Land yourself in some hot water!

Gas Geysers

Traditional electric geysers have always been the go-to choice for most South Africans when building their homes. Back in the day, electricity was cheap and water was plentiful, but these days both utilities are quite expensive and in short supply!

Gas geysers, or more accurately, gas water heaters, are an obvious solution that would help reduce consumption of both water and electricity, but how do they work and what is involved in converting to gas?

elec geyser
A Traditional Electric Water Storage Geyser

Gas Water Heater Types:

Gas geysers can be split into 3 major groups, namely Gas powered geysers with a large storage tank for hot water, Simple Instant gas water heaters and Fan Forced instant gas water heaters.

Storage Tank Gas Geysers:

Gas geysers with storage tanks, are very rarely used in South Africa, and the argument could be made that they are quite inefficient, since they can potentially use quite a lot of gas, simply keeping the hot water in storage at temperature. These units are far more popular in European countries where natural gas is abundant and supplied via pipelines to users’ homes.

Simple Instant Gas Water Heaters:

These units are fantastic for their simplicity and cost effectiveness. Unlike the old gas water heaters we all know from ‘the farm’, which worked with an impossible to light pilot flame and kept going off half way through your shower – these modern systems use battery powered electronic ignition and a high intensity, controlled gas flame to heat water as it passes through the unit. The great thing about them is that they only operate while the tap is open, and once the tap is closed it shuts down completely. Now would be a good time to take another sip of coffee to wake up the grey matter, because here comes the technical explanation of how these units actually work –

When a hot water tap is opened, water flows into the unit via its cold water inlet. The pressure of the water entering the unit pushes against a rubber diaphragm inside a brass casing. The diaphragm in turn then pushes onto a disk with a long pin attached to the back of it. The movement of this pin has 2 functions, firstly it opens the gas flow to the pilot flame (where fitted, not all units use a pilot flame) and secondly it operates an electronic switch which tells the unit that water is flowing, gas is coming through and it’s time to ignite. The small electronic controller then starts firing the electronic ignitors or sparkers which ignites the pilot flame. Although some units no longer use a pilot flame and will ignite the main burner straight away. Once the pilot is lit, the controller will open the main gas solenoid valve and allow gas to flow up through the main burners, which would then be ignited by the pilot flame (or ignitors if no pilot flame is used). All of this takes about 1 to 3 seconds. With the main burners lit, the water flowing through the unit passes through a highly efficient heat exchange unit above the burners, which allows the water to heat up to temperature, for most units this will give you a temperature increase of up to 45 degrees above your input temperature, more than enough for a nice hot shower.

A Simple, Natural Draft gas water heater

When the tap is closed, pressure on the diaphragm disappears and the entire unit shuts down, the main burners are shut off, the pilot flame is extinguished, the electronics shut down – the whole unit simply goes to sleep, ready for the next time someone opens a tap.

All of the units we carry are fitted with a host of safety devices including flame failure devices, which shut of the gas supply should a sudden gust of wind extinguish the flame; temperature sensors to prevent overheating or damage if water is frozen inside the unit; and sensors which shut the system down should it detect any other faults on the unit.

Although the benefits of these systems are many, there are a few minor drawbacks. Because the units are ‘switched on’ by water pressure, they require a minimum water pressure of around 1 Bar in order to work properly. We have had systems running on far lower pressures than that, but it is important to understand that this can cause problems if not set up properly.

Another oddity with these systems is that our usual motto of going for overkill, would not work for these geysers. Gas water heaters are rated in liters per minute, and we have a natural tendency to believe that bigger is better, but as I said, with these systems that won’t work. If for example you connected a 16L/min water heater to a single small basin, even opening the hot water tap fully, may not generate enough water flow for the unit to switch on and stay on. At best it might turn on and as the water pressure stabilizes, the drop in pressure will cause it to switch off again. Always make sure you choose a suitably sized unit for your application.

The final thing to consider with these units is that they are not recommended for use with mixer taps. The cold water side of the mixer taps, tend to create back-pressure on the hot water side, when both hot and cold taps are open. Since the units run on water pressure, this causes them to shut down if the back pressure becomes too great. The way to work around this is to set the water heater’s output temperature so that it is exactly the temperature required for your shower or whatever application you may have. So when you have a shower, you ONLY open the hot water tap. In a way this adds to the efficiency of the unit, since you are not using fuel and energy to heat up water, which you are just going to cool down again by adding cold water to the mix.

