Restaurant Water Heaters Buyers' Guide

Restaurant Water Heater

For tasks ranging from sanitizing dishes to reheating chilled foods, an ample supply of hot water is an essential resource in every kitchen. That's why choosing the right restaurant water heater is an important consideration to make whether you're outfitting a high-temp commercial dishwasher or building a custom bain marie system. Commercial water heaters come in two main types, dishwasher booster heaters, and heaters that mount underneath sinks and similar vessels.

Dishwasher Booster Heaters

High-temperature commercial dishmachines rely on booster heaters to bring wash and rinse water up to the effective temperatures, 150 and 180 degrees F respectively. These units may replace failed equipment or be a necessary component to a dishwasher that didn't include one from the factory. No matter your reason for buying, the booster heater you need will be determined primarily by the size of your dishwasher.

Booster heaters are sized according to the kilowatt (kW) rating of their heating elements. A higher kilowatt rating means that a booster heater can heat more water in a shorter period of time. There is no quick rule-of-thumb for sizing a booster heater to your dish machine, but Hatco has provided a booster heater sizing chart listing dozens of the most popular dish machines and which of its booster heaters are compatible with them.

Sink-Mounted Water Heaters

The second type of common restaurant water heater mounts underneath a sink or other container, accomplishing one of two very different goals.

Bain Marie Heaters

Borrowing a French term for a type of cooking that involves a heated water bath, a bain marie heater fills and heats a container of hot water that's used to reheat, rethermalize, and sometimes cook food. These are most often used to gently reheat previously-prepared frozen or chilled bagged foods in commissaries or large kitchens as part of a cook and chill system. This type of equipment is usually custom-built to fit the specific needs of individual kitchens, so consult the supplier of your fabricated equipment to decide which booster heater you'd need for the job you have in mind.

Sanitizing Sink Heaters

The second type of sink-mounted commercial water heater is the sanitizing sink heater, typically mounted to the third compartment of a 3-compartment sink. It's used for manually sanitizing dishes using 180 degree water, the by-hand version of the final rinse phase of a commercial dishwasher.

A sanitizing sink heater should be sized to the opening of the sink compartment it will be fitted to. Measure the front-to-back and side-to-side dimensions of your sink's opening and consult our sanitizing sink buyers' guide to figure out which piece of equipment you need.

Water Heater Options

  • Because kitchen water heaters use a good deal of electricity, there are several voltage options to choose from. Larger heaters are only available as 208-240-volt models, while smaller ones can be connected to a 120-volt supply. Higher-voltage units will recover temperatures faster, so it may be a good choice to go with the highest voltage option the utilities in your kitchen can accommodate.
  • High-limit cutoff switches come standard on most water heaters. These are safety features that automatically shut off electricity to the unit if higher-than-normal temperatures are detected, helping prevent fires and damage to the equipment in the event that a component malfunctions or the water supply is interrupted.
  • Tank linings help the interior water tanks resist corrosion and fight the buildup of minerals from hard water. These are standard on many models and can help extend the life of the equipment.
  • Temperature gauges can help give operators peace of mind, as it lets them know that their equipment is heating water to the temperature it is intended to.
  • Digital controls come on premium restaurant water heaters. In addition to an easy-to-read digital temperature display, models with these control packages usually provide the ability for operators to set the temperature of their water on a control panel.