Water heating can account for a good chunk of the electricity used in an average regional Queensland household, mostly in the bathroom, laundry and kitchen. Follow our tips to help you to stop your hot water system burning a hole in your pocket.
Energy sense tips
- Ensure you have the right sized system for the number of people in your home. If it's too small, you could run short of hot water. Ask your local hot water specialist for help to get the right sized system for your needs.
- Set your hot water system thermostat to 60°C
- Connect your hot water system to an economy tariff and you could save up to around 19% on your water heating costs1. Your electricity retailer can help you determine the minimum tank size required for connecting your hot water system to an economy tariff.
- Take shorter showers - four minutes is perfect! Reducing your shower time from 8 to 4 minutes can cut hot water costs by 50%2.
- Fix leaking taps quickly as just 60 drops a minute is around 9,000 litres of wasted water a year. If it's your hot water tap it could cost you around $100 per year 3.
- Install a low flow showerhead or a flow control valve to reduce the amount of hot water used without reducing pressure. Water saving shower heads could save you up to $200 on your hot water costs4.
- Wash in cold water rather than hot or warm to save on water heating costs as households can use around one-third of their hot water in the laundry. Modern fabrics and detergents deliver excellent results in cold water.
- Position your hot water system near where you use hot water the most, which may be your bathroom, kitchen or laundry. This can help to save water and reduce heat loss from pipes.
- Insulate the hot water pipes running between the tank and your taps to further reduce heat loss from pipes.
- Upgrade your old hot water system to a new energy efficient model with a high energy star rating, a heat pump or a solar hot water system.
Hot water issues (cold water)
If you’ve lost hot water there are a number of reasons why this may have happened. Please contact your local electrical contractor so they can determine what the problem is. For more information see Hot water issues (cold water).
Types of hot water systems
If you're considering replacing your hot water system, there are several types available. Whichever you choose, you'll need to ensure it's appropriately sized for your household and for connection to an economy tariff.
Electric storage hot water
Electric storage hot water systems bring cold water into the tank for heating and storage. Hot water rises to the top of the tank where it is released for use when required.
Thermostats are used within the tank to control the temperature of the water, heating when required and switching off when sufficiently heated.
While electric storage hot water systems are generally cheaper to purchase, they typically use more electricity than other types of hot water systems.
To ensure you have plenty of hot water available, you'll need to make sure your hot water system is suitably sized for your household, and particularly, for connection to an economy tariff.
Ensuring that your hot water unit is installed in the right place can also have a big impact on the efficiency of your system.
Heat pump hot water
Heat pumps draw heat from the air using a heat exchanger, which works on the same principle as your refrigerator, except in reverse.
They are powered by electricity, but are far more efficient than standard electric storage hot water systems.
Heat pumps store water in the same way as standard electric storage hot water system. They work much better in our warmer climate where they can gather more heat from the air and can easily be used to replace a standard electric system, as they often fit into the same space.
However, placement of your heat pump is important to reduce the impact of noise, as they can generate about as much noise as a medium-sized air conditioner.
Solar hot water
Solar hot water systems use panels on the roof to absorb heat from the sun to heat the water, with a storage tank located in or on the roof for coupled systems, or at ground level for split systems.
In Queensland, the sun typically provides 80% of the energy to heat the water. The booster only kicks in when the water reaches a sufficiently low temperature.
Electric boosted solar systems are usually the cheapest hot water systems to purchase and can be even cheaper to run if connected to an economy tariff.
For households in areas prone to frost or with poor water quality, you should have a closed circuit system.
Instantaneous electric hot water
Unlike electric storage hot water systems, instantaneous (or continuous flow) systems do not store water before heating it. When hot water is required, cold water is brought in, then heated directly and sent out for use.
These systems are usually small and experience less heat loss to the environment than storage systems. Modern systems may also have temperature controls for improved energy efficiency.
However, they can be expensive to run as they typically require large amounts of electricity and in some cases, an upgrade to three-phase electricity supply at the household. They are not suitable for connection to an economy tariff, as they don't have the ability to store water for use when power on economy tariffs is unavailable.
Connecting to an economy tariff is easy
Connecting to an Economy tariff is a simple as using the phone. Contact a licensed electrician and ask them to connect your hot water system to an Economy tariff.
Hot water systems connected to an Economy tariff need to be hardwired and connected through a dedicated circuit, back to your meter – this is because power is only available at certain times of the day in return for being charged a cheaper rate for electricity.
A separate meter may be installed for Economy tariffs and is listed separately on your bill so you can see how much energy your connected appliances use on that tariff. You can also place several appliances on a dedicated circuit to supply power on an Economy tariff.
Please note, you will be charged for the electrician's time and materials to connect your appliance to an Economy tariff.
Am I already connected to an Economy tariff?
The easiest way to work out if you are already connected to an Economy tariff is to check your power bill. If you have electricity charges listed against Economy Tariff 33 or Super Economy Tariff 31 (although your specific retailer may refer to these as something else) on your electricity bill – then you already have an Economy tariff connected. If it's not clear on your bill, ask your electricity retailer.
An electrician can assess if you have any appliances connected to an Economy tariff. They can also arrange connection if you wish. Please note that there may be fees charged for the electrician's time and for visiting your home.
Where can I find more information?
There are guides available to help you work out which type of solar hot water heating is the best for your home and lifestyle.
- The Australian Government's Energy Efficiency website provides more information about installing solar hot water including details of the different types of solar water heaters available.
- The Choice website features a hot water systems buying guide.
- The Alternative Technology Association provides an Efficient Hot Water eBooklet, including heat pump information. Note that charges apply if you wish to purchase this guide. Their ReNew website also provides a handy solar hot water buyers guide.
- EnergyWise Queensland has a fact sheet on Solar hot water (PDF, 1.9MB, opens in new window) which includes a handy sizing chart.
1. Based on comparing notified prices for Tariff 11 with Tariff 33, effective 1 July 2016. Supply on Tariff 33 will be available for a minimum of 18 hours per day, but the times when electricity supply is available may be subject to variation at our discretion.
2. Based on showering for half the time.
3. Based on 1 kWh to heat 15 litres of water.
4. A household of four people taking one 4 minute shower per person per day, with the hot water connected to Tariff 33.