The simplicity and low cost of these units make them the perfect choice for holiday homes, AirBnB Cottages, granny flats or even campers, provided there is sufficient water pressure.

The Inner Workings of a Natural Draft Gas Water heater

Fan Forced Instant Gas Water Heaters:

The fan forced systems are a little different and generally have much higher output ratings than the normal diaphragm operated systems (20L/min+). Firstly, these units generally work on water flow rather than pressure, which means that they are far more tolerant of mixer taps and lower water pressures and flow rates. Designed to be a complete replacement for a family home’s electric geyser, these larger units are designed to cope with small water flows, such as a single basin, but still be powerful enough to supply hot water to 2 or even more showers at once.

The system uses a water flow sensor to detect when a tap has been opened, and based on the amount of water flow, it’s computer controller decides exactly how much gas to use. Some units even have staged burners, so only a section of the main burner would be lit if only a small amount of water is being drawn. The computer controller also has a preset temperature to which it will heat the water, so your water comes out at the same temperature every day regardless of ambient conditions.

vecpower water heater
Vec Power’s Range of Fan Forced Gas Water Heaters

To increase the efficiency of the systems, they are fitted with an air fan, which blows air into the burners to supply them with even more oxygen and driving the hot air through the heat exchange unit for better heat transfer to the water. The fan works very much like a turbo-charger on a car, allowing a more efficient burn by feeding the ‘engine’ with more usable air.

The drawbacks of these systems are very few, and they work extremely well, but they are slightly more expensive to buy than the natural draft gas water heaters. Their installation can also be slightly more complicated in that they do require an electrical connection for the computer controller and the fan unit. However, it is important to note, this is not a high current electrical connection and a normal plug socket is more than adequate. The unit only draws electrical power while it is operating, that is to say, it only draws electrical power while a hot water tap is open – and even then it only draws the same current as a 40W light bulb.

Another major benefit of some Fan Forced systems is that some of these units, like the Paloma range of gas water heaters, are fitted with water temperature sensors on their inputs. What this means is that you could install one in series with a solar geyser to reduce your gas and electricity consumption for the ultimate ‘green’, energy efficient solution. By installing the Paloma water heater, after your solar geyser, water flowing from the solar geyser will enter your gas water heater first. If the temperature sensor detects that the input water is already hot enough, the gas water heater will simply allow the water to flow through it and straight to the tap. If however, early in the morning for example, the water from the solar geyser is not quite hot enough, the gas water heater will detect this and ignite itself, to ensure you still get your hot water inside the house.


We always recommend that you contact an SAQCC Registered Gas installer first, before planning your installation. The gas installer will be able to choose the best location for installing your gas water heater, which is important, because your plumber would then have to lay the water pipes to that location for connection to the water heater.

All that is required is a cold water supply to the unit, and a hot water line back into your water system. For fan-forced systems, an electrical connection may also need to be installed.

Take the time to read our articles on the website with regards to Planning a Legal gas installation as this will help you avoid disappointments later on.

water heater
A Typical Gas Geyser Installation

How does this translate into savings?

Lets deal with the energy savings first – Obviously a hot water storage geyser wastes tonnes of energy, since it constantly has to switch on high wattage electric elements to keep the water in the storage tank at temperature. Gas water heaters ONLY use energy while the tap is open, so over the span of a month, it already uses far less energy than any hot water storage system. Further savings come from the efficiency of the systems. LPG has an extremely high calorific value, or translated into English, even a small amount of gas, has a very large amount of energy stored in it, which means not very much gas gets used to heat the water. For example, even the larger gas water heaters running at absolute maximum capacity (which would almost never be the case) will use around 1.2 to 1.5 KG of LPG per hour of running time. Given that you are very rarely going to be running your hot water taps for hours at a time, this translates to very frugal gas consumption.

