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How does an electric hot water system work?

Electric hot water systems are the most common type of hot water system in Australia, with two different types available: storage and instant. Storage options are generally more readily used than instant options, but this is slowly changing due to the range of benefits that the latter offers.

Both options electric hot water systems work in different ways to heat up water however, meaning they use different processes to achieve the same hot water end result. Keep reading to find out more, or chat with the friendly Everyday Plumbing team today.

Rheem Electric Storage Hot Water System

How does an electric hot water system work?

Electric Storage Units

An electric storage hot water system works by sending cold water into a storage tank, where one or two elements are located to heat the water. Once the water is at the correct temperature, it rises to the top and travels to the relevant hot tap when it is needed. Because the heating of the water occurs inside the tank, there isn't a need for a flue (like a gas storage hot water system).

A thermostat is used to control and maintain the temperature to which the water is heated, which is above 60°C to avoid the growth of Legionella bacteria. If the water pressure gets too high, water will be pushed out through the pressure relief valve and flow through the overflow pipe.

Instant electric hot water

Instant electric hot water systems, otherwise known as continuous flow, instantaneous, or tankless hot water systems, work by heating water as needed, instead of heating and storing it. When you turn the hot water tap on, cold water flows through a heat exchanger which heats the water and sends it through the piping. A lot of continuous flow electric systems need a 3-phase electricity supply to run, due to higher energy needs, however not all.

What are the advantages of an electric HWS?


  • Lower upfront costs.
  • Generally easy installation.
  • Larger units can be connected to off-peak power to boost savings.
  • Both indoor or outdoor installation options.
  • Great for maintaining water pressure throughout the home.
  • Available in a range of sizes and to suit your power preference.
  • Last 10 to 15 years, longer if regularly maintained.


  • Space saving design.
  • Minimal energy waste, minimal heat loss, and energy efficient to operate.
  • In most situations, you won’t run out of hot water.
  • No constant water heating required, as this style only heats the water when you turn on the hot tap.
  • Only needs to heat to the desired delivery temperature (often 50℃) as no storage of the water involved which saves power.
  • Locating the unit close to the point of use reduces lag and wasted water.
  • Indoor and outdoor installation options.
  • Instant units last around 20 years.


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What do you need to have an electric hot water system installed?

Electricity! As electricity is virtually available in every home and workplace, an electric hot water system is one of the easier options when it comes to installation needs. In saying this, if you are choosing a storage HWS, it is important to ensure you have an appropriate place to install the storage tank on your property.

Who should have an electric hot water system installed?

Over 50% of the Australian population has an electric storage HWS, making them a choice suitable for a large range of people. It really depends on how much space you have to house a storage tank, what upfront costs are you prepared to pay and how eco-friendly you are wanting your hot water system to be. Instant electric options are a lot more environmentally friendly than their storage counterparts, but they still aren't the best available on the market. We always recommend completing your own research and speaking to a professional.

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If you would like some further assistance, or would like to arrange for an electric hot water system to be installed in your home or business, give Everyday Plumbing a call on 0406 400 200 today.

Looking for further hot water help?

Head here or to any of the following pages for more information:


BUILD : https://build.com.au/electric-hot-water-systems
Canstar : https://www.canstarblue.com.au/hot-water-systems/
Australian Government - Your Home : http://www.yourhome.gov.au/energy/hot-water-service
Department of the Environment and Energy (Energy Basics) : https://www.energy.gov.au/households/energy-basics-householders
Department of the Environment and Energy (Hot Water Systems) : https://www.energy.gov.au/households/hot-water-systems
*Photo courtesy of BUILD.

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