Most homes now have “Circuit Breakers” in the electrical meter box. Circuit breakers switch the power off automatically to protect the house wiring from catching fire in the event of a fault e.g. when your hot water system element shorts out. In older homes however, the wiring is protected by re-wirable “fuses” instead of circuit breakers. Fuses will “blow” if there is a fault or will also wear out over time. If this happens it will cause your hot water system to stop working – bugger! Luckily, replacing a fuse is something you can do yourself but if it “blows” again within a day or two you’ll need to get it checked because that is not normal.
A fuse is simply a thin piece of wire that is rated for a certain amount of electrical current . The thicker the wire the more current and therefore power the fuse will take before it blows or wears out. It is EXTREMELY important to only use fuse wire that has the same current rating as written on the fuse e.g. 16 amps. NEVER put a 20 amp wire in a 16 amp fuse because you could burn your house down, which would be silly.
If your house is a little older you can check a fuse by simply turning off the power and removing the fuse wedge from the fuse holder. You’re looking to see if the fuse wire is broken or not. A broken fuse wire will not let power through to your hot water system and replacing the wire with another will often fix the problem. Hot water fuses are generally marked with “OPHWS” for Off Peak Hot Water Service or just “HWS” for Hot Water Service, just to make it confusing! Simply undo the screws on each end of the fuse wedge, remove the old worn out broken wire, whack in a new one and enjoy hot water shortly after. This is an excellent way of proving to the rest of the house that you are really, really clever. High five you!
Storage gas hot water systems have a standing pilot light that burns all the time, 24 hours a day. In high winds or if
there has been an interruption of the gas supply the pilot can go out and results in you having no hot water –
booooo! After checking that you have gas on to the house what you need to do is utilize Mike’s Magic 30 – 30 -30
Gas relighting method as follows:
Step 1 – Go to the hot water system and give it the stink eye. Then after you’ve vented your frustration clip off the
front cover of the system.
Step 2 – Turn the main controller from it’s temperature setting e.g. “6” to the spark symbo “*”.
Step 3 – With your left hand thumb, hold down the the big button on the top (the pilot button) and count to 30 seconds but don’t let go of your left hand thumb – it stays down for the next two counts of 30!
Step 4 – Whilst continuing to hold down your left hand thumb press on the igniter button until it makes a clicking noise. You need to do 30 clicks in total. If the igniter doesn’t click it may need a squirt of WD-40 or similar to free it up.
Step 5 – After thirty clicks continue to hold down your left hand thumb for a further 30 seconds (try to say
that three times fast).
Step 6 – Drum roll please ….. You can now let go of your left hand thumb and get excited because the next
step is where you become the household hero.
Step 7 – Turn the main controller dial back from the pilot “*” position to number 6 and listen for the main
burner to whoosh on and start cooking up some hot water. If you hear the main burner going your job is done
and you’ll have hot water in one and a half hours. If you don’t hear it, try again but you might have to bight
the bullet and give Hogans a call (don’t worry, we’re very nice).
Hot water systems are often blamed for high electricity bills. If you have an off peak hot water system you can easily
check out how much it is costing to run as it is itemised on your electricity bill. Depending on your electricity
provider, you need to look for terms like “Controlled Load” or “CL”or “Dedicated Circuit” on your electricity bill.
This is the section of your bill for the hot water and in most cases homeowners are surprised to see how cheap their
hot water system is to run compared with the cost of the rest of the bill.
To calculate approximately how much hot water you have used per day from in a 90 day billing period, simply
multiply the kilowatt hours of power used by the hot water system by 0.193. This will give you a rough idea of your
daily usage and if its over 300 litres per day then you might have an issue.
Generally, if a hot water system is the cause of a high electricity bill it’s because you’re using it or losing it. Look
for leaks under the house or out of the overflow pipe and also stealthily time how long your teenager is in the shower
for. A slow to moderate flow of hot water is 10 litres per minute so if old mate teeny bopper is in the shower for 20
minutes or more they can easily use over 200 litres of hot water in just one shower – ouch! Either start charging them
rent or make sure you get in the shower before they do!
Chances are you are either using it or losing it as per a high electricity bill.
Firstly check that you don’t have any leaks from taps, the overflow pipe or under your house from a busted water pipe. If that all seams okay it is likely you are just running the system out of hot water. For example, if your hot water flows at just 10 litres per minute and you have a 250 litre night time off peak hot water system, you only have 25 minutes of running hot water for the whole day – doesn’t seam like much does it?
There are a couple of things you can consider if running out is your issue.
