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Installing solar water heaters

As more homes in Victoria are turning to renewables and all electric systems, including hot water systems, there are some competing codes and standards rules to be aware of to ensure compliant installations.

In Victoria there is a current variation to the energy efficiency requirements for water efficiency under NCC 2019 Volume Two.

The result of this variation means that it requires, either the installation of a rainwater tank connected to all sanitary flushing systems, or a solar water heater. 

Where the installation of a solar water heater (SWH) instead of the rainwater tanks is adopted the Vic Variation requires compliance with Plumbing Regulations 2019.

What’s the issue?

A SWH that uses solar collectors need to incorporate a booster, the boosting must be provided by either gas or electric energy supply. 

However, the Plumbing Regulations state that if a reticulated gas service is available to the property, the booster must be connected to the gas supply.

This by default requires a gas supply to the dwelling even if the SWH proposed would be an all electric system (including all other appliances).

An alternate approach

As an alternative to the use of a SWH with solar collectors is the use of a heat pump water heater.

There has been some confusion in the processes required when installing a heat pump water heater as the SWH.

The Plumbing Regulations state that it must be installed so that no part of the heat pump water heater that is capable of heating water can be connected to the mains electricity supply either directly or indirectly in order for that part of the heater to operate.

As many houses are turning to all electric and installing PV systems, it becomes more difficult to comply with this provision. 

There are alternative measures can be applied to satisfy the performance requirement and the regulations, these include to:

  • Develop a Performance Solution to submit to the RBS, or
  • Apply to the Building Appeals Board (BAB) under either section 160 or section 160A of the Act to modify or determine compliance with the BCA.

How about NCC 2022?

The variation for rainwater tank or solar water heater will be removed as part of the energy efficiency changes in NCC 2022. 

Instead the hot water system will need to meet the new NCC 2022 ‘Whole of Home’ requirements for the fixed building services collectively i.e. meet an energy usage budget for the four regulated building services of hot water, heating/air-conditioning, lighting and swimming pool and spa plant, where installed.

For more details on the solar water heater requirements visit the VBA website: 

To find out more, contact HIA's Building Services team.

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