Hot Water Cylinders | Vented & Unvented Tanks | A Buyer's Guide

Quick guide summary

Which type of hot water cylinder do I need? Which is the best hot water cylinder?

There is a vast array of hot water cylinders on the market (often referred to as a hot water tank). In this Guide we talk you through the main hot water cylinder types and when they are appropriate. We review 13 vented and unvented hot water cylinders from leading manufacturers to find you great value and performance from your tank.

Overview of hot water cylinders

Direct and Indirect cylinders

only Indirect are used with central heating boilers.

Open vented copper cylinders

work in conjunction with a cold water storage tank and any boiler.

Unvented hot water cylinders

mains fed, steel hot water tanks, work with any boiler.

‘Tank in tank’ cylinders

high performance hot water cylinders, work with anyboiler.

How to use this Guide

Review hot water tanks by type

Consider pros and cons

Decide which is best for you

Hot Water Tanks by Type

Direct and Indirect

A ‘direct’ cylinder is heated via an electric immersion and does not work with a gas or oil boiler.

An ‘indirect’ cylinder has coil running through the tank. ‘Primary’ heating water (not fresh water) passes through the coil and is heated by the boiler to around 70 degrees. The heated coil imparts its heat onto the fresh (potable) water in the tank that is used for washing or showering.

Open Vented Copper Cylinders

Open vented copper cylinders work in conjunction with a cold water storage tank. The open vent pipe comes off the top of the cylinder, rises above the cold water storage tank and hooks over into it. The open vent pipe releases excess pressure and heat from the hot water system in the event of an overheat fault situation.

These systems are also known as ‘gravity fed hot water’ (GFHW) systems. They are not dependent on the incoming mains pressure to deliver hot water at a good flow rate and are best retained if mains pressure is poor. GFHW systems can be further improved with a pump.

NB it is possible to have an open vented hot water system even if the heating system is ‘sealed’.

Advantages

  • They provide good hot water flow rates, even if the incoming mains pressure is poor
  • The flow rates can be improved with a pump
  • Copper cylinders are very cost effective to replace

Disadvantages

  • Old copper tanks with loose insulation covers are very inefficient
  • They take up space
  • They must be situated at a high point in the system
ExpandClose Table
Indirect Vented
Brand Telford Gledhill Telford Gledhill Heatre Sadie
 
Material Copper Copper Stainless Steel Stainless Steel Stainless Steel
Standard sizes 80 litres - 290 litres 55 litres - 273 litres 96 litres - 250 litres 90 - 300 litres 100 - 210 litres
Price range £185 - £330 £174 - £796 £211 - £505 £400 - £600 £587 - £991
Warranty 10 years 10 years 10 years 25 years 25 years
Insulation Foam insulation 35mm insulation Foam insulation £50mm Envirofoam 50mm Polyurethane
ERP rating (A-F) C: 80 - 117 litres
D: 140 - 290 litres
C - all sizes C: 80 - 117 litres
D: 140 - 290 litres
A: 90 litres
B: 120 - 210 litres
C: 250 - 300 litres
B: 100 - 120 litre
C: 150 - 210 litres

Unvented hot water cylinders

These are mains fed hot water tanks with an inner coil but no open vent pipe. Instead an expansion vessel allows heated water to expand.

Unvented hot water cylinders are steel rather than copper in order to withstand the increased pressure place upon them. Unvented cylinders come with a whole host of safety devices which must be fitted and maintained by a qualified engineer.

Advantages

  • When mains pressure is good, they can deliver excellent hot water flow rates
  • They also allow for greater flexibility in siting the unit, i.e. they do not have to be sited at a high point in the system

Disadvantages

  • They are more expensive to install
  • They must be installed and maintained by a qualified engineered
  • There are more components subject to long term maintenance costs
ExpandClose Table
Unvented Steel
Brand Telford Megoflo Glenhill Range (Kingspan) Worcester Vaillant Keston Heatre Sadie
  Tempest Stainless Eco Stainless Lite Tribune xE Greenstore Unistor Standard qSpa Premier Plus
 
Standard sizes 90 litres - 300 litres 70 litres - 300 litres 90litres - 300 litres 120 - 300 litres 90 - 300 litres 120 - 300 litres 90 - 300 litres 100 - 300 litres
Price range £462 - £650 £700 - £1250 £500 - £695 £665 - £920 £725 - £1050 £605 - £936 £1000 - £1400 (including fittings) £571 - £805 (including fittings)
Warranty 30 years 25 years 25 years 25 years 25 years 25 years 25 years 30 years
Insulation High density foam 50mm foam 50mm Envirofoam 50mm Polyurethane 50mm polystsyrene 50mm expanded polystsyrene 50mm Envirofoam 50mm insulation
ERP rating (A-F) C - all sizes B: 70 - 220 litre
C: 250 - 300 litres

A: 90 litres
B: 120 - 210 litres

C: 250 - 300 litres

A: 120 - 150 litres
B: 180 - 250 litres
C: 300 litres
B: 90 litres
C: 120 - 300 litres
A: 120 - 150 litres
B: 180 - 300 litres

A: 90 litres
B: 120 - 210 litres

C: 250 - 300 litres

B: 100 - 120 litres
C: 150 - 300 litres

‘Tank in tank’ cylinders

These tanks operate in a very similar way to indirect cylinders, but rather than passing hot system water via a coil, an inner tank of fresh water sits within an outer tank of primary water. The wall of the inner tank transfers heat from primary to fresh water. The most commonly installed in the same way as an unvented hot water tank.

The main advantage of these tanks is the speed with which it can heat water. In households with a high hot water demand, a tank in tank set up will keep up with multiple showers better than an indirect cylinder or unvented hot water tank.

Advantages

Faster hot water ‘recovery’ times, the unit replaces hot water as quickly as it is used
As hot water is close to being instantaneously produced, the tanks can by much smaller

Disadvantages

  • Expensive to purchase
  • They must be installed and maintained by a qualified engineered
  • There are more components subject to long term maintenance costs

Thermal stores

Many homes built in the 1990s and early 2000s were fitted with ‘Gledhill’ thermal stores. These were over-engineered cylinders that provided both heating and hot water, in conjunction with a boiler. Users experienced a catalogue of problems and they are generally being removed.

Modern thermal stores are used for combing multiple heat sources as well as hot water production. They are commonly used when combining a renewable energy or solid fuel stove with a conventional boiler.

Hot water production is usually via an external heat exchanger, such as those used by combi boilers.

Tips for picking the right cylinder

  • If you have a vented cylinder, you are happy with its performance and you do not need the extra space, it is cost effective to replace it with a better insulated vented copper cylinder
  • If you need the space consider moving your vented cylinder into the loft
  • If you have poor incoming water pressure, definitely stick with your vented cylinder
  • If you are adding bathrooms to your property and need to move the cylinder, consider a unvented cylinder or ‘tank in tank’, providing your water pressure is good

Do you need a cylinder at all?

  • Where water pressure is good, a combination boiler will free up space and provide instantaneous hot water.

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