On the water side, the savings are very much dependent on the location of your geyser. When you wake up in the morning, you have hot water in your geyser, but all the water inside your hot water pipe between the geyser and the tap is ice cold. This is why it takes a while for the water to get hot when you first open the tap – all that cold water has to come out first. Because gas geysers are so compact and comparatively cheap, it is much easier to install them very close to the taps where the hot water is actually being used. By reducing the amount of ‘pipe’ between the geyser and the tap, you are also minimizing the amount of cold water that gets wasted before the hot water reaches the tap. We would normally recommend installing a larger fan forced unit close to the bathrooms of your house, and then installing a second small unit, like a 6L/min water heater close to the kitchen to supply the sink. This means you minimize your ‘cold water losses’ by reducing the amount of pipework as much as possible, and even installing these 2 units (a 20L/min fan forced & 6L/min simple), would still cost less than a 250L conventional electric geyser, and less than half the price of a similarly sized solar geyser.*

In Conclusion –

There has never been a better time to switch your hot water supply to gas, and if you already have a solar geyser, why not increase its efficiency even further by connecting a Paloma gas geyser to its outputs and disconnecting its electric element? Gas water heaters are one of the most cost effective ways of providing hot water to your home, in an energy efficient way. Don’t take our word for it either! We are currently working with several developers who are building housing complexes in Paarl and Kenilworth, all running gas water heaters!**

Pop into our Retreat Mega-store and chat to our sales staff about your requirements; we can send our technician out to you for a free quote on installing your gas water heaters.

If you have questions about gas water heaters, or if you have a gas water heater, leave your comments below, and remember to click subscribe to stay updated with the latest news from Eddlesgas.


In keeping with our policy of only stocking quality products we truly believe in, we proudly stock Gas Water Heaters and spares from the following manufacturers:



Have a look at some of the gas water heaters we stock, or contact us with your requirements.



* Price comparisons based on a 20Lt/min Kwikot gas water heater AND 6Lt/min Safegas water heater – vs- a Kwikot 250L electric geyser OR Kwikot Solar geyser.

** The development in Paarl comprised over a hundred 20L/min Kwikot water heaters. The development in Kenilworth will be using a solar geyser connected in series with Paloma gas water heaters.



10 thoughts on “Land yourself in some hot water!

  1. Is it recommenced to connect all the gas geysers and stove to one cylinder?

    1. Hi Tumelo,
      The simple answer is yes. One cylinder means less maintenance on your system and only ONE storage location of gas. In practice it is not always the case however. For example if your appliances are very far apart, or if there is no practical path from the cylinder location to the appliance, it may be required to have 2 or more independent installations.

      Another factor to consider would be your cylinder sizes and the gas consumption of your various appliances. Depending on questions such as whether there is a 2-stage regulator system in place or the distances between appliances and cylinders as compared to their individual gas consumption rates, it may also be required to run independent installations rather than one central cylinder supplying all the appliances.

      At the end of the day, do the safe and responsible thing – ask a qualified SAQCC Gas Registered installer to inspect the site and give their recommendation for your unique requirements, since there is unfortunately no “once size fits all” solution.

  2. Hi. We bought a house with 3 bathrooms and kitchen. Currently there is one gas geyser installed to run all the hot water. Judging from the plumbing around this gas geyser, it would appear that it replaced the original electric geyser installation. We have very low and variable municipal pressure and often it is not enough to fire up the gas geyser when more than one tap is open. From my reading, I gathered that the obvious solution would be to install separate gas geysers for the individual bathrooms. It is a face brick house and rerouting plumbing lines is not an economical option. Would it be an idea to install a small 50 liter electric geyser between the gas geyser and house hot water lines. In this way, the gas geyser will supply hot water to the electric geyser which will primarily serve as a “reservoir”, supplying constant hot water to the various bathrooms. My thinking with this arrangement, is that the hot water supply to individual bathrooms will be consistent and not subject to/interrupted by the pressure issues experienced currently.
    Can this be a workable option to address the inconsistent hot water supply to the individual bathrooms?

