High Water Bills

MY WATER BILL WENT WAY UP! HOW DO I FIND A LEAK?

pressure regulator water leak

Your high water bill could be due to either a temporary increase in water usage or a leak. To find out if it’s a leak, first shut off all your water-using fixtures in the house.  Don’t close the shut-off valve where the water supply enters or below the pressure regulator at your house at this stage!

Take the cover off your water meter box and flip open the protective cover plate on the meter dial. Normally, your metre box will be somewhere along the front property line, often near a corner. You may have to dig down a little in the dirt to find it.

The meter may be a newer one that has a small round or diamond-shaped low-flow indicator near the centre. The low flow indicator may be red or black like in the photo above. It should not be turning. But if it is, there’s a leak somewhere in your plumbing system. At a meter without a low-flow indicator, note the meter reading or take a picture with your cell phone. Check back in an hour or so and see if it has changed.

There are a number of places to check if the meter says you have water flow indicating a leak:

1. Taps

Not just the at the sink and basins taps! Also, check the taps at the washing machine hookup, bath, shower, and the outside hose taps.

2. Toilet Cisterns (tanks)

A flapper valve that doesn’t seat properly at the bottom of the cistern will cause a leak. Check the ballcock arm and overflow tube as well, it may also be defective. Drop a dye tablet (available in most hardware stores specifically for toilet testing) in the tank. Do not flush, and wait for 15-minutes. If the colour shows up in the bowl, the toilet needs repair.

3. TPR Valve at the Geyser

The small valve with a flip-up handle at the top or side of the geyser called a Temperature and Pressure Release (TPR) valve. This important valve is designed to open if the water gets too hot, to keep the tank from exploding. These valves sometimes fail by opening slightly and letting loose a slow trickle of hot water. The water normally runs in a steel or copper pipe to a location at the exterior wall. Find the termination of the TPR valve and check for a drip. NEVER work on these valves yourself! Only a suitably trained and experienced plumber should!

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Geysers

geysers

The TPR Valve and Dangerous Geyser Installations

geysers and hot water heaters
During inspections, I found that approximately 40% of the installations of water heaters do not comply with the SANS 10254 specification. In addition, of that 10% were dangerous!

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High-pressure geysers

Most modern geysers in South Africa are high-pressure hot water heaters.

Never work on geysers yourself unless you are a licenced plumber and you know what you are doing! They are high-pressure vessels and can explode.

Home inspectors report that the most common defect in South African homes is an incorrectly installed geyser. Notably, this defect is potentially dangerous and is mainly a result of untrained, or un-supervised workers installing hot water heating systems.

Exploding geysers kill people in South Africa every year.

Temperature and pressure release valves

All high-pressure water heaters must have a temperature and pressure release valve (TPR valve). This valve controls two critical functions: pressure and temperature. Therefore, do not tamper with this valve!

If the thermostat fails and the temperature rises beyond 70°C, pressure increases. In this case, with the rising temperature, the TPR valve on the geysers will release if it is working correctly. Moreover, this happens either because of excessive heat or pressure.

If the TPR valves are faulty, the boiling point of water can rise above 120°C! The pressure will reach a point where the geysers’ pressure tanks rupture. At this point, the water turns into steam instantly. As a result, the 150 litres water in your geyser will now occupy 240,000 litres of space! This results in an explosion of the ferocity of a half kilogram of dynamite ( approximately 2½ sticks). Not only will the damage be excessive, but, as a consequence, lives can be at risk.

Defective installations

In my experience, about 4 in every 10 geysers have not been installed correctly, therefore, it is a good idea to have your’s inspected!

Also, during periods of water cutoffs, do not use hot water or open hot water taps! You will burn out the element!

Ensure that a home inspector or plumber inspects your geyser installation!

These videos show extreme cases of a hot water heater explosion:

Also, read the following: Geyser Explosion – Kimberley, Geyser explosion survivor has lost everything and  Geyser Warning – Durban.

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