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Show Your Hot Water Systems Some Love

25 June

In our cooler months of the year, show your hot water systems some love. It is worth considering some preventative hot water system maintenance. Avoid costly repairs and some severely uncomfortable chilly morning showers!

Let’s be thankful that we get off pretty lucky in our experience of what passes as ‘Winter’ here in Australia. We don’t have to endure months of sub-zero temps that can wreak havoc with our household plumbing.

We can rejoice that pipes that freeze, or worse yet, burst, are not a regular occurrence, especially here in sunny Queensland. But, even with our version of winter, there are a few plumbing precautions with our existing system we may want to consider.

Our temps dip from our usual balmy beach days during the winter months. And, as the days grow shorter and the mornings chillier, our reliance on our trusty mate, even if this be an old electric hot water system, increases.

Do you prefer a hot or cold shower?

Are you more of an ‘ease into the day with a long hot shower that warms you up while it wakes you up’ type? Or, are you one of those who welcome a full-on cold blast from their morning shower ritual that shocks you into the day ahead? Suppose you’re the latter (and dare we say minority), good on you! You’re more daring than most. Cold showers can be a terrific source of increased alertness, stronger immune systems, and improved physical recovery. But they’re not for everyone!

Hot Water, Cold Water Graphic

There are benefits to both hot and cold showering. If you’re curious about what they are, have a read of this.

Please read on for all who prefer the welcoming warmth of a long hot steamy winter morning shower.

Why do hot water systems fail more often in winter?

  • Winter in Australia is traditionally the most common time for electric hot water systems to fail.
  • We use more hot water during winter as we tend to spend longer warming up in the morning in the shower.
  • The cold water supplying the hot water system is colder, which causes the hot water system to work harder and heat longer to bring the desired warmth.
  • The general temperature overnight is colder. The hot water system, its associated valves and pipes are cooler, contributing to more work that the hot water system has to do to provide us with reliable hot water each morning.

What Causes Your Hot Water Systems To Fail?

Heating element and thermostat failure

The most typical hot water system repairs are due to the heating element and thermostat failure.

A heating element and thermostat in a hot water system are similar to an electric kettle’s working. Depending on use, the heating element in a hot water system will cycle over 15,000 times in a decade. When in need of repair, it requires a licensed tradesperson to undertake due to the requirement to disconnect electricity during the repair process.

Tank failure

The second most common repair of a hot water system is the tank’s failure. When water is heated inside a hot water system, it expands—the cooler the water before heating, the greater the expansion. Over time the tank weakens by oxidising or rusting, and increase causes a weld or the cylinder within the tank to fail.

There are more hot water system problems you can encounter but they’re no reason to panic. You can troubleshoot or call your professional plumber to do it for you.

This Insider Info May Help You Combat Your Common Hot Water System Issues

Direct from the everything you needed to know about hot water systems but were afraid to ask files… you must know the following:

What are sacrificial anodes and how do they work?

It is not widely known that there is a sacrificial anode inside electric hot water cylinders. A sacrificial anode works by oxidising or rusting as the weaker metal rather than the steel tank.

Sacrificial anodes are commonly found where mechanical components are in contact with water. Sacrificial anodes dissolve due to an electrochemical reaction inside the hot water cylinder. And after five years, they become spent and require replacement.

This again is a task best left to a licensed tradesperson. Due to the different range of anodes and the potential for incorrect fitting to damage the hot water service, leave the task to the experts.

What are Cold Water Expansion Valves?

Another method to combat the failure of tank cylinders is with the fitting of Cold Water Expansion valves. Nowadays, we are required by law to install Cold Water Expansion valves on any new hot water system installations. Cold Water Expansion valves are set to lower release pressure than a Pressure and Temperature Relief valve.

This allows the discharge of the expanded water from the cold supply pipes instead of hot water from the Temperature Pressure Relief valve. This saves wasting hot water, which you have already paid to heat and discharges cold water instead.

Do you know why you need Pressure and Temperature Relief Valves and have them tested regularly?

Every homeowner can prevent the failure of their hot water system by regular operation of the Pressure and Temperature Relief valve. (Us older plumbers know them as TPR’s)

Pressure and Temperature Relief valves are essential to prevent devastating consequences. One example is the rupture or explosion of a hot water system if the thermostat fails and the hot water system continuously heats. PTRs should be operated every six months to check their operation and keep them in working order.

Most hot water cylinders have a warning from the manufacturer to replace the PTR valve at five-year intervals. This is to ensure the valve’s reliable operation if required. If your PTR has begun to discharge water or leak, it is a sign that there is a problem and should be inspected by a licensed tradesperson. Other valves on the hot water system fail and require replacement.

Put, preventative maintenance can avoid more severe hot water problems from occurring.

A Recommended Hot Water System Maintenance Schedule

Hot Water System Maintenance (Every six months):

  • Operate the Pressure and Temperature Relief valve
  • Operate the Cold Water Expansion valve (if fitted)
  • Check the operation of the Isolator valve (which is also a non-return valve)

Hot Water System Maintenance (Every five years):

  • Replace Pressure and Temperature Relief valve
  • Renew the Sacrificial anode
  • Check Isolator valve
  • Check Tempering valve
  • Check Element and Thermostat for correct operation

I hope this hot water system maintenance advice helps you keep those hot showers running through the cooler months!

Need Help With Your Hot Water System?

If you’re not a fan of the cold shower and need to schedule a hot water system service, or replace your existing hot water system, we can help you. Or if you need a consultation about hot water system brands, we know the best performing. All systems we’ve installed score high in a reliability survey published in Choice Magazine, the leading consumer advocacy group in Australia.

If you already have hot water problems check out our hot water system troubleshooting guide. Or get in touch with the best bunch of plumbers here on the Gold Coast. Learn more about our plumbing services and hot water services!