Having access to the spot price of electricity means you can move your usage to times of the day when the spot price is cheaper. That translates to paying less, without doing less – win!

But it’s also important that you stay safe while you make changes to your household habits.

In 2015 a number of cases of Legionnaires disease were been reported in the media, sparking conversation among some Flicksters about whether it’s safe to turn your hot water cylinder on and off to make the most of fluctuations in the spot price.

Lynne from Taranaki wrote to us: “We all want to save money on our electricity bill and Flick really helps us to make personal choices as to how much/when we use power. My concern relates to being ‘safe’ while making those savings.”

Like Lynne, we feel it’s our responsibility to give you the right information as well as wave a warning flag over a potential health risk for you and your family.

Turning your hot water cylinder on and off, or setting it to a lower temperature, can cause the water to drop to a temperature where it stagnates and legionella bacteria grows.

Following the two 2015 cases of Legionnaires disease in the Hawke’s Bay, the District Health Board has warned people against turning down their hot water cylinders to save money – and Flick wholeheartedly agrees with this advice.

What is Legionella or legionellosis?

“Legionellosis refers to the disease caused by any species of Legionella bacteria, and includes Legionnaires’ disease.  Legionella bacteria are widespread in the environment.  They are found in various aquatic sources including lakes, rivers and hot springs, and in the air conditioning and water systems in buildings.  Some species found in the garden environment – in soils, compost and potting mix – have also been linked to cases of legionellosis in New Zealand.” (via Ministry of Health)

What can you do to minimise the risk of getting legionellosis?

“Legionella bacteria cannot survive in water at 60°C or above. Therefore the temperature of your household hot water cylinder should be maintained at 60°.” (via Auckland Regional Public Health Service)

Is it safe to turn my hot water off and on again if it’s set to 60°C?

While we wouldn’t recommend undertaking this practice, it’s really at the user’s own risk and discretion. And it’s important to remember that there are a number of other factors to consider when turning your HWC on and off, including whether the cylinder is already ‘controlled’ by the network company, and whether adjusting it (especially an older cylinder) may cause it to malfunction.

The main message? Be informed, keep your hot water cylinder at 60°C, and stay safe, Flicksters!

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