The Victorian Government has announced that compliance of heat pump hot water system installations across the state is set to improve and be brought in line with industry and safety standards, with five state regulators and agencies joining forces. 

It follows the rapid growth in heat pump hot water system installations across Victoria under the Solar Homes and Victorian Energy Upgrades programs, which offer incentives to install energy efficient products in Victorian homes and businesses.

Solar Victoria, the Essential Services Commission, the Victorian Building Authority, Energy Safe Victoria and WorkSafe Victoria will increase site inspections and audits to ensure heat pump hot water systems are being installed safely and without fault. 

The agencies will also engage with industry and provide updated resources to support compliance.

Common issues identified across agencies relate to inadequate installations, which can ultimately impact the effectiveness or safe functioning of the system. 

Compliance issues identified in audits include:

  • Inadequate insulation to protect systems from freezing
  • Switchboard wiring
  • Unsafe termination points for pressure relief valves
  • Inappropriately secured water tanks

Five per cent of all Solar Homes Program installations are audited every year. 

While few hot water installations audited by Solar Victoria over the last 12 months were found to be unsafe, Solar Victoria said there are still persistent issues being detected.

As the regulator and administrator of the Victorian Energy Upgrades program, the Essential Services Commission supports and monitors compliance of heat pump hot water systems installed under the program, including industry education and engagement, undertaking audits and investigations and taking enforcement action when the program rules are not followed.

As Victoria’s building and plumbing regulator, the Victorian Building Authority will audit completed work and use information from partner agencies and consumers to target installers who may be doing the wrong thing.

The Victorian Government provides a range of support to installers and retailers to assist in maintaining safety standards, to help customers identify reputable, government-approved suppliers.

The Victorian Building Authority will provide technical education, through seminars and bulletins, to improve practitioner understanding and competency of how to install hot water systems compliantly.

The Essential Services Commission and Solar Victoria will continue working with industry groups and representatives on education, guidance and standards. 

Solar Victoria’s Chief Executive Officer, Stan Krpan, said, “More than 20,000 hot water systems have been installed across Victoria through our successful Solar Homes Program. Over the past 12 months, demand for Solar Victoria’s hot water system rebates has grown by 500 per cent.

“While we are excited by the uptake and interest in hot water systems across the state, we need to ensure that every customer is receiving products that are fit-for-purpose and correctly installed. 

“Confidence in heat pumps as a newer technology and in this growing industry will require a collective effort to ensure safety, quality and standards are maintained. Solar Victoria continues to monitor installers and retailers as part of our safety and quality commitment to our customers and non-compliance will result in direction and warning notices, followed by removal or suspension from our program.”

Essential Services Commission’s Chairperson and Commissioner, Kate Symons, said, “The Commission is committed to working with industry and partner agencies to improve compliance of heat pump hot water system installations in the Victorian Energy Upgrades program. 

“We actively monitor compliance of installations and will not hesitate to act to protect consumers and the integrity of the program. This may include restricting businesses from participating in the program; refusing to register or requiring the surrender of certificates for upgrades; court enforceable undertakings and litigation; penalty notices; and referring matters to partner agencies.”

Victorian Building Authority’s Chief Operations Officer, Ann King, said, “Incorrect installation of hot water systems can have devastating consequences for consumers. The Victorian Building Authority is committed to reducing harm caused by non-compliant plumbing work to keep Victorians safe.”

Featured image: A heat pump hot water system. Image credit: Solar Victoria.

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