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Full Guide on Water Heaters in Singapore

Most of us crave a nice, warm shower at the end of the day or in a cooling weather. Going without hot water for just a day will make anyone appreciate the luxury of instant hot water from a dependable water heater.

What type of water heater should I buy? Where to buy a water heater? How do I maintain a water heater? These are common questions Singaporeans ask when it comes to purchasing a good and long lasting water heater for their homes.

While we can always a hire a professional plumber to install the water heater system, it is best if you are well-informed on the types of water heaters and information about them.

Choosing the right new water heater for your home will depend your needs — some may want water to heat up fast, others may want the system to be energy efficient and saving them money in the long run.

1. Types of water heaters in Singapore

There are generally 2 types of water heaters in Singapore – instant water heater and storage water heater.

1a. Instant Water Heater

Instant Water Heater

Most Singaporeans staying in HDB use instant water heaters. Instant water heaters heats up your water on demand and requires no water storage tank. Compared to water storages, it saves space and users enjoy quick warm water without needing to wait too long.

How it works

Firstly when you turn on the switch, water flows through the heat exchanger located in the water heater, heating the water to the right temperature. Since water is not stored in its tank, less energy is needed to maintain the water at the same temperature throughout the entire day.

The downside? Since its mounted in the toilet walls, such heaters may affect the aesthetics of the home.

The upside? AS there are no water storage tank, it can save previous space, especially for us living in smaller apartments in urban cities like Singapore.

Gas or electric?

Instant water heaters are also commonly referred to as on-demand water heaters and tankless water heaters. Instant water heaters can be either electric or gas powered. Here are the differences between gas and electric water heaters.

Electric Tankless Water Heaters Gas Tankless Water Heaters
Maintenance Does not require annual maintenance Requires annual maintenance
Venting Not required, can be installed anywhere Requires venting as part of the installation process
Environmental Effects Lesser indirect greenhouse gas emissions and reduces carbon footprint in manufacturing and disposal Can create greenhouse gasses and is reliant on fossil fuels
Operating Cost Subject to cost of electricity Subject to cost of natural gas

Instant water heaters are best used for:

  • Households without the need to consume water at more than one place at the same time.
  • Public bathrooms or remote hot tubs.
  • Supporting a solar water heating system.

1b. Storage Water Heater

Storage Water Heater

Storage water heater, as its name implies, stores a ready supply of hot water to be used.

Its tanks usually have the capacity to hold over 100 litres of constantly heated water which can be dispersed throughout the house. When switched on, normal water is heated and stored, then reheated until needed to maintain a constant temperature for the hot water.

How it works:

The storage water heater releases hot water from the top of the tank, and allows cold water to enter from the bottom of the tank to be heated, forming a convection current and also ensuring that the tank is always full.

However, since the water in storage are constantly heated to maintain the same temperature, energy can be wasted even when you are not using the water.

Electric, solar, digital or heat pumps?

For storage heaters, there are 4 main kinds, namely:

  1. electric- powered
  2. Solar-powered
  3. Digital
  4. Heat pump

For the more eco-friendly users, heat pumps and solar storage water heaters are ones they should be looking for.

Storage Water Heater 1

Water storage heaters are best for:

  • Places with a number of people using hot water simultaneously at  the same time.
  • Larger residential homes.
  • Homes/workplaces that rely heavily on hot water.

2. Instant Heater & Storage Heater comparison

The guide we provide is in no way exhaustive or conclusion, but is based on our observation and research of what is in the market.

Here we will examine the pros and cons of each water heater type:

Smaller tank heater up faster than a bigger tank. If you’re partial to very hot showers, this is something to note. This makes them a good option for residences that are rented out on short-term leases. Depending on water usage, your home may need more than one unit.Conventional storage water heaters are normally concealed because they are bulky. For the new HDB Build-To-Order flats, the HDB has already designated a place for the storage water heater.

Instant Heater Storage Heater
Item Cost Usually low Usually high
Water capacity Unlimited, water heated as and when you need 15L to 100L generally, depending on the capacity of the tank
Design Small and compact Bulky and takes up space
Utility Low, but dependent on usage High, need to heat up a whole tank and maintain a constant temperature 24/7.
Waiting time ~5 secs for the water to flow through and heat up Needs to be preheated before use, timing is dependent on tank capacity. Smaller tank heater up faster than a bigger tank.
Life Cycle 10 to 15 years, estimate 8 to 13 years estimate

2.1. Instant water heater or storage heater?

In conclusion, which is better?

For lower water usages like regular hand showers at home, we’d recommend instant water heaters. However, do keep in mind that storage water heaters are able to support almost any type of shower fixture, from rain showers to massage jets, and bathtubs.

Each of the type of heater has their pros and cons, it is best if you are able to talk to plumbers or water heater specialists for their advice.

2.2. Factors to consider: Gas or electric

When choosing a water heater, whether instant or storage heaters, there are several factors to consider:

  • Operating Power
  • Longevity: Both gas and electric appliances last a little over a decade.
  • Price Point: Electric heaters tend to be less expensive.Environmental Impact: Gas heaters are also more environmentally taxing; however, they can work during an outage, unlike electric heaters.

However, with the advancement of technology, the lines between these 2 is blurring, with many accessories and add-ons to the heaters to make them more efficient and energy saving, in the meantime improving user experience.

