Water heating is a thermodynamic process using an energy source to heat water above its initial temperature. Typical domestic uses of hot water are for cooking, cleaning, bathing, and space heating. In industry, both hot water and water heated to steam have many uses.
Domestically, water is traditionally heated in vessels known as water heaters, kettles, cauldrons, pots, or coppers. These metal vessels heat a batch of water but do not produce a continual supply of heated water at a preset temperature. The temperature will vary based on the consumption rate of hot water, use more and the water becomes cooler.
Appliances for providing a more-or-less constant supply of hot water are variously known as water heaters, boilers, heat exchangers, calorifiers, or geysers depending on whether they are heating potable or non-potable water, in domestic or industrial use, their energy source, and in which part of the world they are found. In domestic installations, potable water heated for uses other than space heating is sometimes known as domestic hot water (DHW).
In many countries the most common energy sources for heating water are fossil fuels: natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, oil, or sometimes solid fuels. These fuels may be consumed directly or by the use of electricity (which may derive from any of the above fuels or from nuclear or renewable sources). Alternative energy such as solar energy, heat pumps, hot water heat recycling, and sometimes geothermal heating, may also be used as available, usually in combination with backup systems supplied by gas, oil or electricity.
In some countries district heating is a major source of water heating. This is especially the case in Scandinavia. District heating systems make it possible to supply all of the energy for water heating as well as space heating from waste heat from industries, power plants, incinerators, geothermal heating, and central solar heating. The actual heating of the tap water is performed in heat exchangers at the consumers’ premises. Generally the consumer needs no backup system due to the very high availability of district heating systems.