For heating, cooling, and hot water systems down under, many Australians turn to Rinnai for reliable home appliances and products. Beyond their solar hot water systems, most people are familiar with the Rinnai Corporation for:
- Name-brand recognition around the world
- Widespread availability throughout Australia
- And diverse range of product lines
So are Rinnai solar hot water heaters worth it?
With international name recognition and systems available in nearly every Australian city, it is hard to ignore Rinnai Solar hot water heaters as a viable alternative to traditional home systems. In fact, the brand’s presence has even landed Rinnai’s evacuated tube solar hot water systems as one of the best solar hot water systems on the market in our yearly review.
When it really comes down to an investment, however, it is tough to recommend a Rinnai Solar hot water system as the absolute best possible solution for your home improvement project.
Solar hot water systems are designed to lower carbon emissions and mitigate utility bills. While Rinnai’s products are able to accomplish this for some home and business owners, many Australians have been left seeking a new alternative earlier than expected from unreliable product parts or shoddy installations.
So is Rinnai the best solar hot water system for your situation?
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Rinnai Corporation Company Background
Rinnai Corporation is one of the largest worldwide suppliers of energy-efficient appliances and technologies. The company is based in Nagoya, Japan, where it holds the distinction as the country’s largest gas kitchen appliance manufacturer.
Rinnai Australia is one of the company’s longest-standing international expansions, with operations down under since 1970. With systems fit for any sun condition on the planet, Rinnai currently offers their products in other markets around the globe such as the United States, New Zealand, Brazil, Korea, Indonesia, and Italy.
Since 2006, Rinnai has worked specifically with Australian partners to develop green energy products such as solar hot water heaters. Since then, the company has rapidly expanded its solar hot water market share in Australia, creating new domestic manufacturing facilities and adding jobs to the workforce.
Rinnai Solar Hot Water Product Ranges
Rinnai solar hot water heaters can be broken down into 3 distinct product categories based on the type of energy that is used to power the system.
Using purely solar energy, Rinnai takes advantage of both solar PV and solar thermal power systems in order to heat a building’s water with nothing but the power of the sun. Beyond this, Rinnai solar hot water systems can be powered with a gas booster to heat the available water supply through the absence of solar light or heat.
Rinnai Corporation’s most popular solar hot water heating systems are found within their Sunmaster Range of products. The Sunmaster range uses a variety of collection and storage options to harness the thermal energy of the sun to run your home’s hot water systems.
Within each product, there are a few different tank capacity options to best fit your home’s hot water demand, weather conditions, and system performance. Electric and gas boosted systems are available and can be installed to add more reliable access to electricity throughout the entire calendar year.
Thermal solar energy – Sunmaster systems harness thermal solar energy from the heat of the sun, which means that they do not require direct sunlight to heat your home’s water supply. Although the solar thermal collectors will perform best in direct sunlight conditions, the Sunmaster range is designed to suit homes and areas with excessive shade or cloud coverage.
Choice of solar collectors – Within the Sunmaster Range, customers have their choice between evacuated tube and flat plate solar collectors. While both systems have their pros and cons, evacuated tube solar collectors are generally more efficient in a variety of conditions, and come with higher investment costs.
Close coupled and modular options – To help you fit the physical constraints of your property, the Sunmaster Range features solar hot water systems with standalone water tanks or all-in-one designs. Close coupled systems allow up to 330 liters of highly efficient hot water storage to be placed directly on your roof, whereas standalone tanks can be fitted for any property’s water demands.
Second, Rinnai Australia sells a line of “Prestige Range” solar hot water systems that feature many of the same technologies and customizations as the Sunmaster Range. Here, the key differences between the two product lines are the quality of the tank materials, investment costs, and warranty periods.
Much like the Sunmaster Range, Prestige Range Rinnai solar hot water systems are available with standalone water tanks and within close-coupled rooftop systems. Flat plate and evacuated tube collectors are available as well, with electric or gas boosts to provide reliable hot water during low solar energy production periods.
Stainless steel tanks – Prestige range systems come equipped with a stainless steel tank, which is designed to be more durable and longer-lasting than the Sunmaster Range’s enamel tank. The stainless steel tanks are manufactured in Australia, with longer warranty periods than any other part of a Rinnai solar hot water system, besides the collectors.
