Water Tight Blog

My electric hot water system has broken down. Do I call an electrician or plumber?

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We understand when your not in the industry it can be confusing as to what tradesman you need when your hot water system fails. What makes this even trickier is both of these trades are licensed and have tasks that the other can’t legally complete.

A plumber is licensed and trained professional that can legally work on the water service. In addition to holding a plumbing license, a maintenance plumber will often also hold a Restricted Electrical License. This additional training and qualification allows them to test, disconnect and reconnect electrical appliances or components meaning in 99% of hot water breakdowns they can repair your electric hot water system.

An electrician is licensed to work on the electrical side of the hot water system only and can not legally work on the water supply side.

Here is a list of the possible failures of a hot water system, including who could suitably repair the fault in an efficient manner

Note, we have assumed that the plumber has conducted additional licensing training and requirements and holds a restricted electrical license

  • Duo Valve = Plumber
  • Pressure limiting valve = Plumber
  • Tempering valve = Plumber
  • Cold water relief valve = Plumber
  • Temperature pressure relief valve = Plumber
  • Leaking pipework or join = Plumber
  • Failing pump = Plumber
  • Failing thermostat = Plumber or Electrician
  • Failing element or element gasket = Plumber or Electrician
  • Off peak relay = electrical supplier or plumber or electrician
  • Failing electrical supply (We have seen this once in 7 years and repairs 1000’s of hot water systems) = Electrician
  • Burst or leaking tank = Plumber

We are often called to attend to a hot water system breakdown that a client has already paid to have there electrician come out and tell them they can not fix the issue and require a plumber. Normally, when we ask the client why they called an electrician they reply “because we still had water at the tap, it just wasn’t hot”. Unfortunately, when this is the case whilst it could be on of the few tasks that an electrician and a plumber can do, it is also just as likely to be one of the other components such as a failing tempering valve or tprv valve.

As an electrician is not licensed to work on the water side of the hot water system, even if it is an electrical failure there advice may be swayed by the limitations to what they can personally do to help you out. For example, if an element failed on a system that was well out of warranty and had signs of internal rust a plumber could give you 2 options, repair the unit and get a limited warranty on the new parts only or replace the unit and get a new 12 year warranty on the tank. An electrician would be limited to just offering the parts replacement as they can not legally replace the entire tank.

Additionally, 2 of the valves, tempering and tprv, should be replaced every 5 years as per the manufacture ‘s instructions including the note on the side of the tank. If you opt to replace these at the same time it is much more efficient to do it in a single visit. A plumber could give you this as an option to your repair where as an electrician could not.

Now you could be thinking, “wow, this plumber really doesn’t like electricians”, but that’s not the case at all. Just because we follow them around construction site’s cleaning up the mess that they are renound for leaving behind and have to hear them all make the same joke every time we meet regarding which direction sewage will flow in a pipe which must get taught in the first year of their apprenticeship, we don’t mind them. I probably wouldn’t by one a beer, but I would wave if we passed on the street.

All jokes aside, if your hot water system has broken down, we recommend hiring a licensed plumber that also holds a restricted electrical license.
Wow. That just so happens to be us 🙂

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