Do Apartments Have Individual Water Heaters?

Hot water is a luxury that apartment renters can’t live without. Odds are that the source of your apartment’s hot water is coming from a hot water heater. You may have some questions though and that’s where we can help.

Having an individual water heater is ideal because you don’t have to worry about sharing it with some folks who may like taking extra long showers, causing your hot water to run out.

How to check if an apartment has an individual water heater

If you want to verify an apartment’s water hero situation the easiest thing to do is to ask the landlord. But if you’re already inside the apartment, there’s a couple places to check to see where your water heater is located.

  1. Check inside each closet
  2. Check basement and other indoor common areas
  3. When in doubt, ask the landlord

The key thing to note is that if you’re in a single home or small multifamily apartment, you will have access to the hot water tank.

Below is an example of what typical apartment individual water heaters look like:

typical apartment water heater

Apartments that share a water heater

Rachel and I were landlords for 3 multifamily apartment buildings, each with 3 units in them. Two of the buildings were newer rehabs where each unit had its own individual water heater. Our 3rd building had a single shared water heater (that was huge).

At first we were concerned that this shared water heater would cause people to complain about not having hot water at times. Since we lived there too at the time we were able to confirm that there were never any instances of no hot water in apartment complaints from us or our tenants.

Of course your experience can vary. There’s so many variables when it comes to water heaters and usage, but this was our experience being there for 2 years.

Below is an image of a 100 gallon water heater similar to the one we had in our multifamily 3-apartment building. The 100 gallon capacity was perfect for 3 different apartments to share and nobody complained about not having enough hot water.

shared 100 gallon apartment water heater

How does hot water get into the apartment?

Water always comes into the building from a pipe in the ground. That pipe has a single meter attached to it that measures how much water flows through it.

The water meter lets the city/water supplier know how much to charge the property owner for water usage. The water meter cannot tell how much water each specific unit us using, just the entire building. This is why apartment renters usually pay either $0 or a flat rate for their water usage.

Once the water passes the meter it splits off to the water heating element(s). Like we mentioned, this can be large water heaters, or tankless solutions.

From there the water goes into your apartment unit and to your various fixtures such as the kitchen sink, bathroom sink, bathtub/shower head, etc.

Do large apartment complexes have individual water heaters?

Generally, large apartment complexes have commercial water heating solutions and not individual water heaters. This is similar to what hotels have, so your hot water should be pretty good the majority of the time.

Modern large apartment complexes use either fancy tankless instant hot water heating systems or multiple large water heaters


How can I tell if I’m paying to run my water heater?

To see if you’re electric bill includes your water heater you need to check your electrical panel for a breaker labeled water heater or something similar. Even if it’s a gas water heater, there’s probably a breaker switch on the electrical panel for it.

While you’re at it, if you are still suspicious, check out the other switches on your panel to see if you are paying for public lights or anything else that you shouldn’t be paying for.

How can I tell if I’m paying for my neighbor’s hot water?

To see if you’re paying to heat your neighbor’s water, try turning off your electrical panel’s breaker with the water heater label and see if anyone complains. If you find out that you are paying to heat your neighbor’s water you need to bring it up to your landlord or management company.

How does an apartment keep track of water use if all the units share the same water heater?

Apartments can’t accurately keep track of individual tenant water usage. This is because the water comes through a single water line and meter to the building. There really isn’t a good way to manage the usage once the water gets into the building- that would be a waste of time and money.

For this reason renters are typically not charged for water, or it is a flat rate fee. Heating the water is a different story though.

Is my apartment water heater gas or electric?

A gas water heater will have a vent/exhaust pipe coming out of the top, this could be metal or pvc pipe. A gas water heater also will have a gas line entering it at the bottom of the tank. If you don’t see these two things then it should be electric.

About Chad & Rachel

Rachel and Chad have over 17 years of experience as both renters and landlords. They were tenants in 7 different apartments before becoming landlords of 9 apartments in Chicago. Renting apartments from landlords and being landlords themselves have helped them gain the knowledge that they want to share with renters. Whether you are at the beginning of your rental journey or in the middle of your lease and dealing with complex apartment issues, we are happy to help where we can. Read more about Rachel and Chad, or send a message using this contact form.

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