Can a boiling water tap be more energy efficient than a kettle?
Just think about how many times you fill up and boil your kettle throughout the day? Apparently, the average UK household boils their kitchen kettle four times a day.
This average is likely to increase as a growing number of people continue to work from home, which usually means brewing up throughout the day!
It begs the question of can we improve the efficiency associated with boiling a kettle?
The short answer is yes, boiling water taps consume less energy than standard kettles.
This seemed counter-intuitive and came as a surprise to me. So, here’s all you need to know about hot water taps, why they consume less energy compared to kettles and what their environmental performance really is.
The boom in hot water taps
Boiling water taps have become the next big thing to have in any new kitchen. They can also be easily fitted into existing kitchens.
Sometimes called instant hot water taps, they allow for a more cost-efficient and energy-efficient kitchen. No more filling up and waiting for the kettle to boil. Simply enjoy your hot drink, cup of tea or mug of ethical coffee in a matter of seconds.
Let’s take a look at how these boiling water taps work in a bit more detail, before tackling their energy efficiency and environmental standings.
How do hot water taps work?
The science behind them is pretty straightforward.
Drawing from your home’s water supply, hot water taps rapidly heat up the water inside an insulated tank stored right below your sink. This is all done via electricity.
Imagine it like an insulated water bottle keeping your drink cold, or more appropriately, a hot drink flask.
After the water is heated to about 96-98 degrees Celsius (for hot water taps) or around 100oC (for boiling water taps), it is stored in the insulated tank at that temperature ready for you to use.
It’s important to note that the water inside the tank isn’t on a constant boil. It gets up to the final temperature when you turn the tap on, so you can get very hot or boiling hot water straight away.
When considering the slight difference in temperature, hot water taps are great if you want to use hot water to brew mainly coffee or tea. Instant boiling water taps can be useful in cooking situations.
Do boiling water taps use a lot of energy?
Both boiling water taps and hot water taps can be convenient options for many households. In the long run they can save you plenty of energy and reduce your energy costs.
In fact, while instant hot water taps do rely on your electricity to heat up water and keep it at the correct temperature, the insulated tank that comes with your tap is designed to conserve energy and prevent any heat from escaping.
As a result, boiling water taps end up consuming less energy than the average kettle, as no heat and energy are wasted in the process.
On top of that, instant hot water taps tend to conserve plenty of water as well. This is because you’d only use the exact amount you need rather than filling a whole kettle before boiling as many people do.
Overfilled kettles end up being reheated more often as well, using a lot more energy than a hot water tap would.
On average, a hot water tap will use around 10 watts of energy to constantly maintain the water at the desired temperature. Compare this to the average kettle which will use between 2-3 kilowatts of energy every time it is switched on. It will only take a few kettle boils to surpass the energy of a hot water tap, then you have the wasted energy and excess water use on top of that.
With that said, putting an exact number on how much energy is used and saved with hot water taps vs kettles is not an easy feat, as it all mostly depends on how you use your tap.
Is it cheaper to boil a kettle or run the hot tap?
The main reason why so many households are considering switching to boiling water taps comes down to not only their convenience but also their potential for savings.
Lower energy and water usage come with lower energy and water costs.
It’s estimated that instant hot water taps can use up to 50% less energy than conventional kettles, slashing around £25 off your energy bills each year.
Keep in mind, however, that these numbers are just theoretical estimates. It’s possible that you might already be using your kettle in an energy-efficient way (never filling up more than you need, only heating the water once, etc.).
For many, the upfront cost of installing a boiling water tap might actually work out as more expensive than simply sticking to a more sustainable kettle-boiling regime. As kettles are electrical items, it’s important that this e-waste is recycled properly.
The average hot water tap can set you back anywhere between £900 and £4,000, although you can find more affordable models for a little over £500. Even the cheapest instant water taps come with a hefty price tag.
While continued use of the instant hot water tap might offset the initial investment, the additional cost of repairs, maintenance and expensive filters might not be worth the energy savings in the long run.
According to Which?, a hot water tap might end up costing you more than twenty times as much as a regular kettle.
So, are instant hot water taps environmentally friendly?
While these convenient taps might not live up to their money-saving reputation, they are generally considered a more eco-friendly choice compared to average kettles.
On top of cutting energy usage to up to an estimated 50%, boiling water taps can also help households cut down on water waste, as you’ll only be using what you need as you turn on the tap.
Let’s also consider the environmental impact behind their manufacturing.
Hot water taps are made of various metals (such as brass) alongside plastic components, and in order to produce them, the raw metals have to be melted and moulded to create their shape.
Despite the energy needed to produce molten metal and casts, this process is considered quite sustainable, as all scrap materials can be recycled and the moulds can be reused many times before disposal. Take a look here to see the sustainability of stainless steel.
Wrap up: Hot water taps vs kettles
When we put everything together, do hot water taps really come out on top as a more eco-friendly option than kettles?
The answer is yes, but only marginally.
In fact, research shows that boiling water taps are slightly more energy-efficient and water-saving than using a kettle if you’re not overfilling it and reheating the water multiple times! It all depends on how you use your current kettle.
As long as you’re making sure you’re only filling your kettle with the water you need and avoiding reheating leftover water, you’re already taking care of the main issue without having to invest in expensive products like instant hot water taps.
A top tip here is to boil your kettle, use the water you need immediately, then fill up thermally insulated bottles with the boiling water to use throughout the day. This is kind of like an instant hot water tap, minus the huge expense!
And if you’re opting for a second-hand, energy-saving electric kettle, the environmental benefits will be even bigger!