May, June and July are the coldest months on the Gold Coast, and no-one wants to start the day with a cold shower in winter. Unluckily for some clients of Whywait Plumbing who are not Service Partners it is in these months they go to the shower and question why do I not have hot water?
Unfortunately, hot water systems are a case of out of sight out of mind. Continually where hot water systems are concerned, there were warning signs that there was a problem. Over the summer months, hot water problems are overlooked as the demand for higher temperature; hot water is not a critical consideration.
Several warning bulletins in Queensland have been issued by the QBCC and Queensland Health advising homeowners that their hot water systems need to be maintained and serviced frequently.
AS/NZS 3500.4:2018 Heated Water Services
The Australian standard that all hot water installation is based around is AS/NZS 3500.4:2018 Heated water services that are an integral part of the National Construction Code of Australia issued by the Australian Building Codes Board and it is all legal requirements in Queensland.
In AS/NZS 3500.4:2018 there is Appendix M which provides guidelines for the operation and maintenance of your hot water system which is below:
This Appendix provides guidelines for the operation and maintenance of a heated water system. M2 GENERAL
In order to ensure maximum performance and length of operation, water heaters should be inspected periodically. M3 MAINTENANCE OF HEATED WATER SERVICES
Heated water services should be maintained in accordance with the following:
(a) Water treatment units:Where installed, water treatment units should be inspected periodically to ensure proper operation.
(b) Water vessels and tanks: All vessels and tanks should be inspected and cleaned periodically, and in accordance with any requirements of the regulatory authority. NOTE: The frequency of periodic cleaning depends upon the quality of the supply water, design, materials of construction and the pipe system. Combinations of materials giving rise to corrosion should be avoided.
(c) Valves: The following valves should be inspected periodically to ensure proper operation:
(i) Temperature/pressure-relief valves.
(ii) Expansion control valves.
(iii) Thermostatic mixing valves.
(iv) Tempering valves.
(v) Other associated valves/devices.
(d) The requirements of AS/NZS 3666.2, where applicable.
Common reasons for why do I not have hot water
Below are listed the most common reasons we attend to clients jobs who call up to as why do I not have hot water? Listed are elementary troubleshooting ideas that you can undertake yourself to resolve or understand why your hot water is cold:
blown fuse or circuit breaker – replace the fuse or reset the circuit breaker and if it blows again it’s probable there is a fault with your element or thermostat, and you need to call Whywait out to repair
Energex relay switch failure – this is not the easiest to detect but if you are on off-peak rates and there are no obvious electrical faults or water leaks then its worth a phone call to your energy supplier to check whether the relay switch has failed to activate in your area
defective relief valve – most relief valves on the side of the HWS only have a life span of around 3-5 years. Still, they can jam open so first check if you see water running from it by pulling the lever up and then easing back down again. If water continues to run then you need to call Whywait out to service the unit
no water at all – this is when you wake up turn the tap on and cold water flows, but there is no flow from the hot water. Frequently this a failure of the non-return or isolating valve and a quick way to check is to turn the handle on the valve all the way off and then all the way back on. In many cases, the hot water will simply begin to flow again. However, if there is still no flow you need to call Whywait out for repairs
water fluctuation from hot to cold – there are several reasons for this occurring, but the most common is a faulty tempering valve. There is nothing you can do to solve fluctuation other than call Whywait and read our information on tempering valves
water leaking from hot water tank – there is only a maximum of 7 possible points on an HWS tank where there are joints that can possibly leak. Only 2 of those are concealed in the housing so if the water is leaking from the tank and its not from the visible water connections you need to call Whywait for service to check the HWS. In all likelihood, if the hot water tank is more than ten years old then its a 50/50 chance you need a new one installed
The above reasons are the most common problems you will experience with why do I not have hot water. As you can see above, there are only a few simple DIY solutions when you have no hot water.