    1. Hi Gerda, Thanks for getting in touch and giving us a real life example of what often happens with gas geysers these days. Municipal pressures can fluctuate wildly! Here at our Retreat branch we have measured anything from 3 bar to 11 bar of water pressure! This causes huge problems when running a pressure sensitive gas geyser that runs on a traditional pressure diaphragm system.
      Your solution of installing a small electric geyser in-line with the gas geyser, should solve the problem in terms of always having reliable access to hot water, however, it will be a very inefficient system, since you are heating water with the gas, then keeping it hot with electricity even when you’re not using it. Even a small electric geyser wastes a lot of energy simply keeping water warm all day, when you only really need hot water for a few minutes every day.
      Luckily there are a couple of solutions that can even be cheaper than installing the small electric geyser.
      Option 1 involves simply adjusting the water flow on your geyser. By turning DOWN the water flow on the geyser’s controls (sometimes labled temperature), you will increase the temperature of your water coming out, but this has a knock-on effect of increasing the water pressure inside the geyser, which can give it just enough to come on and stay on. You may need to turn down your gas flame control to compensate for the higher temperatures.
      Option 2 would be to replace your current gas geyser with a Zero Start unit. Zero Start geysers do NOT rely on water pressure to activate them, they use a small turbine in the water line to detect water flow, and as long as water is flowing, they will switch on and operate regardless of how low that pressure might be.
      The third and final option would be to upgrade your geyser to a fan forced, computer controlled unit like the Paloma range, VEC Power and 20L Kwikot. These units not only produce more hot water per minute than the smaller natural draft geysers, but they are computer controlled to give you constant temperature hot water regardless of ambient conditions, incoming water temperature, flow or pressure. These units are designed to give you as much or as little water at your pre-set temperature as you could ever want. The electric fan effectively acts like a ‘turbo charger’ for the burners, making it even more efficient. Fan forced units also work on water flow rather than pressure so not only will the work in low pressure environments, or areas with fluctuating pressure, they will also work with mixer taps! The only disadvantage of theses systems is that they do require an electrical connection for the fan and computers to work, however, they only use electricity whilst they are actually in operation. They are also a bit more expensive to buy, but are usually built to a much higher standard than most of the natural draft geysers and are guaranteed to last much longer.
      We hope this helps you solve your hot water issues, and please let us know if there is more that we can do to help!
      Also keep in mind that we now have a second-hand goods store at our Retreat branch called Scootie’s Seconds that might be able to buy in your geyser should you choose to replace it.

  3. I have an unspecified make of gas geyser, and find that the flow is no longer sufficiently sensed as being sufficient for the geyser to activate. Is there any way to adjust the sensor to allow for a lower flow and still activate the geyser?

    1. Hi Dave,

      Most geysers do not work on water flow, they work on pressure and in certain cases it is possible to have lots of water flow, but very low pressure. I suspect that changes in municipal pressure during the drought is probably what is causing your problems, as we have had LOADS of similar issues with pressure dependent geysers lately.

      The short answer to your question is, no, there is no setting on the geyser to make it more sensitive to pressure and make it switch on more reliably when you open your taps. However, there are a couple of things we can try to still get it to work.

      Option 1: On the front of your geyser there will most likely be 2 controls knobs. One is usually labeled gas, or flame – which obviously controls the size of the gas flame in the geyser. The other is either labeled water or sometimes temperature. This knob controls the rate of flow of water through the geyser by causing a restriction inside the water section of the geyser. If you turn that knob to restrict the water flow more it has 2 effects. By slowing down your water flow through the geyser the water temperature increases quite a lot since it spends more time in the heat exchange, BUT crucially it has a knock-on effect of increasing the water pressure inside the water section of your geyser, thereby making it more likely for the geyser to come on, and stay on. Just be aware that this will obviously reduce your water flow at your tap and has a far greater effect on the water temperature than the gas flame size. Also make sure that you open your taps fully to reduce back-pressure on the hot water lines.

      Option 2: Check and make 100% sure that your geyser’s pressure diaphragm has no leaks or cracks in it. To do this you may need to open the water section of the geyser, which is the “UFO shaped” brass capsule at the bottom of the geyser, near your cold water inlet. The rubber diaphragm inside that capsule needs to be 100% watertight in order to hold pressure.

      Option 3: As a last resort, you may need to consider making some changes to your plumbing. The least invasive option would probably be to add a pressure boost pump to your water main in order to boost your overall water pressure. Alternatively, you can try to increase the diameter of the water pipe that feeds your geyser. In some cases, especially with larger geysers, they can actually REQUIRE that you install the geyser with a full 22mm water pipe to ensure sufficient flow and pressure at the geyser.

