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Living Lightly column

Solar hot water

By Matthew Charles-Jones, Totally Renewable Yackandandah

How good is hot water? Hot running water blissfully punctuates our days, showers, baths and cleaning!

In towns across the region, this acknowledgement is jumping to a new level.  Action is underway to reframe the way we generate hot water to; save money, reduce carbon emissions and likely even improve our electricity supply.

Starting in Beechworth and Yackandandah in mid-July, people across Victoria’s northeast will be invited to replace their effective, but expensive and dumb electric or gas storage hot water systems. High efficiency CO2 heat pumps and evacuated tube solar hot water systems will be offered by local Community Energy Retailer, Indigo Power to replace existing hot water systems. Fortunately, Solar Victoria are offering a $1000 subsidy to update hot water systems and this is in addition to payments for eligible households under the VEEC and STC rebates.

The offering will occur in partnership with local energy groups or other local organisers and is being supported by Solar Integrity using trusted high efficiency technology and local tradespeople.

This action is embedded in an excitement about what will happen when step-change occurs in energy efficiency across the whole region. Certainly, hot water is guilty of drawing a high proportion of the residential energy load and it is easy and affordable to upgrade. Hot water heaters that use an element to heat water are typically installed to use electricity overnight.  This has had the value of using excess coal fired power when it is not otherwise being used.  Evidence however  is mounting about the collateral damage of burning coal and the growing unreliability of the ageing Australian fleet of coal fired power stations.

By replacing old storage units, we can also optimise the way in which solar generation is captured. For those with solar photovoltaics we are in effect creating a physical storage of electricity – at a cost much cheaper than batteries. Excess daytime generation is fed into the hot water for use at times more convenient to the occupants and thus reducing the need to draw from the grid overnight.

So this is a call to courageous action!  Even if your older hot water unit is reliably working – please consider this opportunity to shift to a smarter, cleaner and more efficient hot water service.  Climate action cannot be a spectator sport!