A word of warning though. Please never open up the housing near the bottom of the tank where the electrical connections are as they are all live wires inside there and therefore very, very dangerous.
Whether you have a solar, heat pump, gas or electric hot water system they do need periodic maintenance so for all hot water problems call Whywait Plumbing now on (07) 5580 4311 as we guarantee a same-day rapid response for hot water problems.
As good as Google can be for searching everything and anything I guarantee no-one at Google ever completed a plumbing apprenticeship or a medical degree or an electrical apprenticeship.
I was chatting with my GP recently, and she voiced her frustrations with patients that Google their symptoms and then make an appointment to see her. Almost invariably, Dr Google is wrong. Usually, the patient has typed in symptoms that frequently give an utterly incorrect diagnosis of multiple possible ailments. She said even more frustrating is that then she then spends most of the appointment convincing them Dr Google was wrong.
She was so happy when I told her as plumbers we go through exactly the same issues daily. Everyone I know that is in a service industry that has a consumer focus has the same problems and frustrations of being an instant expert thanks to Dr Google or Google Plumbing or Google Electrical.
We all agree Google is excellent, especially for product searches. But when you are in business, it can also be incredibly frustrating when clients tell you they have Googled the problem and you are wrong. Ultimately for doctors or plumbers or electricians, all we can do is diagnose the issues based on the information presented and go through a process of elimination of possible causes.
The headline above comparing Dr Google to a drunk friend I just had to adapt and use after I saw it in a column by Tony Shepherd of The Adelaide Advertiser just after discussing Dr Google with my GP. I must admit it amused me as the description is perfect – dramatic and unreliable. You can read the full column by clicking here as it is a great read. The first lines are “Cyberchondriacs, step away from the search engine. Online symptom checkers are almost always wrong and should never replace a real medical professional, writes Tory Shepherd.”
This advice equally applies to plumbing because it can be difficult enough to diagnose plumbing problems when on site let alone on a computer or over the phone. As I continually reiterate no professional plumber can diagnose issues over the phone or give you an accurate price. There is only one way to diagnose plumbing problems, and that’s by having a real plumber on-site to investigate. Even then, complex issues become a process of elimination.
From the plumbing and ultimately health perspective, the most frightening issue we’ve seen with COVID-19 is all of the online suggestions on DIY installations of bidet seats and douche sprays. Google searches during the “toilet paper crisis” increased tenfold for bidet seats due to multiple social media posts and newspaper articles on so-called alternate toileting devices. Google will only ever give you generalised answers that are tailored to you as Google tracks you online with artificial intelligence.
Tony Shepherd correctly points out – “Maybe it’s best to think of Google not as a medical professional but as Librarian Google, who holds plenty of information and might be able to help you find it, but might also be miffed at the amount of noise you make so just points you in the general direction of some stuff.”
My favourite lines after that are – “Or Friend Google who, after three champagnes, will tell you everything’s going to be great, but at 2 am starts crying into their whisky about how you’re going to die.”
Those lines above sum up precisely the daily frustrations that so many consumer-focused service businesses experience. The old saying about computers of rubbish in, rubbish out is correct. The flawed Google searches of an inexperience person create multiple issues as nonsense input into a Google search will guarantee nonsense results.
Ultimately Google is a tool or research assistant that can help you put things together in a logical manner or can throw a real spanner in the works. A Google search cannot replace a doctor or an electrician or a plumber, no matter how good Google artificial intelligence is.
It is illegal to install a douche spray or bidet spray in Queensland unless it complies with AS/NZS 3500.1:2018 clause 12.2.3 below which classifies bidet toilet seats and douche sprays at toilet seat douches.
12.2.3 Toilet seat douches – Where the douche outlet, in all positions, is at least 25 mm above the overflow level of the pan, backflow prevention is not required. Where the douche outlet, in any position, is less than 25 mm above the overflow of the pan, a high-hazard backflow prevention device, conforming to AS/NZS 2845.1 or AS 2845.2, shall be installed. This device shall be either part of the douche or installed separately.
