The Definitive Guide to Condensing Water Heaters

Introduction to Condensing Water Heaters (also known as Condensing Boilers)
Australia has quickly caught up with the rest of the world in the adoption of condensing water heaters. The opportunities for this technology in new and retrofits situations are many and highly beneficial. This series of articles explores condensing boiler technologies and their applications and benefits. In Europe, condensing boilers have been proven for many years and their usage has become mandatory in order to comply with regulations and emission restrictions.

What is a Condensing Water Heater?

A condensing water heater; also known as a condensing boiler, is a type of water heater that is much more efficient than the traditional type appliance. Extra efficiency is achieved by extracting more energy out of the flue gas as compared to that of a conventional boiler and using this energy to pre-heat the return water flowing into the boiler. To understand how this process works, we have to consider some basic chemistry.

The Combustion Process

When gas burns, it combines with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide and water and some other by-products. For instance, methane gas (natural gas).

CH4 + 2O2 → CO2 + 2H2O + ∆E

Where ΔE is the energy released in combustion. The size of ΔE depends on the final state of the carbon dioxide and water. The cooler they are, the more spare energy there is. For the water, this is particularly important because if the water is vapour, then it carries a lot more energy than if it is liquid.

So if, on leaving a boiler, the flue gases are cool and the water is liquid, then the amount of energy ΔE that we can use is going to be larger. In a condensing boiler, the water is condensed inside the boiler so more energy can be extracted; in a conventional boiler, the water escapes as vapour and the energy is lost.

Lower Operating Temperatures.

To be able to condense the water vapour from the flue gas, the condensing boiler should operate using a lower entering water temperature than a conventional boiler. This is because the condensing process occurs at around 54°C.

However, even when running at traditional, non-condensing temperatures of 80/60 a condensing boiler typically offers 4-5% better efficiency than a non-condensing boiler due to the superior heat exchanger and burner control in a condensing boiler.

A conventional boiler will typically have a minimum entering water temperature of around 60°C, with an exit temperature of 80°C, and will not have the heat exchange elements in place to achieve the extra heat recovery in any case. Indeed, if condensing does occur in a conventional boiler it’s a bad thing – because the condensate does include acidic by products that will corrode the inside of the boiler and ultimately cause it to fail. Condensing boilers have additional heat exchange elements and are manufactured of the right materials to withstand corrosive condensates.

How does a condensing water heater work?

The Eurogen Condensing Fire Tube Boiler depicted above is one example of a condensing boiler. The hot combustion gases first pass down the centre and return along the wall of the combustion chamber. On reaching the specially contoured door of the boiler the gases are directed down into the stainless steel condensing tubes which comprise the heat exchanger and feature aluminium internal fins designed to maximise heat extraction. To learn more about this product, visit the Eurogen Condensing Boilers page or scroll down to watch the video.

How efficient is a condensing water heater?

The efficiency of a water heater is measured by the ratio of energy output to energy input. To complicate matters, there are two conventions for measuring the energy content of gas:

  • Gross calorific value: this is the energy released in combustion assuming that the water in the flue is liquid
  • Net calorific value: this is the energy released in combustion assuming that the water in the flue is vapour.

The correct figure to use when considering a condensing appliance is always the gross calorific value, which is the larger value. However, some promotional literature for conventional boilers will use the net calorific value, because this makes their conventional water heater look more efficient.

Using Gross calorific values, conventional water heaters are typically around 80-83% efficient at full load. By contrast, a condensing water heater using the same basis is around 95% efficient at full load.

Using Net calorific values, these figures both increase by about 10%, so that the condensing water heater has an apparent efficiency of 103% – because it is extracting more heat from the flue gas that the net calorific value recognises.

So the immediate benefit of a condensing water heater is an improvement in efficiency of at least 10-15%. But it’s actually much better than that, as can be seen in the diagram below.

The above diagram illustrates the superior financial and environmental benefits achieved by Condensing Water Heaters over Conventional Water Heaters.

The above graph shows the increase of efficiency achieved when return water temperatures are below 54 degrees Celsius. Effectively what this means is that the lower the return water temperatures, the greater the boiler efficiency.

Automatic Heating is the leading provider of water based heating and cooling to the commercial HVAC market in Australia.

Our success is built on our holistic approach to heating and cooling system solutions, our thorough understanding of mechanical engineering principles and over 90 years experience in this technically demanding and rapidly changing industry.

ARBS 2018 CO2 Heat Pump 76kW

The products we bring to the HVAC market in Australia are world-class; sourced from some of the most progressive and technologically advanced manufacturers in the world.

What makes the difference, is that we enhance these innovative solutions with the skills of our highly trained technical support team and the dedication and passion of our dedicated customer service professionals to promote exceptional project outcomes that maximise ease of installation, operational performance, and energy efficiencies.

Download our Whitepaper

The Case for Condensing Water Heaters Whitepaper
The Case for Condensing Water Heaters Whitepaper

Condensing Water Heaters: Energy Efficient Technology

Electricity costs have never been higher, and as power bills continue to skyrocket, smart businesses are always looking for ways to save money and improve their bottom-line.

When it comes to heating, old equipment and out-dated technology are some of the leading causes of system inefficiency, and they are all avoidable. On the surface, your existing equipment might still be “working” but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is working for you – in fact, it might well be working against you.

Condensing water heaters have been manufactured since the 1980s, and now represent a fully mature technology used extensively throughout the world. If your conventional water heater is still ticking along the thought probably hasn’t crossed your mind to update it.


Why use a condensing water heater?

Our whitepaper reveals significant differences in the operating efficiencies of condensing water heaters compared to conventional water heaters. Many companies are proving that high-efficiency equipment such as Eurogen, Modulex and Meridian Condensing Water Heaters can achieve relatively short payback periods and deliver significant energy cost savings year after year.

What it all boils down to is this:

Why spend thousands of dollars MORE on heating each year because of low-efficiency equipment, outdated technology and suboptimal system maintenance?

Still not convinced? Our comprehensive whitepaper features a side-by-side comparison of conventional versus condensing water heaters, and it also outlines the features and benefits of the Condensing Water Heater technology. Discover what they can do for your business.

Save Energy, Save Money!

Sounds obvious, right?

But many businesses are still spending tens of thousands of dollars more than they need to every year due to old equipment, outdated technology and suboptimal system maintenance.

Some recent case histories show energy savings of more than 20% after installing our high efficiency condensing water heaters.

Our free white paper ‘The Case for Condensing Water Heaters’ explains how this proven technology works and why many businesses worldwide are using it to save energy and money.

Complete the form and download the free white paper to learn how you can help your business save energy and slash your heating costs.


Download your white paper here

Related Articles

The following articles deal with further aspects of the installation and operation of Condensing Boilers.

Related Videos


Eurogen Demonstration

The Eurogen Condensing Fire Tube Boiler has several outstanding features that make it unique in its class. Watch as Anthony and Steve give a hands on demonstration at ARBS 2016.


Modulex Demonstration

The revolutionary design of the Modulex Condensing Water Heater is displayed in this demonstration video at ARBS 2016. Learn what makes Modulex so incredibly energy efficient.


Meridian Demonstration

Meridian Condensing Water Heaters are a pleasure to work with. Learn why this very versatile Type A Appliance with its host of features has become a popular choice for many projects.

Other Technical Articles

Request Free Consultation

To find out more about condensing water heaters or for assistance with equipment selection, please call our Specification Manager, Steve Williams on 1800 337 959 or lodge an enquiry via the form below.


Want more information? Automatic Heating offers a free energy usage appraisal, technical advice and no-obligation consultations on system designs. Contact us at or call 1800 337 959.