Waipa Networks responded to an outpouring of complaints by Cambridge residents earlier this month whose hot water tanks were switched off between Saturday evening (July 13) and early Monday morning (July 15), saying it will reimburse people who called in electrician’s or plumbers to fix the apparent incident.
Over 8,000 Cambridge area properties are connected to the powerline company’s substation ripple plant which switches their hot water off during peak usage times, for a reduced fee. Usually residents don’t notice because the heating system in their hot water tanks is switched back on before the water cools down.
But on Saturday night, July 13 a unit at the plant failed. Usually repairs can be made then-and-there with spare parts and technicians available on site, but after working through the night the problem couldn’t be fixed and a back-up full replacement unit was brought in from Auckland and installed by 1.30am Monday.
“The ripple plant is a reliable but complex piece of equipment,” said Waipa Networks CEO Adam Fletcher. “Failure of this nature is not common and our fault response staff worked tirelessly through the weekend to get this sorted for our customers.”
The Waipa Networks’ Facebook page received many angry comments from customers affected by the outage and concerned about the lack of updates on its website.
“Our Network management system automatically provides website updates related to major power outages, but this was something that was not related to an actual loss of power so would not normally register,” Fletcher explained. “We were able to place Facebook posts with updates and limited information. People appreciated this but clearly there is an opportunity to improve our communications to customers.”
The company confirmed it will reimburse people who were unaware of the situation during the hot water outage and called in an electrician or plumber to try and fix the issue. “We ask that people please get in touch if they have received bills as a result of the incident.”
Fletcher confirmed the company would be making investments to upgrade their outage notification and communication systems.
Ripple control systems have been in use in New Zealand since the 1960s. They’re generally unnoticed and are highly reliable in reducing peak demand on the network, which reduces the cost overall to customers. Ripple control times are in winter when most people are heating their homes, generally around 7am – 8.30am and 6pm – 8.30pm.
Waipa Networks said it had not received any calls from customers requesting removal of the ripple relay on their hot water tank. “We hope that people recognise the benefit of remaining as it does make a significant difference to long term investment needs of the network.”