Unfortunately, there are advertisements everywhere on social media or websites promoting DIY such as My Bidet Australia. The product they advertise as an easy install toilet seat bidet is illegal. They promote on their website as – Quick and Easy Installation: Includes everything you need including tools to get your bidet up and running in minutes. Easily attaches to and detaches from any standard two-piece toilet.
The reality is the product has no WaterMark certification. As the photo illustrates clearly on their website, the dual nozzles are deep inside the toilet bowl, creating a high backflow risk. This is categorised as high risk as back-siphonage can occur through these nozzles allowing contaminated water from the toilet bowl to be sucked into the potable or drinking water supply.
The toilet seat bidet from My Bidet Australia sells online for $99, which is an indication of its quality. The price should be a warning enough as to how good this product is likely to be as good quality WaterMark approved bidet seats such as a Toto Washlet start at around $1199.00 in Australia.
The old saying you get what you pay for applies absolutely for this dangerous product. It is frightening that they state on their website – Upgrade your bathroom with beautifully designed bidet attachments, featuring water pressure control knobs. We use high-quality parts that are built to last. They are constructed with high-pressure faucet quality valves and metal/ceramic core. Common sense dictates you cannot produce high quality for $99 that complies with Australian Standards.
Unfortunately, this product is being advertised everywhere on Facebook and Google. Currently, if you do a Google search for a Toto bidet seat the first result in Google AdWords is incredibly for not Toto but My Bidet Australia. It truly is a case of buyer beware and why you need to check it is approved for use in Australia with a WaterMark certification.
What does backflow mean?
Backflow is simply the reverse flow of water. When we refer to it in plumbing terms, it is stopping contaminated water being drawn back into the water supply system that we all use for drinking. In terms of an illegally installed douche spray or bidet spray, this can occur when the water pressure drops significantly. If nozzles or sprays connected to the water supply are in contact with a contaminated water supply in a toilet, there is potential for that contaminated water to be sucked into the drinking water supply. In simple terms, it is like you sucking on a straw.
There are two ways that backflow contamination will occur because of a water pressure drop:
Back-pressure occurs if there is an increase in the downstream pressure, which creates a reversal of the normal direction of the water flow.
Back-siphonage occurs when there is a drop in the supply pressure, thereby creating a negative pressure situation in the water supply. Commonly this will happen if the water is suddenly turned off or there is a dramatic increase in demand such as water used for fire fighting.
With a bidet seat, douche spray or bidet spray backflow contamination is possible and if occurring it is classified as high risk. This is why all of these products by law must be:
have a form 9 lodged with the local water authority
All of the above are requirements under the law; they are not optional extras.
What does high hazard mean?
High hazard is the highest rated hazard in the cross-connection hazard rating in AS/NZS 3500.1-2018, which is covered in Section 4 Cross-Connection Control and Backflow Prevention. As Licensed Plumbers, we know how serious this section is in ensuring that our drinking water is not contaminated and potentially life-threatening. Clause 4.3 below lists all three ratings:
4.3 CROSS-CONNECTION HAZARD RATING
Cross-connections are rated using three degrees of hazard, as follows:
(a) High hazard Any condition, device, or practise that, in connection with the water supply system, has the potential to cause death.
(b) Medium hazard Any condition, device, or practise that, in connection with the water supply system, has the potential to endanger health.
(c) Low hazardAny condition, device or practise that, in connection with the water supply system, constitutes a nuisance but does not endanger health or cause injury.
The high hazard rating is not a scare tactic when we talk about an illegal or a non-compliant bidet seat, douche spray or bidet spray it is a health issue with the critical wording being potential to cause death.
Yes, any plumbing fixture installed in your home or business can null and void your home and contents insurance policies.
Any bidet seat, douche spray or bidet spray that is not installed by a Licensed Plumber or does not have WaterMark certification has the potential to flood your home. A burst flexihose on these dodgy products can flood your home very quickly.