Lack of a sacrificial anode – While sacrificial anodes help protect more cost-effective tank materials against potential damage, they also tend to increase upkeep and maintenance costs. Rinnai’s Prestige range stainless steel tanks do not have a sacrificial anode and thus save on maintenance costs through the lifetime of a system.
Return on investment – Speaking of the lifetime of a system, it is pretty clear that the Prestige Range of Rinnai solar hot water systems has the highest return on investment for the value. The Prestige system’s premium parts come with extended warranty periods, which makes them less risky for wise investors seeking continuous access to clean energy sourced hot water.
Solar Gas Boosters
In coldest parts of Australia (think Tassie or the Snowies), a boosting system is recommended for solar hot water heaters in order to maintain year-round access to hot water. With Rinnai’s solar gas boosters, customers can choose from a few different capacity gas boosters that are specifically designed to be incorporated with existing solar hot water systems.
Rinnai solar gas boosters work well with both the Prestige and Sunmaster ranges of hot water systems, with capacities rated for single bathroom and multi bathroom homes and buildings.
Internal and external models – Rinnai always seems to have the customer in mind with their variety of product options. The manufacturer sells specific internal and external solar gas boosters to best fit indoor and outdoor spaces and conditions. While the internal model is small and sleek, the external design is durable against tough Australian weather conditions.
Continuous flow system – With Rinnai’s heat exchanger technology, solar gas boosted system owners will never run out of hot water again. The continuous flow system is suitable for low-flow and all kinds of appliances and can be set for smart solar operating modes to optimize costs and energy use.
12-year warranty – While many people may debate whether or not a solar gas booster is worth it, all of Rinnai’s systems come with a 12-year warranty to help sweeten the deal. With over a decades worth of promised performance, one of Rinnai’s solar gas boosters can be a great long-term addition to any solar hot water system.
Real Accounts In the Wild (with Screenshots)
So what are people saying about Rinnai solar hot water systems? Unfortunately, not a lot of good things. Although we are well aware that unhappy customers are more likely to leave online reviews than satisfied buyers, the percentage of negative experiences is very hard to ignore for Rinnai solar hot water heaters.
At the time of writing, on ProductReview.com.au:
- the Rinnai Prestige is rated at 1.9 out of 5 stars
- the Sunmaster Range has a 1.6 out of 5 stars
- and Gas Booster Systems have a 1.6 out of a 5-star rating
Here are some examples:
In this first review for a solar gas boosted system, user “Lynda” titles her post with a word few business owners would like to hear, ‘Nightmare.’ While this homeowner did not purchase the unit themselves, the 5-year-old hot water heating system seems to already have a bit of a storied history.
With two fixes for the same part in less than half of a decade, it is easy to understand the frustration that this customer feels. While some parts and labor may be covered by warranty, it seems that some costs may be tough to avoid overall.
Next, this 1-star review from user “Bruce D.” points out a few operating concerns of his evacuated tube system. Not only does the title point out a “terrible noise when using hot water,” the review indicates that some parts have become damaged and are potentially dangerous after only just 8 months.
While it is tough to put the blame directly on the manufacturer or the installation provider, the only thing we know for certain is that the customer is unhappy, despite giving the Rinnai a 5 out of 5 rating for water heating speed.
For those wondering whether or not to give a Rinnai solar hot water system a shot, perhaps you can learn something from “Rachael E.” who has seen 2 systems fail in under a decade. After the first system failed under warranty after four and a half years, this reviewer was forced to pay out of pocket for a replacement which ended with the same fate.
In her predicament, this unsatisfied customer has criticized the company’s ability to help and seems to feel very strongly about her “awful & expensive experience” of which would not be recommended to another.
Performance notes: Rinnai vs. Other Solar Hot Water Heaters
If a new and improved Rinnai system is still in your consideration, here are a few things to consider when weighing it against other options:
Water Tank Material, Size, and Location
Rinnai offers both premium and budget-friendly water tank material options for solar hot water systems. While some companies specialize in one material, Rinnai has water tanks that can be suitable for any budget.
