Wednesday, June 17, 2009

No hot water, oh my!

Crikey! We're halfway through June already and I haven't written a single blog post this month yet. Time for a catch-up...

A couple of weeks ago I'd just arrived home from bookclub, and was doing a bit of washing up when I heard the sound of flowing water in the laundry. "Weird," I thought to myself, "I don't remember hearing that sound coming from there before... maybe it's just the hot water cylinder re-filling..."

...went outside for a cigarette a couple of minutes later and could hear running water outside as well. Uh oh. On investigation, I could see water pouring out of a overflow pipe coming out of the wall from the hot water cylinder cupboard - which was flowing out all over my back yard as the pipe didn't actually point down the drain. Doh!

Ran back inside, opened up the hot water cupboard - to see water absolutely POURING out of the bottom of the cylinder, all over the cupboard floor, under my lovely wooden tool shelves - everywhere! EEEK!

It being 12.30am by this point I thought twice about calling the very wonderful Marcus the Emergency Plumber, but I rang him anyway. Well what would you have done? He was awesome (even though yes I had woken him up!) and talked me through how to turn the water off (and the gas to the cylinder) and gave me the name of a gasfitter to call in the morning.

Turned out my hot water cylinder (which was about 17 years old) had rusted through and a great lump of cylinder had fallen out of the bottom of it, causing the flood. No way to fix it, have to get a new one - or a new something else...


Marcus mentioned this thing called an "Infinity" water heater - as something I could ask Mike the gasfitter about, and which I might like to investigate as an alternative to replacing the cylinder.

So I did - I love The Google - and I liked what I saw. This particular piece of technology has completely passed me by until now, but I have to say it's pretty awesome.

Instead of having a massive hot water cylinder which has to heat up 150+ litres of water and then tries to keep it hot until you use some (or until the water temperature goes down below a certain level), at which point it fills itself up again with cold water (if you've used any) and then has to heat all the water again (VERY energy-inefficient!), an Infinity is a brand of Gas Continuous Flow Hot Water systems made by Rinnai, which doesn't use a cylinder at all.

When you turn the hot tap on it sparks up the heater (which is a small metal box attached to the outside wall of your house), the gas heats up the water inside the box and hot water flows through the pipes and out of the tap. When you turn off the tap, the heater stops heating and the energy expenditure ceases.

Much more efficient - in fact they reckon the Efficiency model (which is even better than the standard Infinity) delivers 95% energy efficiency! Crikey! Great for the environment and great for your power bill, too.

Did you know that water heating can account for about 40% of your household energy costs? And that if, say, your old cylinder cost $496/year to run, the Infinity would cost $120 and the Efficiency a mere $102/year? Wow - that's a big saving!

OK - I'm convinced - I need to get me one of these things.

It turns out that getting an Infinity is about the same cost as replacing a hot water cylinder, which is good - but of course being such a greenie I had to go with the even more efficient Efficiency, which costs about $500 more. No worries! I'm saving the planet one appliance at a time! :)

They don't keep stocks of the Efficiency in Welli, so Michael the gasfitter had to send off to Auckland for one, which meant that I had a day or so longer without hot water. 5 days in all - and the lack of it certainly makes you appreciate hot water when you finally get it back. Probably makes anyone you came into contact with during those stinky 5 days with only one shower (thanks a million Ofer for the use of your hot water that day!) quite relieved as well...

Three and half thousand dollars later (ouch!) I could finally take a shower in my own bathroom again (hooray!), and it's really rather nice.

It's not instant - how could it be? The water has to heat up from completely cold, after all - which means I have to run the shower or the hot tap for a few minutes longer at the start than I used to do with the cylinder hot water - but really, that's a small price to pay for water heating that's almost five times as efficient as the system I was using before.

I'm just mightily relieved that the cylinder decided to do its meltdown act when I was actually home, and actually awake! Imagine if it had been a couple of hours earlier, or a couple of hours later! I would have returned home (or woken up) to a flooded laundry at best, a flooded rest-of-the-house at worst. Shudder!

Thanks a million to Marcus for being woken up in the middle of the night and for still being nice to me, Michael and his brother Lance for fitting the Efficiency so - efficiently - and thanks to my lovely electrician Bruce for coming over at short notice to wire the whole thing up. You guys rock!

And thanks also to Rinnai for inventing the thing in the first place, and who say on their website:

Inspired by Kyoto

The inspiration for Rinnai Efficiency came from perhaps the most famous environmental forum ever.

In 1997, following the conference on Global Warming in Kyoto, Rinnai Japan dedicated its Research and Development team to creating a new and better way to produce hot water for both commercial and domestic customers.

The focus was on energy efficiency, cost savings and reducing overall environmental impact. Now the Rinnai Efficiency delivers on that vision and brings greater performance and environmentally-friendly features that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and electricity demand.

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M Freitas said...

Hmmm. We have one of these and in a household with three (two parents, one toddler) we pay about $150/month in gas bills... Not as cheap as it sounds.

Very convenient and certainly better to always have hot water. Granted showers are longer, but we don't have gas cooking (shame, perfect cooking would be) so it's still expensive...