It was 1903. It featured all the latest plumbing technology. It was a “Model House”, and it has piqued Master Plumbers heritage curator Peter Jensen’s interest.
Gary Bath talks hot-water systems.
Changes at State and Federal Government level that focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions along with innovation in the hot water service sector have created pressure on plumbers to understand the growing number of consumer options.
A hot water system (HWS) has a usual lifespan of about 10-15 years.
So, while predicting future energy costs, is anyone’s guess and there are diminishing returns on rebates for putting power back into the grid, consumers are turning to plumbers for advice.
Unfortunately, the messaging does little to assist.
Currently, there’s a strong focus on electrification of our energy supplies.
However, it is at a time when our ability to produce an increasing volume of sustainable electricity, still has a way to go. Many in the market are also promising unrealistic returns on investment for people moving from gas to electricity without mentioning that consumers need to have solar PV or batteries to obtain the full benefit.
Some aspects of consideration don’t change. For example, the difference between changing over an existing HWS in the event of it failing as opposed to a new build, where the consumer can see the benefit in investing in a system that will provide longer-term benefits to the environment and their back pocket.
The suitability of a system that stores hot water but is slow to recover compared to an on-demand system where the use of the building - eg. holiday house - or the number of people that are using the system needs to be considered.
Consumers also face the many rebate schemes that are promoting heat-pump, hot-water systems as the complete answer. We have heard consumers ditching working systems for a low or no-cost heat-pump system, which does not operate effectively or efficiently because of an inferior product or how and where they were installed.
A consumer who has a solar HWS boosted by a continuous flow gas HWS is most likely to be paying less for their hot water currently than most, so to change that system over to a less efficient and greater energy-cost system is a false economy.
The improvements in heat-pump HWS technology are well documented, but they do have significant limitations. In colder areas, like our southern states, the ambient temperature in winter means that these systems are not anywhere near as efficient as they can be. Physical placement of the system is a consideration. They should be exposed to a northernfacing wall and consideration should be given to potential noise, like a split-system air conditioner.
So, if these systems are to be considered, particularly in a cooler climate, they are best supported by an alternate energy system such as solar PV with a battery storage system. This option is not without costs, however, this somehow gets lost with the lure of a cheap or no-cost heat-pump system.
There is also an increased commitment at both Federal and State Government levels for alternate-gas supplies, with both Biogas and Hydrogen featuring in some recent policy papers. This points to an understanding that those states that are currently reliant on coal or gas produced electricity, need an alternative.
In the meantime, many consumers will be seeking advice on a hot water system that will meet their needs in cost, efficiency, environmental credentials and effectiveness. To that end Master Plumbers has produced information that targets consumers to inform them of the different systems that are available, what needs to be considered and what will meet their needs moving forward.