
However, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution when it comes to cutting your energy bills. It could be said that you should avoid electric hot water systems if at all possible, particularly continuous flow models as they have high emissions and are often considered to be the most expensive option. But the cheapest hot water system for you will come down to personal circumstances.
Keep in mind, however, that buying a hot water system is often a trade-off between initial upfront costs and long-term energy savings. If you want the most efficient system from the point of view of lowering utility bills, you’ll probably have to fork out more in the first instance. Whether or not that investment pays off in the long-run will depend entirely on your personal circumstances, such as how much water you use and how much you pay for power.
Let’s now get an overview of the different brands rated in our review, with details about the types of hot water systems they offer.
As you would guess from the name, Solahart is a provider of hot water systems that use the heat of the sun as their energy source, which is arguably better for your home, bank balance, and the planet. ‘Going solar’ can also help you save big on energy use, and even increase the value of your home.
Solahart’s main range is its roof top solar hot water systems, which capture heat from the sun to heat your water instead of radiant heat. There’s also a line of split system solar hot water heaters, which require the solar collector panel to be attached to the roof while the tank remains on the ground. If you don’t think solar power is the best option for your home, there are alternatively heat pump water heaters to choose from. For pricing, Solahart invites enquiries via its website and also offers free on-site solar assessments.
Vulcan promises high-quality and performance from its hot water systems, but at ‘very affordable’ prices. It states its water systems are reliable because they’re built with the best quality materials and proven technology, including tough storage cylinders made from high-strength steel and able to withstand varying heating cycle pressures. Vulcan sells both gas and electric hot water systems with a variety of model sizes available. You can obtain a quote via the Vulcan website.
Chromagen offers several solar, gas and heat pump water systems to choose from. The brand places a heavy emphasis on creating efficient water heaters, even claiming its solar power range to be among some of the most environmentally-friendly ranges on the market.
Its heat pump line-up is similarly claimed to use a renewable energy water heating technology that can supposedly help consume up to 65% less energy than some conventional water heaters. A few standout features in this series include the auto-disinfection function, which periodically heats the water at an extreme temperature to stop the growth of bacteria and salmonella. There’s also Vacation mode, which conserves energy when not in use and automatically reactivates upon your return.
Dux has a huge range of hot water systems, including heat pump, electric, gas, and solar boosted storage systems, as well as gas continuous flow water heaters. Dux’s storage systems come in a wide variety of sizes, usually between 25L and 400L. But if continuous flow is more your style, you might be interested to know that Dux systems have a 6.7-star energy-efficiency rating – higher than most similar models on the market. You can head to the website to book, apply for rebates and register your new water heater.
Rinnai offers a number of continuous flow hot water systems and solar hot water systems, plus hot water storage systems. For those looking for an electronic gas flow hot water system, the Infinity range contains several units with an equivalent energy efficiency rating of between six to seven stars, depending on the model. The Instantaneous line also offers the Flowmaster 10, a compact unit that doesn’t require a power point and is typically ideal for people with only a small demand for hot water.
Thermann offers several hot water systems, including continuous flow, heat pump, solar as well as storage hot water systems. Prices start from $1,430 for a 26L gas continuous flow system, and reach up to $5,720 for a solar hot water system with a 400L/min capacity.
If you’re looking for an efficient hot water system, it seems one of the best-rated models is the cheapest ─ the Thermann C7 Flow Gas system. This 26L unit has an efficiency rating of seven stars and is supposedly 15% more efficient than hot water systems of the same size.
Rheem produces all kinds of water heaters, including electric, gas continuous flow, heat pump and solar storage, as well as storage systems. The brand has steel systems for extra durability, compact systems for those tight on space, plus extra-large models, and plenty more.
On the cheaper side, you can check out Rheem’s electric water heaters. The capacities generally range between 25L/min and 35L/min, depending on the model. If you live in an area that doesn’t always attract much sunlight, Rheem has a couple of heat pumps with a ‘top down’ heating design. These tanks are described to provide a concentrated amount of water at the top, removing the waiting time for the tank to reheat. These two models also contain frost protection. You can grab a quote by visiting the Rheem website.
Bosch holds a modest range of hot water systems, all of which have a continuous flow technology structure and don’t require a power point to use. Most Bosch hot water systems additionally have an external installation, typically with 10L/min to 16L/min capacity. Different models additionally come with a few customisable features, such as user controls to adjust temperature and flow.
Uniquely, Bosch alternatively offers the Internal Compact model which is designed to be installed inside the home. Unlike larger capacity hot water systems, this particular unit is said to be suitable for households with limited space.
AquaMax produces gas storage and electric storage hot water systems. The company also has a ‘premium’ range of stainless-steel water storage systems which it claims are lighter, more energy-efficient and easier to maintain than regular models. These are available as either an electric or gas unit. Compared to many conventional cylinder water heaters, AquaMax’s stainless-steel options are apparently 50% lighter and don’t contain anodes to prevent corrosion. This can be useful if you’re looking to save money on maintenance costs, since you won’t need to replace the anodes or get them checked out.
Hot water is a necessity, meaning it’s somewhat of an inevitable cost. That said, there are ways to minimise your hot water system’s impact on your energy bills.
One of the easiest ways households with electric storage systems can save on hot water is with a controlled load tariff. Sometimes just referred to as a ‘dedicated circuit’ or ‘two-rate’ tariff, it’s an arrangement where the hot water system is metered separately to the rest of the house and electricity is charged at a lower rate. Electricity is only supplied to the hot water system during off-peak usage hours – usually from 11pm to 7am depending on the electricity network. During these hours, the hot water system will heat the water and store it for use later on.
Most hot water systems are installed with a dedicated meter, meaning energy retailers will often put you on a controlled load tariff by default. If, for whatever reason, you don’t have a controlled load tariff, you stand to save big by making the switch.
This report was written by Canstar Blue’s home & lifestyle journalist, Tahnee-Jae Lopez-Vito. She’s an expert on household appliances, grooming products and all things grocery and shopping. In addition to translating our expert research into consumer-friendly ratings reports, Tahnee spends her time helping consumers make better-informed purchase decisions on all manner of consumer goods and services, while highlighting the best deals and anything you need to be aware of.
Our latest review of hot water systems saw Solahart dominate for overall satisfaction and most other areas:
Canstar Blue surveyed 6,178 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction, via ISO 26362 accredited research panels managed by Qualtrics. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have purchased a new hot water system in the last five years – in this case, 946 people.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then by mean overall satisfaction. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.
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