When my parents built this house they put in a "solar" hot water service, that is one which was connected to solar panels on the roof. The panels have been replaced once and the element in the storage tank has been replaced once. It has served us well. We cannot complain.
Now the storage tank would need to be replaced and that is a major undertaking. It may sound simple but it requires major roof work at great cost. A plumber has been consulted. My brother-in-law has been consulted. My brother-in-law is making further inquiries about other options this morning.
It left me thinking about the way we heated hot water in other houses. My mother used to heat "the copper" in order to do the washing in most places. As soon as he was old enough it was my brother's task to split the kindling timber and set the fire beneath vat of water. He also had to clear out the ashes when it had cooled down. My mother would set a match to it a considerable time before she did the washing. She washed by hand and we were thought fortunate because my father bought her a "wringer". It was usually my job to use the wringer. I would feed the clothes through and turn the handle. At the end of the task, summer and winter, my mother and I would be drenched in perspiration.
Hot water in the kitchen was supplied by kettles of water heated on a wood burning stove. We did the washing up and other kitchen tasks with minimal amounts of water.
In the bathroom we had a "chip heater". This was a tube like device filled with water. Beneath it there was a small cavity in which a fire could be set to heat the water. You set the fire going and hoped for the best. If you were lucky you managed to get a few inches of hot water for a bath. (The water came from a small gravity feed tank that my father, brother, or I had to pump by hand to fill each morning. It was also the water ration for the day.)
Much later in another house my father designed a hot water device that fed through the back of the wood burning stove so that there was hot water in the kitchen. We still had the chip heater in the bathroom. The one advantage was that it did make the room a bit warmer in winter!
I wonder now how we kept clean. We certainly did not shower or bath every day. The water was not available and the hot water was a luxury.
Now we are used to turning the tap on and having hot water. We no longer think of it as a luxury. Really, it is.