Safety advice to consumers following Rhianna Hardie inquestFollowing the tragic death of Rhianna Hardie and a similar case in Cornwall in 2002, Coroner Michael Rose said the problem with the thermostat which caused hot water to flood the cold water tank could have national implications. The advice below is for consumers concerned about their hot water system.Please note: a thermostat fault in an electrical immersion heater is not the only potential danger to homeowners and tenants. Advice issued so far has been correct but incomplete.
Risks exist with a range of other heating appliances. See "Other heating systems at risk section of this advice guide.The information to follow should help consumers to be aware of the warning signs and understand what to do if they suspect a problem. It is, of course, extremely rare for these problems to occur and the vast majority of hot water systems are safe.Warning signs and what to look for:This warning applies to domestic hot water systems that include a fixed all-electric or part-electric immersion heater or other hot water heating appliance connected to a hot water storage cylinder in conjunction with a plastic cold water storage cistern or "˜tank/header tank located in the roof space.
Particular consideration should be given to systems over 10 years old and systems where homeowners or tenants have other reason to suspect the adequacy of the installation or if they feel their system is malfunctioning. Warning signs include: Excessively high water temperature at the hot tap. If you suspect the water is too hot, draw water into a cup and measure its temperature with a thermometer. The temperature should not normally exceed 65 degrees centigrade unless it is heated by solid fuel. Hot or warm water running from your cold water taps in the bathroom if they are not supplied direct from the mains.
Excessive noise from the hot water cylinder, such as loud gurgling, hissing or a noise similar to an electrical kettle boiling.Condensation on the loft access or roof structure.Storage cisterns should be installed on an adequate supporting base.Check that the base is at least ¾ of an inch (20mm) thick and accommodates the entire base of the cistern so no part of the cistern protrudes over the edge. The support base should be made of plywood or floor boarding; chipboard is not to be used. The risk is greatest when cisterns are located above bedrooms. This is most likely in houses built between 1945 and 1975 but other properties may be affected. Very often these homes have, or used to have, a back boiler. If the cylinder is located in a bedroom, the cistern may be directly above it. Whenever a galvanised (metal) cistern is replaced by a plastic one, the thermostat to the immersion heater should be examined and preferably replaced by one with a safety cut-out.
If your system was fitted before 2004, there is a good chance it is fitted with an old thermostat. After 2004, a safety cut-out feature, independent of the immersion heater control thermostat, has been fitted to most systems. If the control thermostat fails, this safety feature limits the temperature of the stored water. Action to takeIf you think there may be a problem, take the following actions: Switch off the heating system. (If you have a solid fuel system, you cannot turn it off see point 2).Run the hot tap immediately.
This will run off the hot water in the tank and replenish it with cold from the mains. (If you have a solid fuel system, you cannot turn it off so just keep your hot tap running until the water has cooled down).
If the storage cistern is sited above a sleeping area, bedroom, nursery or playroom, consider having the whole system checked immediately and move beds away in the interim.Contact a fully-qualified plumbing and heating eng