I received a phone call Tuesday night from a customer of myn who lives in the CBD of Adelaide, just off of Halifax Street, he lives a large block of apartments which all have roof top mounted Solar Hot Water Services with Electronic Boost, these are all approximately now 10 years old.  

Luke Warm Water

Even though we were having a slightly warm week in Adelaide with the average temperature of 20 degrees Celsius each day my customer was reporting only luke warm water from his Beasley Solar Hot Water Service.  When I heard this it sounded like the element or thermostat was not operating correctly and he was only getting the solar contribution back to his Hot Water Service, so I made a time for me to attend and investigate the problem.

When I arrived to site the next day I found that access to this hot water service was not ideal and this would be the first challenge of many to over come.  Because the hot water unit uses electric boost when the outside temperature is not high enough to produce hot water solely through the solar panels the first place for me to check was the fuse box and see whether the circuit breaker for the hot water supply had tripped, upon inspection it showed that the hot water circuit breaker was still in the on position which is very unusual.  

In most cases when an element blows it trips the circuit breaker immediately, but not in this case?  So I went up onto the roof to inspect the Beasley Solar Hot Water System and investigate further, upon removing the plastic cover which protects the 3.6kw element and the robert shaw thermostat I could smell a burnt electrical smell which is usually caused through the element blowing and sure enough you could see at the back of the element that the wiring/casing had all blown out, but why had the circuit breaker not tripped?  What was going on?  There was no voltage getting to the electric isolator nor was there any current getting to the thermostat, very bizarre indeed!

Was It On J Tariff?

The first thing that then came to mind was that this hot water system must be on J tariff (a tariff for electricity which is given to customers outside of peak periods at reduced rates at approximately 11pm and 7am each day on separate meter as seen below) but where is the time clock or J tariff meter?  The plot thickens.

fuse box in home in Adelaide

I asked my customer if he knew whether or not his hot water water service was on J tariff, he did not recall and unfortunately wasn’t able to shed any light on the situation.  I then went for a look around the apartment complex to see if I could perhaps locate the box which houses all the electricity meters for the complex and identify whether the hot water units are all on J tariff or not and perhaps ascertain what was going on.  The box which housed all of the meters was locked and a key would be required for access which the customer had to obtain from the property managers/strata company.

The Electricity Box

My customer managed to get a copy of the electricity box key and I then made a time to come back out and have another look at the situation.  Immediately after gaining access to the meter box I could see that yes the hot water services to the property all had a J tariff feed to them and my customers J tariff circuit breaker was in the off position, but why did it trip the J tariff breaker and not the main breaker for the hot water unit located at the apartment?

Well after I drained down the stainless steel tank on the roof I found that the element was actually ok inside the tank BUT the external part of the element had blown out causing only a slight disturbance to the power and bypassing the main fuse but tripping out the J tariff breaker hence the reason that the main hot water switch to the house was still on yet we had no power to the hot water system, quite a bizarre situation, but that’s plumbing for you some times it can be very challenging and that’s where my 20 years of experience kicks into gear.

Once all this was established it was time to change over the element, thermostat and turn all the circuit breakers and isolators back on.  By the next morning my customer had nice hot water again and all was back to normal, a situation which is certainly going to go into the memory banks for any further hot water repairs in the and around Adelaide.

I hope this weeks blog instalment has been of interest to all of my loyal followers and I look forward to bringing you another exciting addition next week, cheers Aaron.

Aaron Stewart

Aaron Stewart is the found and owner operated of Mayfair Plumbing & Gasfitting based in Adelaide, South Australia.

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