Going green

Re-living Longford

Why don’t I listen to the collective wisdom of those who comment here? Last August, Highriser Andrew commented: “Plan now for hot water service replacement as they never break down when it is convenient. If you don’t, the temptation to just replace it with the same is great.”

Last night, it broke down. When describing the symptoms over the phone to the plumber this morning, he confirmed that it is kaputsky.

Origin Energy say they can set me up with an entirely new solar (gas boosted) installation for $2045 (after rebates), which seems pretty good.

Having checked with a couple of plumbers, it would seem that this is actually quite a good offer, and because they do heaps of them, I was a bit more confident their prowess. Let’s just say I liked the cut of their jib*. So I went ahead and ordered it.

The catch? About two weeks waiting. That’s a long time to go without a hot shower and/or boiling kettles for baths, though my sister for starters has volunteered use of her shower. (I didn’t have a shower today, and spent much of the day at work wondering if I smelt. Nobody on the train backed away from me, so hopefully not…)

Hell, it can’t be any worse than the Great Shower Rebuilding of 2001, or the gas crisis of 1998 (following the Longford explosion)… when there was no gas for cooking, either.

But ho boy, I wish I’d done this a month ago.

So much for upgrading my car right now.

(By the way, of the other goals on that list of home projects, I’ve completed precisely none of them, though some have progressed as far as investigation. The bathtub needs a complete new coat of paint. The insulation is actually not too bad at all for effectiveness/thickness.)

*An expression that seemed to work its way into conversation a couple of times last weekend.

PS. 11pm. You know, the more I think about it, the more I suspect doing it this way was a dumb idea. Oh well, even beyond geek pride, I’ll really appreciate it when the solar panels eventually get fitted to the roof and the whole thing is running.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

6 replies on “Re-living Longford”

when our hot water service packed in (8am on a Sat morning), we had a new one installed by 3pm that same day. We couldn’t wait ONE day without hot water, ne’er alone TWO WEEKS! You are very brave – and well done on going solar.
PS The reason no one backed away from you on the train, is that we are all packed in like sardines anyway – no room to move!

Is your broken water heater a conventional tank model or a tankless heater? Tankless instant water heaters are very rare in the USA but they are starting to be sold here. I think that they might be more popular in Australia. Most people in the USA just replace their leaky or broken tank heater with another tank. A tankless heater is much more expensive and it sometimes needs a new larger electric or gas line to feed it which is an additional expense.

If you just wash under your arms and put on more deodorant you can skip a shower without smelling like a goat.

Good on you for taking the plunge (no pun intended) on going solar. Not only coughing up the extra cash, but also waiting two weeks without hot water for it. I salute your commitment to the environment, Daniel.

Most people would wait until the last moment (breakdown of the old system) and then be under pressure to replace one for one – usually an electric or gas powered storage tank. Of course this is the point of your article.

The thing is, like so many things related to climate change (and going for renewable forms of energy is usually aimed at addressing that issue, rather than saving money) – human nature/instinct so often acts to support increasing emissions. Replacing hot water systems as described above illustrates one such example.

Hot water storage tanks seem a bit of a crazy idea in this enlightened? age, don’t they? All that heat stored outside in a Victorian winter? Gas pilot lights fizzing away 24 hours a day? Electricity burned in huge volumes (perhaps 30% or more of household power consumption goes on hot water where electric tanks are used). The only thing that makes such consumption tolerable from a bills point of view is that they are often run on off-peak power at say 4 cents/kWh instead of 12 cents during peak power. But they still produce 1.32kg of greenhouse gases for every kWh – I guess about 13kg per day for a tank?

This is starting to read like a rant! But these things are worth considering BEFORE the tank dies and one replaces it. :-)

Not being perfect on this score myself . . . But I ripped out my gas tank (before it died) when it was 14 years old and replaced it with instantaneous gas heater (from Origin). One day I might add solar panels to it too. The gas consumption went down and we have endless amounts of hot water on demand (tho not an endless water supply!), no pilot light and at exactly the temperature we want. It’s not a perfect solution but it works well.

On Origin being experienced – I went with your take on this and took them up on their offer. All I can say is I hope you have a bit better luck than I did. The plumber burned thru my telephone extension line and left me with a serious gas leak. They also sent me the wrong accessories and the electrician turned up a week late to finish the job. Origin use independent contractors, so they work like any tradies – some good, some less so. Keep an eye on them. I wrote a letter to the GM to tell him about my experience with Origin(I saw his name on something that said ‘customer satisfaction is important to us’) but he didn’t reply.

Look fwd to reading about your experiences in due course.

Allbest, Tony.

We recently purchased a home with an electric hot water service, even if it wasnt leaking through the ceiling (which on closer inspection it was) we planned on replacing it, again through Origin, the plumber and his apprentice turned up (late) disappeared for days and another plumber finally turned up a week later – GRRRRRR we had 3 days off work between the 2 of us and the day we moved into the house we were without hot water while waiting for the new gas hot water system to “warm up”. We had to fight with origin and the original plumber to have the most efficient gas hot water service plumbed in – can only roll my eyes about the thought of now converting it over to solar hws…

BTW Daniel

Try or for help/advice with all of those jobs on your list that include environmental aspects.

The env shop has a great selection of replacements for those heat generating, juice sucking halogens. From 50W down to 14W each in my case – and the replacement fittings fit into the same holes (or the bulbs/lamps/globes into the same fittings, depending on your solution).

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