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Water shortages and cuts - How to avoid geyser failure and save up to R5K a year in water

Whether you’re affected by water shortages and rationing, or water cuts due to infrastructure failure, keeping an eye on your geyser could avoid costly, sometimes dangerous failures and save you thousands of rands. Picture:Paballo Thekiso

Whether you’re affected by water shortages and rationing, or water cuts due to infrastructure failure, keeping an eye on your geyser could avoid costly, sometimes dangerous failures and save you thousands of rands. Picture:Paballo Thekiso

Published Jun 29, 2022

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Whether you’re affected by water shortages and rationing, or water cuts due to infrastructure failure, keeping an eye on your geyser could avoid costly, sometimes dangerous failures and save you thousands of rands.

Residents of the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality have been hard hit by water shortages, with many other parts of the country often struggling with water cuts due to infrastructure failure and maintenance.

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“Water shortages and cuts are not only a significant health risk and inconvenience, but also bring the added risk of geyser failure,” says Anneli Retief, Head of Dialdirect Insurance.

“Although most modern-day geysers are equipped with failsafe mechanisms, they are not immune to failure. Older geysers are particularly at risk so increased vigilance is key.”

Retief explains that modern geysers are fitted with vacuum breakers, which prevents water from flowing out of the geyser when the supply is switched off - a safety feature to prevent the heating element from overheating. These breakers do however become less efficient and can fail over time. If there is no water, and the geyser does run dry, the element could overheat, even if the main water supply is cut.

Here are a few practical tips to prevent disaster:

  • Switch off the power to the geyser during water cuts and only switch it back on once the supply has been re-established.
  • If your geyser has run empty, make sure that you allow ample time for it to refill before turning its power back on.
  • Ensure that your geyser is serviced by a qualified plumber at least every three years. A geyser service would entail draining the geyser and checking its components including the wiring, breakers, anode, element and thermostat. This helps to limit the risk of geyser fires, which are most frequently caused by a short circuit and bad connections, particularly between the element and thermostat.

The whole system should be checked for leaks and the plumber should also check that the thermostat temperature on the geyser isn’t set too high. 600C is the recommended temperature.

Geysers are known to burst when the thermostat is incorrectly set or badly regulated as it will incorrectly control the heat levels of the water in the geyser and possibly cause an explosion due to the amount of steam that accumulates.

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Keep an eye out for the early warning signs of geyser failure. If you notice that water coming from the geyser isn’t as hot as it used to be, that the water pressure isn’t high enough, that too much water or steam is coming from the hot water overflow pipe on your roof, that the geyser is making strange humming, hissing or cracking noises, or you notice wet spots near the geyser, disaster may be around the corner and it must be inspected immediately.

Having a fire extinguisher in your home could very well save your possessions and your life. It’s important to remember, however, that you your life is more important than any possessions.

Keep emergency numbers and that of your insurer close by, especially if you’re in an area affected by water cuts and shortages.

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Here are a few tips to save water, bearing in mind that, according to Water Wise, a family of four that uses water wisely will use 282L of water daily versus a not-so-water-wise family of four who will use 775L daily.

This means that a not-so-water-wise family will spend around R451 per month on water, whilst a water wise family will spend only R49. That’s a massive saving of nearly R5000 per year.

Check all taps and pipes for leaks. If no water is being used and your water meter keeps running, there is a leak. A leak of just one drop per second can waste close to 1000 litres of water a month. Report any leaks that aren’t on your property to the authorities.

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Fitting aerators to the tips of taps limits splashing, and makes it seem like you’re using the same amount of water, whilst actually using less.

When cooking, cover pots and pans. This keeps water from evaporating and uses less energy to bring food to a boil.

Avoid using water to thaw food, use the fridge to thaw food within a couple of hours instead.

There are devices like taps showerheads and even toilets that use less water to do the same job and could save you anything from 30% to 50% in water and money. Investigate these as alternative options.

Insulating water pipes limits wastage in waiting for water to heat up. This limits the amount of heat that escapes from water that is in the pipe between the geyser and tap when the tap isn’t in use.

Invest in a pool cover, reduce the temperature of your pool and switch off all but the essential pumps that keep the water moving to limit evaporation. Limit pool pump usage to night time.

When using washing machines and dishwashers, make sure they’re on the most water-efficient cycles, and avoid pre-washes.

Wash your laundry in large loads and use a bucket to collect the grey water. Then, use that grey, soapy water to clean your floors. This will save you about 15 litres of water.

Consider long-term investments such as dual flush toilet mechanisms and low-flow shower heads.

“In case the unforeseen does happen, it’s also wise to have comprehensive buildings insurance cover in place to make sure that you and your loved ones have the help and support you need and that you can be up and running again in no time,” Retief concludes.

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