ACCC and Government warnings
We all understand that COVID-19 has caused a great deal of uncertainty and angst, but a DIY installation of a toilet bidet seat or douche spray or bidet spray is merely breaking the law. DIY of any plumbing fixture has potentially dire consequences, and with products such as the toilet seat bidet from My Bidet Australia, you are risking severe illness or death.
The ACCC, the ABCB and every state government has become alarmed that the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a dramatic increase in the purchase of toilet seat bidet douches, handheld bidet sprays and trigger sprays, and other bidet type products that are connected to toilet water supply valve are being installed as a DIY project.
The critical message of every alert issued by every state government is that the installation of any bidet product connected to the drinking water supply must be undertaken by a licensed plumber and must hold WaterMark certification.
The DIY installation of a bidet seat or a douche spray is illegal. The health risk of incorrectly installed bidet seats or douche sprays can be severe not only to you but to the community as a whole. In the last month, Google searches for the term bidets have increased tenfold, which is frightening as traditionally Australians have shunned the installation of bidets. The increase in Google searches has occurred due to multiple social media posts and newspaper articles on so-called alternative toileting devices and what is appallingly lousy advice on their installation.
The multitude of bidet seats and douche sprays that can now be found for sale online has set off alarm bells at all levels of government in Australia. It is evident when checking the scant information available online that very few of these online products have been tested and approved for use in Australia.
Hardware stores and specialist plumbing suppliers that stock douche spray kits are selling them out as fast as stock arrives to DIY enthusiasts who get installation advice from shop assistants. This just increases the health risks tenfold. There have been reports of staff in plumbing supply stores being abused for refusing to advise on how to install bidet seats or douche spray kits and suggesting that a licensed plumber must install these products.
As a result, here in Queensland the QBCC has issued a public warning on the sale and installation of ‘alternative toileting devices’ which in part states:
This is a warning issued by the Commissioner of the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) to the public under section 20J(1)(i) of the Queensland Building and Construction Commission Act 1991 (QBCC Act).
The QBCC warns suppliers and the public about the sale and use of potentially non-conforming building products, namely Do It Yourself (DIY) bidets, douche sprays and similar hygiene devices, collectively known as ‘alternative toileting devices’.
The QBCC has recently become aware of the sale and DIY installation of alternative toileting devices in Queensland, particularly for household use. Unless these devices are manufactured to comply with Australian Standards and also are properly installed, these can lead to a risk of contaminating the household water supply with E. coli bacteria. An E. coli infection can lead to serious health and safety issues.
In Queensland, alternative toileting devices must be installed by a licensed plumber who has the skills and qualifications to ensure that a backflow prevention device is in place.
A bidet seat or a douche spray are classified as high hazard plumbing products. This is because there is a high risk of toilet sewage water mixing with your drinking water if they are not installed as per the requirements of section 12 of AS/NZS 3500.1-2018 Water Services. They must be legally certified with an Australian WaterMark approval which is evident on the packaging plus can be searched online at the WaterMark Product Database.
Despite looking easy to install, they are not. Both a bidet seat and a douche spray require a water connection. Generally, this can be at the water connection for the toilet cistern. However, this always requires a legally compliant backflow prevention device to be installed as well. This is not an optional extra it is the law to prevent your drinking water from becoming contaminated, which pose serious risks to your families health and safety.
If you have recently undertaken a DIY installation of a bidet seat or douche spray to your toilet, then we urge you to call us on (07) 5580 4311 to get us to check it is a compliant installation. This ensures you have not created a risk to your families health and safety plus ensures you have not null and voided your homes insurance policies.
You need to be aware of so-called unlicensed plumbers or handyman who cannot legally install a bidet seat or douche spray to your toilet. Beware of the handyman who tries to convince you that he can undertake plumbing works as long as it’s under $3300 of value. This is a complete lie by opportunistic unlicensed scammers who put your families health at risk. The benchmark value for undertaking plumbing, drainage or gas work is $0 and always has been. For extra assurance go the QBCC website To find out more about a licensee you can use their online licensee search, or search their occupational licence.