If you have an electric off peak hot water system running on “Night Rate” off peak electricity (or “Controlled Load 1) you can simply change to “Extended Off Peak” hot water (or “Controlled Load 2”). It is a slightly higher rate of electricity but means that any hot water used in the morning will re-heat through the day and be available for use at night. Just jump on the phone to your electricity retailer and they will sort this out for you (for a fee, sadly).
Alternatively you can replace your hot water system with a bigger one. This is a good option if the old hottie is over ten years old as it will need replacing shortly anyway. We can advise on the size you may need, just give us a call.
The final option is to install a continuous gas hot water system however this option is only good if you have natural gas connected to your home. Natural gas is cheap to run, bottled gas is not. Furthermore, every time a bottle runs out you are back to no-hot-water again! How painful! Natural gas continuous systems NEVER run out of hot water or gas so you can shower every man and his dog without worry. It is a very popular option these days and great for larger families or to save space as the systems are cute little boxes on the wall rather than big ugly tanks.
Funny thing happens when water heats up, it EXPANDS!
This expansion is why your hot water system has a pressure relief valve and it is normal and desirable for the overflow to drip approximately 1-2% of the water that is heated e.g. if your system heats 100 litres you can expect the overflow to drip 1 to 2 litres of water from the pressure relief valve.
If your overflow is losing water continuously and filling buckets of water a day, you will need a new Pressure and Temperature Relief Valve (PTR Valve) replacement and sometimes also a Pressure Limiting Valve (PLV). Now, we all know how clever you are but installing these valves is something that needs to be done by a professional. Why? Well if the wrong valve goes in or if it’s not installed properly it can literally cause your hot water system to burst…… Oops. Worse still, if the cylinder is still under warranty then the manufacturers won’t cover it. Luckily our services won’t break the bank so give us a call and we’ll sort if for you with no fuss and full warranty.
One thing you can do yourself is release the PTR Valve every six months for a few seconds to make sure water can flow freely from the overflow pipe. If you release the valve and no water comes out, call us ASAP. This is because a blocked valve will not allow the expanded water to release and can be quite dangerous as it will likely burst your hot water system. Better a valve replacement than a new hot water system though, so get on the phone lickety-split.
Okay, no time to muck around. If you know where your water main is go and turn it off straight away. Turn your water main tap clockwise for off, “Righty Tighty”. Then turn the hot water system power off in your meter box if it’s an electric one or if it’s gas turn the gas off next to the hot water system or at the gas main. This will slow or stop the leak straight away.
Once the water leak slows and you have a minute to regain your composure, find the tap to turn the water off to the hot water system itself. Every system should have an isolating tap next to it, usually connected to the copper piping going to the bottom of the hot water system. The trick is the tap usually doesn’t look like a normal tap. It will either be a black plastic dial like in this picture or a metal lever. Either way turn it righty tighty again and this will mean you will be able to turn your house water main back on. Then you’ll have cold water back to the house again so at least you can flush the loo and fill the kettle for a cuppa. From there give us a call and we’ll come out and figure out why the hotty decided to play silly buggers in the first place.
Yes and no.
If you have a larger PV system and are producing heaps of spare electricity then you could set your hot water system up on a timer so that it heats during daylight hours and utilises the power that you make. Great. Only problem is hot water is really cheap. On a Night Time Dedicated Off Peak Circuit (Controlled Load 1) it’s around 15 cents per kilowatt hour without any pay-on-time discounts. So, long story short, you use 3600 watts per hour of your PV system (which is a lot) to save 15 cents per kilowatt hour off your electricity bill……… or you get a great 17% pay-on-time discount from your electricity company to reduce your off peak hot water rate down from 15 cents per kilowatt hour to 12.5 cents and sell the excess electricity back to them for the same price. Even Stevens.
Remember, it costs money to get an Electrician out and set up your timer for your hot water to run on a PV system but it costs nothing to find the best electrical rates you can. Just visit energymadeeasy.gov.au and go to town on your electricity company. Do that first at the very least. It’s a Government website, it’s free and it can save you heaps.
There are many different scenarios to that described above. At the end of the day the reason why solar hot water systems exist is to produce free hot water by the radiant heat of the sun hitting the water inside. That works really well and is as simple as throwing a garden hose on your roof to make hot water. Solar POWER systems use sun light to create electricity which is very complicated and not very effective – roughly 80% of the sunlight gathered is lost by the system. Because of this it is not very efficient to spend all this money to use sunlight to produce electricity and then turn around and burn it via your water heater element to produce hot water. So many losses, so little reward.