We take our hot water systems for granted until they break down and need repair or replacement. When they do break down and we’re left without hot water, we make them our top priority.
In the past, we had only two choices when it came to hot water systems: gas or electric. Today, we have many more options to consider, but they all have one thing in common: they must be installed by licensed professionals.
Licensing of Hot Water System Installers
A hot water system is an integral part of your home water supply and must be installed by a licensed plumber. If you choose a gas system, you will need to hire a licensed plumber/gasfitter and if a plug-in electricity supply has not already been installed, you may need to hire a licensed electrician to install your electric hot water system. Licensing requirements will differ, so scroll down to our state-by-state entries to find out what type of licence is required to install hot water systems in your state or territory.
The Clean Energy Regulator of the Australian government has established an incentive program to encourage homeowners to adopt new hot water system technologies that reduce our dependence on energy sources that contribute to greenhouse emissions. The Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) issues Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs) that have substantial cash value for qualified systems. To take advantage of the SRES, you must purchase an eligible system and have it installed by an accredited installer.
Types of Hot Water Systems
There are a number of types of hot water systems to choose from today:
Solar hot water systems make use of solar collectors installed on the roof. Your installer may need to hold a restricted builder’s licence to be authorised to install your solar system.
Solar and heat pump hot water systems both qualify for STCs and can save you money on your energy bills.
The installation of hot water systems is considered part of the plumbing trade by NSW Fair Trading. Only licensed plumbers are allowed to install hot water systems in New South Wales and if you have a gas system installed, it must be installed by a licensed plumber/gasfitter.
In addition, there are specific licence classes for types of plumbing work. Your installer’s licence should clearly state they are endorsed to install the type of hot water system you choose.
If you are installing a hot water system in a new house, condominium or townhouse, you may not be able to install an electric storage system in NSW. Electric storage systems are “greenhouse gas intensive” and are being phased out Australia-wide.
In Victoria, anyone who undertakes plumbing work is required to register with the Victorian Building Authority (VBA). The VBA’s definition of “plumbing work” includes “any part of a hot or cold water system” that is connected to the water supply.
Plumbing work in Victoria is further regulated by the Plumbing Industry Council (PIC), which stipulates that plumbing work over $750 requires the issuing of a Compliance Certificate.
A plumber in Victoria will be registered in one of three broad categories of plumbing work:
In addition, there are eight classes of registration or licence: Water Supply, Gasfitting, Sanitary, Roofing (Stormwater), Drainage, Mechanical Services, Fire Protection or Irrigation (Non-agricultural). A hot water system installation may be licensed to carry out “mechanical services” and “gasfitting” if they install gas hot water systems.
In Victoria, the phase-out of electric hot water systems applies to replacement hot water systems in existing homes as well as the installation of hot water systems in new homes. Ask your hot water heater supplier/installer for details about your options. If you choose a system that qualifies for STCs (see Licensing information above), choose an accredited installer.
In Queensland, the Plumbing Industry Council issues licences to tradespersons who undertake all types of plumbing work. Three classes of licences are available:
A restricted licence holder will be endorsed to perform specific types of plumbing work and restricted from doing other types of work. When you check your hot water system installer’s licence, make sure they are endorsed to install the type of system you choose. If you choose a gas hot water system, they should be endorsed for gasfitting.
In Queensland, it is not necessary to replace electric hot water systems with gas, solar or heat pump systems. If you do choose a solar or heat pump system that qualifies for STCs under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES), you must hire an accredited supplier in order to qualify for STCs.
Plumbing work in South Australia is governed by Consumer and Business Services (CBS), and includes all domestic and commercial work, including the installation of hot water systems. The person or company you enter into a contract with must hold a Contractor’s licence and workers who carry out installation work must have Worker’s licences. Apprentices who work under supervision must be registered as apprentices or trainees.
Your hot water system installer will carry a photo ID card with them. It will show the period of validity of the card and the classes of work they are licensed to carry out.
South Australia was the first state to begin phasing out greenhouse energy-intensive electric hot water systems. You may not be able to replace an old electric storage system in your area if you live in SA. Ask your system supplier/installer for details.
If you choose a system that qualifies for STCs, make sure you choose an accredited installer. After your system is installed, you can apply for STCs and sell them on the open market or assign them to your installer for a substantial discount on your hot water system.
All plumbers in Western Australia are regulated by the Plumbers Licensing Board. The installation of hot water systems is included in the definition of plumbing by the Plumbers Licensing Board. Your hot water system installer will probably hold one of two classes of licence:
A licensed plumbing contractor is authorised to enter into contracts with clients, carry out plumbing work and supervise the work of employees. A Tradesperson must work under supervision.
Plumbing licences are divided into three categories:
Typically, a hot water system installer will hold a Water Supply Plumbing licence. If they do gasfitting, they must also hold a gasfitting permit.
As is true throughout Australia, if you purchase a solar or heat pump hot water system that qualifies for STCs, it will have to be installed by an accredited installer. See the Licensing information at the top of this page for more details.
In Tasmania, the Department of Justice issues trade licences. The installation of hot water systems is included in one of the “variations” on plumbing work and is including in the Restricted Electrical Work (REW) class. A hot water system installer will have a REW Water Heaters licence and may also have one or more restricted gasfitting licences.
There are three categories of trade licence in Tasmania:
Heat pump systems do not qualify for STCs in some parts of Tasmania because they do not perform well in cold temperatures. Solar systems do qualify for STCs if they are installed by accredited installers. If you want to install an energy saving electric or gas-boosted solar system in Tasmania, make sure your supplier/installer is both licensed by the Department of Justice and accredited by the Clean Energy Regulator. Read the Licensing information at the top of this page for more details.
Plumbers are licensed and accredited in the ACT by the Planning and Land Authority (ACTPLA). Both full and restricted plumber’s licences are issued by ACTPLA. A restricted licence will “endorse” a licensed tradesperson to carry out a specific type of work they are qualified for.
A plumber who installs hot water systems in the ACT will probably also hold a restricted electrician’s licence that authorises them to do any electrical work directly related to the installation of the hot water system.
The ACT began its phase out of electric hot water systems in January 2010. Electric storage systems are no longer permitted and must be replaced with gas, continuous flow, heat pump or solar systems that help reduce greenhouse emissions. Heat pump and solar systems qualify for STCs under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES), but only if they are installed by accredited installers.
In the Northern Territory the Plumbers & Drainers Licensing Board stipulates that all plumbing work must be carried out by an appropriately licensed tradespersons regardless of the cost of the work. regulates that sector. All plumbing work, irrespective of the cost of the job, needs to be undertaken by an appropriately licensed individual. Two classes of plumbers are recognised by the Board:
A Journeyman must be supervised by an Advanced Tradesman and is not allowed to contract for plumbing work. A Journeyman or Advanced Tradesman may be endorsed to carry out only specific types of plumbing work, such as the installation of electric and/or gas hot water systems..
The Northern Territory has ideal weather conditions for the installation of hot water systems that use renewable energy from the sun or surrounding air to heat water. Both heat pump systems, which gather heat energy from the air, and solar systems, which use solar energy to heat water, qualify for STCs. If you choose one of these systems, it will qualify for STCs only if your installer is accredited for these systems.