25 Aug Hot Water in Strata Schemes
Hot Water in Strata Schemes
The colder months sees many of us stay under the doona just that little bit longer, as well as enjoy the luxury of a nice, hot shower. On chilly winter mornings, it’s so hard to limit one self to a couple of minutes of heated bliss when the big, bad world outside the cubicle is so, so cold. But when the hot water stops flowing, that warm, fuzzy feeling leaves your body in an instant, turning you into a human ice cube!
The average stored hot water temperature, by the laws of plumbing, must be above 60 degrees Celsius, in order to prevent bacteria from growing in the stored mass. Most tanks are measured between 65 and 70 degrees, which is definitely too hot to stand under in a shower. Everyone has their own idea of what a “hot” shower is, with some able to tolerate up to 45 degrees, which of course is set by feeling the temp before jumping under the blissful stream. Controlling this temperature is either by a single “mixer” tap, whilst the traditional use of a hot and cold taps has done the job for decades.
In most body corporate situations, communal hot water systems supply more than one unit and normally are either gas or electric. They are normally individually metered so each unit can be charged for their consumption. These meters are normally mounted on a manifold system beside the heater, or located adjacent to the cold water meter for each unit, mostly in a basement layout. In multiple-storey complexes, the water is often reticulated to allow faster access to hot water for those units further away from the stored water.
When a complaint is made about poor, or no hot water, the most obvious assumption is that the heater has stopped working. A visit from the friendly plumber is required, and access to the affected unit preferred. Like a doctor, he should take the temperature of the main heater unit first to ensure that correct operation is occurring. Normally feeling the brass valves located on the side of the storage tank gives them an idea on whether all is normal, or not. If all appears fine in the tank, then accessing the unit is next on the agenda. If the temperature within the unit is vastly different, then the focus will normally shift to locating a temperature control device within the unit. These “tempering” valves are required by plumbing laws to be installed to control the hot water outlet temperature to all bathrooms, and are designed to deliver 50 degrees Celsius. Of course, these valves don’t last forever, with 5 years deemed the minimum innings for one, but some have been known to last longer than that in rare occasions.
These can be located under a vanity unit, laundry tub or kitchen sinks. They are plumbed with cold water entering one side, and hot the other. The only pipe exiting the valve is delivering the “mixed”, or “tempered” water to the taps. All it takes is a drop from 50 to about 40-42 degrees from this valve to get the attention of the user.
These valves don’t cost much, but spending a little more for a “solar rated” item should see a valve better suited to handle the hot mixing for at least another 5 years.
But there’s another hidden source that might still leave you cold. Whilst slightly rarer, the “cross connection” sees cold water sneak past a mixer tap, or anywhere there’s both hot and cold water available. Higher cold pressure than the hot can see the dilution affect temperature as well. And it’s not always about losing the hot…it can cause the exact opposite effect. We did not believe this until we saw a toilet cistern flush with 70 degree water! The hot shower mixer handle gave us the clue we were looking for in order to track the cause and fix it. If the handle can still be removed, there’s a chance the mixer cartridge can be changed out.
So the next time you’re stuck in the middle of a cold shower, help is only a shiver away!