3. Water heater buying guide

When it comes to selecting the best heater to suit your needs, it is helpful to consider a few of the following factors:

  1. Water Pressure — will the heater provide you consistent water pressure? Instant heaters are limited with their outflow and thus are unable to meet high usage demands as compared to storage tanks
  2. Consistently Hot Water — from the analysis table above, we have also highlighted that instant water heaters are unable to deliver consistent hot water due to factors like flow rate.
  3. Pairing — what type of heater is suitable for your shower system?
  4. Maintenance Level — check the heater maintenance requirements and maintenance fees over the long run.
  5. Initial Cost — the price you buy at.
  6. Running Cost — cost of providing the hot water consistently.
  7. Aesthetics — instant water heaters usually affect aesthetics as they are not concealed like storage heaters.

3.1 Accessories for water heaters

With the advancement of technology, water heaters are becoming more efficient and can be controlled more easily. We have highlighted a few  accessories which can be used to further boost the efficiency of your water heater and bring you more cost savings.

  • Water alarms. Usually placed beside the heating unit, the alarm will sound if it detects that there’s a leaking problem or too much water in the system.
  • Pressure regulators. Regulators are used to prevent too much water outflow, which can lead to spike in water pressures and cause leakages. Regulators can be attached to the outlets on a heating unit.
  • Expansion tanks. Made to hold further supplies of water while the main tank heats up cold water. They are connected to water heaters.
  • Insulating blankets. Designed to fit over a water heater, these blankets will strengthen the insulation and prevent loss of heat, allowing lesser energy loss due to heat loss.
  • Timers. Timers can be attached to the electrical supply of water heater units, allowing you to save energy and cut down on your heating costs by reserving the process for only when it’s needed.
  • Water heater pans. Designed to capture leaking water caused by overflows in heat tanks. These water heater pans sit under the units and connect to drain hoses.

4. Signs of a troubled water heater

Whilst we can use all sorts of tricks highlighted above to increase efficiency, as well as having regular maintenance to ensure our heaters are in good shape, we should anticipate that some problems will occur before the heaters reach the end of their lives.

We highlight some signs of a troubled water heater:

  • Sudden surge in water utility costs. If your heater is exerting a lot more effort than before just to perform its basic functions, chances are there could be leakages or inefficiency in the system.
  • Leaks and rust. To ensure optimal performance from your water heater, you should engage a professional plumber and have the unit inspected regularly for signs of wear and distress. If you observe  water seeping onto the floor or corroding the heater, the heater is likely in need of repairs.
  • Dirty or contaminated water. If you notice brown water flowing out (signs of rust), or tap water becomes rancid, it could be due to problems with the water heater.
  • Noise from the unit. If you hear popping or crackling noises coming from your unit, it’s possible that the heating mechanisms are under stress.

Speak to a plumber today

5. Maintenance of Water Heater

Instant water heaters typically have a lifespan of five to seven years, while storage water heaters last at least 10 years. What are the various ways we can maintain the lifespan of our heaters?

Following the following tips to have longer tank life expectancy, lower energy bills and minimize damage as a result of water leakage.

1. Know where your water heater is placed

It is critically important to know where your water heater is located. Having a clear access to it saves time, especially in case of emergency or any plumbing needs.

2. Know what type of water heater you have

You should have knowledge of the more critical information about your water heater — whether its is natural gas or electric, or whether it’s a storage tank type or a instant water heater. Also, write down the model number and serial number of your water heater or at least know where this information is on the tank as it has the age and gallon capacity coded into it.

It saves time and is important for warranty purposes the next time you engage a plumber or schedule for plumbing maintenance.

3. Clear the area around your water heater

There are a few reasons for doing so:

  •  A gas-fired unit needs a good supply of oxygen for combustion. If there is insufficient oxygen in air, if can affect the efficiency of the combustion process. In extreme cases it may cause carbon monoxide leakages.
  •  If the unit starts to leak, you may not catch it as soon if the area is hidden from view. This could lead to more severe water damage and even waste energy as the water heater has to reheat the water more often.
  •  Having items around the heater is by itself a fire hazard.

4. Drain or flush your water heater

Depending on the heater you are using, you may want to drain the water heater regularly (at least once a year). Be aware of the hot water flowing out which may cause damage to properties around it when draining.

If you notice quite a substantial amount of sediment or debris, a full flush is recommended. This is where you turn the temperature down and then completely drain the tank. You then turn the water back on while the drain is open and let the water flow for a minute or so to help remove any lingering sediment or debris.

Once that is done and the tank has been refilled, turn the thermostat back to the desired setting.

As this may pose danger to the users’ safety, it is wise to engage a professional plumber to complete the task for you.

5. Complete an annual water heater inspection

Our recommendation is to start engaging a regular inspection by a professional. Professional can observe minute tell-tale signs of a malfunctioning heater, and in the long-run may save you even more money due to the prolonged lifespan of the heater.

For gas heater users, if  you noticed any black residue, soot or charred metal, this is a sign you may be having combustion issues and you should have the unit serviced by a professional. If you ever smell gas, turn off the gas supply and contact a professional. For electric water heaters, look for any signs of leaking such as rust streaks or residue around the upper and lower panels covering the electrical components on the tank.

It is recommended that you perform tank flushing every five years for storage water heaters, and check the wiring every three to five years for instant water heaters.

6. Pressure regulating valves

High water pressure may damage the system, pipes and applicances and cause the water heater to fail. A pressure regulating valve regulates water pressure through the entire plumbing system, and should be installed by a qualified plumber.

7. Water softeners

Water softeners helps to remove the residue from hard water deposits which could harm the system. Get your water tested, and consider a softener system to avoid corrosion on the inside of your water heater.

Finding the right plumbers for your home

If you are looking for water heater installation service, look at our directory of quality plumbers that can help you install your new water heater free of fuss.

Find a suitable plumber for your heater

Posted in

Sean Tan

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