If you would like to investigate the installation of a bidet seat or douche spray to your toilet, then call us on (07) 5580 4311 to book an appointment. This ensures the installation is compliant with Queensland law as all products we install have appropriate and genuine Watermark certification.
With all the uncertainly during this ongoing COVID-19 crisis it is critical Gold Coast homeowners and businesses don’t fall into the trap of using so-called handymen or unlicensed plumbers. In reality, there is no such occupation categorised as unlicensed plumbers. Every person classified as a plumber is licensed by the Queensland Building and Construction Commission or QBCC.
All individuals and companies must hold a QBCC licence for any building works that involve any work that is:
Your plumbing is not a simplistic plaything and worldwide is classified as critical public health infrastructure. All work undertaken on any aspect of your plumbing, drainage or gas infrastructure is legally required to be undertaken by appropriately licensed individuals and companies.
All plumbers frequently experience fixing up after a handyman who makes out that unlicensed plumbers exist and convinces homeowners he can undertake plumbing works as long as it’s under $3300 of value. This is a complete lie by opportunistic unlicensed scammers who put your families health at risk. The benchmark value for undertaking plumbing, drainage or gas work is $0 and always has been.
Any plumbing, drainage and gasfitting work is essential to ensuring the health and safety of the entire community. This is critically important with the COVIC-19 health pandemic we are currently facing.
Every aspect of the plumbing, drainage and gas trades are administered by a strict licensing and legislative regime. This ensures every person in these trades holds the relative QBCC licences that are legally required. This, in turn, ensures the safety and protection of the entire community through the provision of clean safe drinking water, sanitary drains and sewers to dispose of wastewater, and gas pipes and appliances that are fit for purpose.
We all agree that using a licensed plumber or gas fitter can appear expensive but it is an investment that protects your families health. Using an unlicensed plumber can null and void your insurance coverage plus leave you with possible legal and financial implications.
Especially now demand to visually sight the QBCC licences. A QBCC occupational licence enables the person to physically carry out the work. A QBCC contractor licence allows the person to engage in contracting for the work.
What plumbing work can be undertaken by unlicensed plumbers or handymen?
Repairing or replacing a drop valve washer, float valve washer or suction cup rubber in a toilet cistern
Replacing caps or covers to ground-level inspection openings on a sanitary drain
Cleaning or maintaining a ground-level grate for a trap on a sanitary drain
Installing or maintaining an irrigation or lawn watering system downstream from a tap, isolating valve or backflow prevention device on the supply pipe for the watering system
Repairing or maintaining an irrigation system for the disposal of effluent from a greywater use facility or on-site sewage facility
Fire protection work for testing plumbing carried out by a holder of a fire protection occupational licence or another QBCC licence
Incidental unskilled tasks such as excavating or backfilling a trench
Many of these tasks are much more complicated than they appear. Mixer taps, for example, can be extremely complicated just to dismantle and technically they have no washer so must always be worked on by a licensed plumber.
Despite social media saying yes you can we can guarantee it is completely illegal for anyone other than a licensed plumber to install a bidet seat or a douche spray to a toilet.
Checking a plumbers licence
Prior to letting anyone commence work on your plumbing, drainage or gas ask them for their plumbers licence as they are legally obliged to produce it for you if asked.
I recently had a client comment that Gold Coast Plumbers bury their mistakes far more than doctors bury their mistakes. It is a comment I cannot disagree with in any way. Increasingly we see underground plumbing work that is so non-compliant it’s confirming Gold Coast Plumbers bury their mistakes, knowingly and deliberately.
Calling them mistakes is not being truthful because we all know it’s a deliberate act to cut costs. We all understand those plumbing companies that choose to undertake construction work are under enormous competitive pressure to reduce construction costs continually.
