Water heating devices – usually boilers – are fitted as standard in nearly every commercial building. They provide the hot water needed to run central heating systems, wash hands, operate utilities and a whole host of other activities. Water heaters have been around for a long time. The first water heaters in regular use were known as kettle boilers. These primitive devices – popularized in the late 17th century – were simply metal casks of water placed over an open flame in order to provide hot water. As you might expect, they were not efficient enough to be used in commercial settings. In the 19th century, boilers more similar to the ones we see today were developed. In 1897 George Babcock and Steven Wilcox presented their design for a boiler that used tubes inside a brick structure to efficiently heat water. Their design took off and led to the creation of large boilers suitable for commercial use. The boiler that the pair invented provided a safe way of heating water into steam, which had previously been a dangerous activity that required heavily engineered devices.
These days there are three major kinds of commercial water heater regularly installed. Each type has distinct advantages and disadvantages. Here is a very brief guide to the kinds of commercial boiler that can be easily installed today.
Gas boilers are the cheapest kind to install and are regularly used in commercial buildings that have a high consumption of hot water and steam. They are by far the most common kind of boiler used in commercial settings. Most companies offering commercial water heater installation will offer gas heater installation as their cheapest option. They use burning natural gas as a heating element and are extremely reliable. The major downside of using a gas-powered boiler to heat water lies in the extreme vulnerability of the natural gas market. Natural gas is a fossil fuel that has to be extracted from the earth, and as such its price fluctuates according to availability. International politics can play a part in the price of natural gas. The ongoing war in Ukraine has led to a great many countries limiting their consumption of Russian natural gas – increasing prices. Russia is one of the biggest exporters of natural gas in the world, and the global rejection of their exports will obviously drive prices up – even in countries like the USA which uses relatively small quantities of Russian Federation gas.
Electric water heaters have the advantage of being untethered to natural gas prices. They are, however, relatively expensive to install. They use electrically heated elements to warm up a tank of water and, other than the heating element, operate in roughly the same way as a gas boiler.
Tankless water heaters are a new innovation. They are suitable for commercial bathrooms, but not for large scale heating operations. Instead of heating a tank of water using a boiler, these devices pass water over a heating element only when it is needed. This saves on electricity costs.