      If however, you have a geyser with an electronic sensor, or impeller that detects flow, none of the above would apply. In this case the only thing you could do would be to either replace the impeller and/or sensor, or run a descaling agent through the geyser to try and clean any build-ups inside the geyser as these can interfere with the operation of the impellers that detect your water flow.

      Hope all of this helps!

  4. Good day.
    My question. Were do u place the Gas Geysers, i have a upstairs bathroom.

    1. Hi Jan, Thanks for the question!

      The regulations are fairly easy when it comes to placement of the appliance itself. It must be mounted against a non-combustible surface and at least 1.4m above the ground and at least 1m away from the LPG cylinders. If required, a flue should be installed on the exhaust vent of the geyser, but MUST go straight up for at least 600mm before turning. This is to prevent accidentally triggering the over-heat safety switch, which would cause the geyser to shut down.

      We CAN NOT recommend strongly enough that your geyser should be installed outdoors. Although you can legally install it indoors, there are a number of ventilation requirements that need to be seen to. The reason for this is that the exhaust gasses from the geyser are actually not that dangerous. Far more dangerous is the rate at which these geysers consume the oxygen in a room. If installed in an enclosed space the size of a small bathroom, a 12L gas geyser can consume ALL the breathable oxygen from that room in 5-10 minutes, causing a serious asphyxiation hazard to anyone inside.

      Other than that, we always try to install the geysers as close to the end point as possible. In other words, if your main use of hot water is the bathroom, we would install as close to that bathroom as possible, to minimize the amount of wasted cold water in the pipes before the hot water comes through. If your bathroom is upstairs, you do not need to install the geyser high up on the wall though, to make servicing easier, the geyser can still be installed at 1.4m above the ground since they do not reduce the water pressure flowing through them by much.

  5. Hello
    My question is
    Ive recently had an Atlas 20l NON forced fan gas gesyer installed. Works Great, gas consumption however is questionable. 4 adults in the house, total shower time is about an hour a day. 48kg cylinder lasts about 30 days, give or take a day or 2. Gas/flame knob is 1 notch away from minimum, water temp gets to 46 degrees, which is perfect..doing the math of 30 days divided by 48kg’s = 1.6kgs per day consumption.
    would a forced fan geyser such as a paloma be more gas efficient, as it regulates the amount of “burners” required to heat the water. thereby consuming less gas?
    the manual of said geyser says it consumes 1.9 kg/h, i assume thats a max gas flow. mine is almost at min. Any suggestions to improve gas consumption.

    1. Hi Mark,

      The consumption you are describing is pretty typical for your geyser. The 1.9kg/h quoted in the manual is in deed for the max gas flow setting, however, given the size of the burner in the 20L models, the difference in consumption between max and min flow is not massive, so 1.6kg/h is not too far out from what I would expect.

      In our experience, when you get to the larger sizes of geysers, the fan forced units are most definitely more efficient, however, there are MANY external factors that may have an effect on gas consumption meaning that upgrading your current unit to a fan forced one, may not give a significant saving over your current consumption. In fact the easiest way for you to create a saving in your gas consumption may be to use a smaller unit! If the unit is only really being used on taps and running a shower, you may be better off with an 11/12L unit rather than the 20L/min. Your average shower only draws around 6-8L/min so as long as you are not running multiple showers at the same time, a smaller unit would still be able to supply decent flow. An average 11L water heater would run at around 1.6kg/h on max, and closer to 1kg/h on a lower setting.

      The alternative, is what we would call the ultimate set-up, and is in fact what I personally run in my house. I have a solar geyser on my roof, with the electric element disconnected. This geyser is then plumbed in series with a Paloma 20L/min fan forced unit. If the water from the solar geyser is hot enough, the gas geyser simply allows the water to flow through without ever coming on. If the solar geyser’s water temperature drops slightly, the gas geyser only comes on enough to boost the temperature slightly to give me a nice constant temperature. Obviously this system is a lot more efficient in summer, but even now in the winter, with 4 people in my house we only use a 19kg cylinder per month, and in fact most months it is less than that. Yes the initial set-up costs are quite expensive, but without a doubt this has to be the cheapest way of heating water in your home.

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