Thursday, 7 May 2020

Hot water woes ...

Last weekend was wet, really wet.

Bit the rain cleared on Sunday, and things began to dry out. It was then that I noticed that we had a problem with our hot water service.

Like many Australian homes, we have an insulated external storage tank which heated by off peak power. Ours is next to our recycling bins and the solar power inverter,

When I went to go and put some rubbish out I noticed that there was steam coming off the hot water unit - unusual, as it's so heavily insulated that you don't normally see steam come off it on the coldest day, but as it had been very wet you'd expect the unit still to wet.

Closer examination revealed that it was not evaporating rain, but hot water cascading down the side of the unit, and the water was leaking out of the storage tank.

Well, first things first - I turned off the power in case the leaking water got into the electrics and caused a short. I didn't turn off the outlet valve as I reckoned we might as well use what water was left.

As it was a Sunday, there was nothing that could be done, so it was cold showers all round on Monday, after which I called our preferred local plumber about getting it replaced.

Now there are those companies that come round and offer to replace your old system (and ours was twenty years old), with a new heat pump system, at zero, or more or less zero dollars to you by claiming various energy efficiency subsidies from the state and federal governments.

It would be more complicated in our case as we'd already claimed the subsidy for our solar panels, but we should have got a discount.

Our plumber offered to replace our old system with a similar new system the next day, but we asked about the subsidy and getting a heat pump unit.

Well, he'd never claimed the subsidy for a client but he was happy to go and find out what was involved.

It was a bureaucratic nightmare. And we might need to get an official installer to do some of the work.

Remember we live in a small country town and we're in the middle of the Coronavirus lockdown where a lot of businesses have closed.

There is supposed to be an emergency just install the bloody thing and sort out the paperwork afterwards route for cases such as ours where the previous system has failed, but that's not as simple as it sounds.

Even for an emergency replacement of a broken hot water system it was a bureaucratic nightmare.

There's also the problem that a lot of heat pumps don't work as well as they should in winter where we are on the edge of the Australian Alps. Some do, some don't. You just need to get a suitable unit.

And while there's an argument that most days in winter have mid afternoon temperatures of ten degrees or so, quite a few don't, and we know that our reverse cycle heating can struggle on  cold grey overcast days.

So in the end we didn't - after three days of cold showers we went for a classic system.

Perhaps not the best, or the greenest solution, but in the midst of a coronavirus lockdown, perhaps the most pragmatic ...

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