However, because of these plumbing companies buckling to pressure from project managers, builders and developers, they are in an ever downward spiral of negligently breaking the law. The reality is all of the parties involved in the lawbreaking know the chances of them getting caught are slim as the inspections by City of Gold Coast’s plumbing, and drainage inspectors are cursory at best.
Underground water pipes, house sewer drains and house stormwater drains are all buried underground. Unfortunately for property owners, it can take years before the problems become apparent and they investigate the issue. By this time the original construction job is out of warranty, and the QBCC will show little interest in any investigation of negligence.
Investigation and rectification of non-compliant installation of underground plumbing infrastructure fall onto the hapless property owner. Rectification bills can be enormous, and the likelihood is there is no insurance coverage or any desire by the council or state regulatory authorities to investigate.
I believe we have the best plumbing regulations and standards in the world. We used to have the best enforcement in the world to ensure our buildings met the high standards required. The enforcement of the Plumbing and Drainage Act of 2018 and the preceding laws have become so lax that most buildings constructed in the last twenty years have multiple underground plumbing defects. Disastrously for property owners, the majority of these defects are waiting to break down and cause havoc finally.
When these buried mistakes are covered by insurance and break down, causing water damage, every one of us bears a cost via ever-increasing property insurance premiums on all buildings. If enforcement had occurred at the construction stage, then this water damage would have never happened.
It is our experience as maintenance plumbers that builders and developers perceive they can reduce costs and increase profits by not complying with the Plumbing and Drainage act of 2018.
The legal obligations of complying with the Plumbing Code of Australia, which is Volume 3 of the National Construction Code, is not even a consideration.
I accept this lack of compliance has come about due to multiple factors and pressures. Nevertheless, this short-sighted attitude and systematic non-compliance with what is the law affects property owners with prodigious rectification costs. I believe that the project managers, builders, developers and plumbers involved in this ongoing fraud of property owners and insurance companies are well aware of what they are doing but blame it on:
pressures in the construction industry where the lowest price wins mentality
rewards plumbers who take non-compliant short cuts to reduce costs to win jobs
builders actively forcing cost-cutting on sub-contractors and suppliers
constraints on plumbers to complete the job and be paid
reluctance of builders to inform clients that unforeseen issues have arisen
which will increase the cost of construction
failure of building certifiers and plumbing inspectors to defect non-compliant
work and the turning of a blind eye to incorrectly graded trenches, lack of
compaction and inappropriate backfilling of trenches
lack of enforcement by the Queensland Government regulators
Every one of the above has in their view a justifiable excuse for what is occurring but all that is required is for the law to be obeyed. The Plumbing and Drainage Act of 2018 and the Plumbing and Drainage Regulation 2019 merely need to be enforced to stop Gold Coast Plumbers bury their mistakes attitude continuing.
By enforcing the law, everyone is a winner and will return us to the standards that previously existed where non-compliant work was defected without a second thought. Every plumber I discuss this with would be more than happy with this to occur as it would create a level playing field for the plumbing industry where efficiency was rewarded rather than non-compliant short cuts. It further protects property owners and the entire construction industry that is already under a cloud due to the cladding non-compliance in buildings throughout Australia.
As licensed plumbers,
we are mindful that non-compliant plumbing is a public health risk. I reiterate
most of the non-compliant work is knowingly and deliberate which is ultimately
negligent behaviour. Sooner or later insurance companies and no-win no-pay
lawyers will awaken to the fact that this non-compliance is negligence resulting
in the plumbing industry as a whole is portrayed as cowboys with no integrity
ripping off poor property owners.
This is a scenario where no one wins except the lawyers. As a critical industry plumbers cannot allow a perception that plumbers as a whole are unable to undertake legally compliant work. We certainly need no more regulation we just need the existing laws and regulations enforced to protect the community’s health as a whole.