Although they do not offer as many commercial and industrial options, Rinnai supplies a few suitable residential tank capacity options for their solar hot water heating systems. With both ground-mounted and roof-mounted systems available, Rinnai also allows some installation flexibility.
Solar Energy Collectors
Without a doubt, our favorite part about a Rinnai solar hot water system is the highly efficient solar collector. While flat plate collectors are highly efficient and budget-friendly, the company’s 15 year warrantied evacuated tube solar collectors make it possible to quickly heat large reserves of water. If your budget allows, we recommend an evacuated tube system.
Unfortunately, one thing that is often overlooked when purchasing a hot water system is the operating noise of the appliances. It is incredibly difficult to find exact figures on Rinnai operating noises, which is sort of a red flag in the heating and cooling industry. As many reviews have noted the system’s loud operating levels, constant disturbances, and ongoing noises may be less than ideal for your family, guests, and neighbors.
Customers can expect that a well-maintained Rinnai solar hot water system will last up to 20 years, which is a pretty average system lifespan compared to other brands. Although all of the parts are warrantied for shorter duration periods, two decades of solar energy operation typically makes most solar hot water systems worth it for ongoing savings.
While all electronics are bound to have some malfunctions from time to time, the expected system lifespan of a Rinnai solar hot water heater is somewhat limited due to average customer experiences. We strongly suggest using a reputable local installer in order to ensure a long and efficient operating life for any solar hot water system.
In terms of overall value, it is difficult to say that Rinnai Solar hot water systems are going to be worth the asking price. With a track record of issues, and repair costs often not covered under warranty, homeowners run the risk of expensive repairs and devastating full system replacements.
Of course, a well-maintained Rinnai solar hot water system is a very efficient and cost-effective way to heat up the water in your home. If you can afford the asking price and regular maintenance, then Rinnai solar hot water systems can still be a valuable long-term solution for sustainable hot water heating.
Warranty, Customer Service, and Support
Rinnai solar hot water systems come standard with a 1-year “reasonable labor” warranty. However, after the installation of a system, Rianni solar hot water owners have 90 days to register their warranty on the company’s website. By doing so, the labor warranty is extended to a 5 year period.
Part for part, all of Rinnai’s appliances come with individually specific product warranties, each with coverage periods of various durations on tanks, heat exchangers, and other parts of the system. In general, part warranty periods are between 5 and 12 years for the major components of a Rinnai solar hot water system.
In terms of customer service, it is hard to say exactly how well Riannai staff members handle situations when things go wrong. This is especially true as most of Rinnai Australia’s online, public replies to negative feedback contain not much more than a copy and pasted message stating that they have sent a private message to discuss the matter further.
Although the company has answered a few of their customer’s questions in the forum area, there are also signs of failure to follow up in repeated comments looking for responses. Knowing this, it seems that while Rinnai is likely to have the resources and supplies to help all of its international customers, system owners seeking action may be required to follow up with local representatives several times before a problem is solved.
Frequently Asked Questions
To wrap things up, here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Rinnai solar hot water systems.
Is Rinnai a good solar water heater?
When it is operational, a Rinnai solar hot water heater can generally be considered a good water heater. While they may not have the best reputation for reliability, Rinnai systems are powerful and efficient enough to handle nearly any home’s hot water demand.
Which is better, Rinnai or Rheem?
Although the responses to this vary, our experiences with Rinnai solar hot water heaters lead us to believe that better options may be available from brands such as Rheem, Chromagen, Neopower, and more. However, as budgets and individual circumstances come into play, Rinnai systems may be cheaper and easier to install.
Are Rinnai solar hot water systems worth it?
Rinnai solar hot water systems are worth it for system owners who are ready to perform annual checks and take action when things go wrong. When looking strictly at prices, Rinnai solar hot water systems should be considered among other budget-friendly options during a home improvement.
When it comes to heating your home’s hot water, there are many different methods that can be used. While we love solar-powered hot water, Rinnai’s reputation for unreliable systems makes it hard to recommend their products 100% of the time. While Rinnai solar hot water heaters may work great for some homeowners, we encourage you to explore your options when investing in your property’s renewable energy.