It’s probably not surprising that more than half of all hot water use in your home is in the bathroom, while a third is used in the laundry and the rest is used in the kitchen. And heating the water for these activities makes up approximately 25 per cent of household energy use in Australia.

Despite it being so important to the overall levels of energy use in your home, many people don’t know the type, size or connection of their hot water system, and some don’t even know where the unit is located on their property!

Over the years, we’ve helped many disgruntled energy users, who have shared their experiences of costly hot water havoc at their home, which could have been minimized or avoided all together by simple monitoring and timely action.

Such an important appliance is worthy of regular maintenance checks to ensure your family continues to be clean and happy, without having to experience unexpectedly high costs of wasted energy.

Hot water systems should not run continually.

Storage hot water systems rely on thermostats to help maintain the temperature of the water. On rare occasions, thermostats can fail and elements may continue to operate at maximum capacity. If unattended the energy use, and the costs can be alarming.

If you notice that your hot water unit is is running all the time, be sure to turn the marked fuse or circuit breaker unit off at the switchboard, and call an authorised repair person.

Some hot water systems need topping up regularly – especially in winter.

‘Heat exchange’ hot water systems used to be an economical purchase, and while they’re not commonly available for sale now, many are still operating in homes, especially in Queensland.

They heat the water using an indirect heating principle, with cold water passing directly from the main water supply, through coils of copper tubing (the heat exchanger), which is immersed in an insulated tank of water heated by an electric element.

The water in the tank evaporates over time, and the tank needs to be ‘topped up’ every three months or so to maintain water levels. They can be identified by both the inlet and outlet water pipes situated at the top of the storage system.

Ensure faulty units are replaced or repaired, before they fail when you need them the most.

Check your system for casing swelling or severe rusting where the metals are joined, leaking water or excessive steam – especially around the bottom of the unit. This may be an indication of impending failure and need of repair or replacement.

Call a manufacturers recommended person to discuss your findings and arrange for repair or replacement if necessary.

Turn off your hot water system when you go on holidays.

It’s probably the last thing you’re thinking of as you run out the door to the airport, but if you’re heading away for more than a few days, you should turn off your hot water system before you go.

Depending on where you live, what tariff you’re on and the size of your hot water system, you could save anywhere up to $16 per fortnight. That’s at least one cocktail by the pool!

Remember, that hot water needs to be heated to at least 60 degrees to avoid legionella. So if you do turn your system off, be sure to wait at least an hour after turning it back on before you use it.