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Difference Between a Geyser and a Water Heater

I grew up with a geyser in my house. I do, however, imagine that when you are picturing water bursting from the ground, seeing the word “geyser” in relation to a domestic household raises a few questions.

If you have come across different blogs and websites in your research on a hot water system for your home, you may have seen reviews or articles about “water heaters” and “geysers”. The difference in terminology might throw you off, so I will quickly clear it up for you.

A geyser and water heater are the same appliance and heat water in the same way. The difference lies in the regional terminology. Geyser is primarily British, while in the US, it’s called a water heater. The different variations of the appliance also have differing names.

Geysers and Water Heaters Are the Same Appliances

Geysers and water heaters are the same appliances that perform the same function. Both are tank or tankless appliances that heat water to supply to your home.

Rheem 11kW 240V Tankless Electric Water Heater

The appliance is powered by gas (natural or propane), electricity (from the grid or solar), or oil (uncommon and limited models). This power heats the heating element or the burner (with gas), and heat is transferred to the water, which can be distributed through your water pipes.

There are also some hybrid or heat pump models that have been introduced on the market.

The only difference between geysers and water heaters is what they are called—unlike boilers and water heaters, which are also mistaken for the same thing but which are different.

What Determines Which Term is Used?

So, if the only difference is what you call it, how do you know which term to use? Which phrase is most common depends on your location.

In the US, Canada, Australia (where it is also called hot water system/unit), and New Zealand, it is referred to as a water heater. In the US, a geyser is a natural phenomenon and not something you associate with homes.

In other places like the UK, South Africa, and Europe (as far as English-speaking goes), the appliance is called a geyser (pronounced “gee-zer” and not “guy-zer”). These regions use the same word (with the same pronunciation) for both the appliances and spouting hot springs.

Geysers, water heaters and hot water system terms in different countries

Brands might follow their motherland terms or, more likely, these brands may cater to the different term usage according to their regional websites. For example, with Rinnai (founded in Japan), the Australian website calls them water heaters, while they are called geysers for South Africa.

This is the most logical business choice for companies that sell internationally, or it will be the import suppliers that use the most relevant terminology to appeal to the consumer base.

Subcategories Presented Under Different Names

Not only do the primary terms for the appliance vary, but the subcategories are also known by different names.

In a region that calls it a water heater, you will hear talk of a storage tank or tank-style water heater and a tankless water heater.

In comparison, when they talk about geysers, this typically involves reference to storage geysers or an instant geyser.

In addition, there are different ways of referring to the different types. For example, people talk about a “heat pump water heater” but a “heat pump for geysers”.

Some Differentiate the Terms

Sometimes it is not as simple as seeing the appliance called a water heater in New York and a geyser in London.

Confusion can be caused by the use of both terms in the same setting. For example, you may find that the water heater is said to be in the geyser, referring to the heating element.

The nuance will likely be area specific, but you will generally find one or the other. The most important thing to know is that, regardless of whether the name says water heater or geyser, you are looking at the same category of household appliance.


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