As Australia's population continues to grow and more people are drawn to cities, architects are under pressure to create compact, functional living spaces. To keep up with changing preferences, architects need to be on top of new technology, trends, and desires. One way to free up extra space, reduce energy use, and lower ongoing costs for residents is to specify an appropriate hot water system, and decentralised hot water systems are becoming increasingly popular for multi-residential developments.
In an ideal scenario, the hot water system of a building should be considered early in the design process, particularly when space is at a premium. The configuration and limited space of multi-residential buildings mean that there are fewer options when it comes to fitting hot water systems. The right system for a development will depend on factors such as available space in apartments and common areas, typical outdoor temperature ranges, additional electrical load, water restrictions, costs, number of apartments, and average consumption.
There are two main types of water heaters: storage systems and continuous flow (or instantaneous) systems, which are heated by gas or electricity. Gas is less efficient than electricity, with a lower heating efficiency of around 85% compared to 99%. Centralised hot water systems are increasingly unpopular due to their running costs and environmental impact. A major drawback of these systems is the energy needed to keep a large system consistently at the desired temperature, even when the water is not in use, and the amount of heat lost transporting the water from the storage system to the point of use. The matter of who pays for the lost heat and the energy used to heat the water can get complicated.
Electric instantaneous water heaters are the only true user-pays option and are being used more in apartments. The water is only heated when it is required, eliminating water and energy wastage and ensuring bills are accurate. Decentralised water heating systems are an ideal solution to many challenges posed by multi-residential buildings in Australia. They simplify and streamline the process during construction, as the hot water systems are installed in each individual residence, making it possible to carry out a staged handover. An instantaneous electric hot water solution can be positioned where it is needed without the restrictions associated with gas feeds, flues, or venting, simplifying the construction process. Also, less plumbing is needed between the heater and where the water is used due to its placement within a residence, reducing labor costs and making their installation more cost-effective.
Compact, decentralised water heaters are increasingly being chosen for modular designs over bulky, centralised alternatives. Modular design, or 'prefabrication', refers to any part of a building that has been assembled offsite, often resulting in whole sections of a building essentially being unpacked and secured onsite. It dramatically speeds up construction time, lowers material costs, and increases quality assurance. Decentralised water heaters are chosen for modular designs as they simplify the construction process, providing each pod with a complete water heating solution. Another driver of the movement towards decentralised hot water systems is the eliminated risk of legionella. The potentially deadly bacterial disease can render water systems out of action for days, placing a massive inconvenience on the building's occupants. Legionella can grow in centralised hot water systems that are faulty or have not been thoroughly cleaned. An instantaneous unit eliminates the need to rely on the owners' corporation to manage legionella risk, as they do not provide the conditions in which the bacteria thrive. They also abolish maintenance issues such as cleaning filters. Once the instantaneous unit is installed, its occupants have peace of mind.
STIEBEL ELTRON supplies a range of cost-effective instant hot water systems, which have been used in projects across Australia and the world. Melbourne's Central South Yarra incorporated STIEBEL's products into 30 levels of modern living. The design maximised spaces and packed in one- and two-bedroom apartments and luxury penthouses, along with a resident's rooftop retreat with landscaped outdoor sky terrace, gym, a heated pool, and communal entertaining areas. It utilised the Sync Building System for the bathrooms, delivering higher-grade finishes at no extra cost to the developer and was handed over six weeks early. Vogue South Yarra is a mixed development of retail outlets and 498 residential apartments. 502 STIEBEL ELTRON instantaneous water heaters (DEL 18 AU and DEL 27 AU) were installed in the project, allowing it to be completed on time and on budget. STIEBEL has also been involved with many other projects, including Victory Homes in Canberra, Riverlight Settlers Cove in Noosa, 1 William Street in Brisbane, Quest Apartment Hotels in West Perth, and Adelaide's UV Apartments.
STIEBEL ELTRON's range includes 3-phase instantaneous water heaters suitable for multiple outlets. The heaters provide an instantaneous hot water supply, ensuring that residents never run out of hot water. The heaters are designed to be installed as close as possible to the most used hot water outlet, which can help to save water, energy, and money. They are up to 30% more water and energy efficient compared to older style hydraulically controlled instantaneous water heaters. The water heaters are compact, ranging from 370mm x 220mm x 130mm in size to 478mm x 225mm x 105mm, and are ideal for installations where space is at a premium. As they do not require ventilation, relief drain, or safe trays, they can be installed in areas such as a cupboard or roof space.
Decentralised hot water systems are the future of water heating in Australia's multi-residential buildings. They provide an efficient, cost-effective, and space-saving solution for architects and developers. Choosing the right hot water system and partnering with a reputable supplier like STIEBEL ELTRON will ensure that multi-residential developments meet the needs of residents and the environment.