Recently we attended an emergency call out in Oakhurst Blacktown who had woken to no hot water. During the initial phone call the customer explained that they had removed the fuse from the board themselves and informed us that one end was black and completely charred, it continued to POP when new fuse wire was installed… Not a good start!
Now on most occasions the cause of this popping is a short circuit caused by the appliance which in this case was the hot water unit. It is usually the result of a fault or failure within the Element or Thermostat and a relatively easy repair. After a quick discussion with our customer we conducted some routine testing and inspections that would confirm our theory and ensure the cabling was safe to re-energise once repairs were made. Many times have we conducted our tests but only on rare occasions have we come across a trifector of problems like this one, these becoming unfortunately more common in areas like Blacktown where homes are aging.
Upon a visual inspection we first came across the first problem. A old switch board still containing ceramic fuses and outdated isolation switch providing no protection to the installation. While this is not the cause of the power outage it is still one that needed to be addressed and brought to current Australian safety standards. The problem with ceramic fuses is that anyone can replace the fuse wire or filament, the terminals are old and warn and often become loose creating what is known as hot joints. This then can cause the fuse to continue to blow and result in an even bigger problem then you started with. Hot joints is when a connection is put under extreme electrical pressure and results in burnt wires, cables and even start house fires.. HOMES DON’T LIKE FIRES… Continuing on with our visual inspection we headed around back to the hot water unit. Taking one look at the system it became clear that our Blacktown customer was lucky the circuit failed when it did. This tank was rusted all the way around the base to the point where the inner steel tank was completely exposed. We strongly recommended to replace the unit its self and not attempt any repairs should the fault have been the element or thermostat as the unit itself was full of rust and at a DANGEROUS risk of rupturing.
he kicker, just to confirm where the fault lied we conducted our test on the unit and cable and determined that element and thermostat were actually in perfect working condition and the cause was the over rated fuse wire to supply the unit has caused the cable supplying the cable to fuse together and burn out. Unfortunately as there was not adequate protection the entire circuit needed to be re-ran. Perfect example of why the misconception of “if it aint broke don’t fix it” DOEST WORK. Prevention and maintenance is the best way to save you money. Board maintenance, tune up and service work on things like hot water units can save you thousand in the long run. Needless to say we upgraded our customer board. Managed to run in a new hot water circuit and being fortunate there was a cable bath as costs could have soured and got a plumber in to replace the rusted and dangerous tank. Do yourself a favour, dont wait till its to late or you have a problem to have your homes plumbing and electrical checked by a professional.