Geysers

Hiss, gush, splash, squelch....

These four sounds are every home owner's nightmare.

When I was young, our geyser burst the night before our family home went on show for the first time. I still remember looking up at the water pouring through the ceiling boards and wondering what contraption could possibly cause so much damage. After the water stopped pouring, my parents got the white paint out of the garage and painted through the night to have the property in a viewable condition by show day. The good news is that the house sold. The bad news (20 years later) is that the geysers are still generally housed in the attic and still burst at the most inconvenient times. In this article, I hope to explain what a geyser is, how it works and a few things you should look out for.

A geyser is a water tank (generally located in the attic) that is fitted with a heating element that is controlled by a thermostat. It simply converts electrical energy into heat through the use of a heating element that raises the temperature of the water to a set temperature.

There are two main pipes in the geyser: one for inlet of cold water (with a shut-off valve), and one for the outlet of the hot water. There is also an overflow pipe that allows any excess water to flow from the pressure release valve. The function of the thermostat is to set and maintain the temperature of the water.

The entire steel tank is enclosed inside a metal casing that can be hung on the wall or placed in the attic. A geyser located in the attic should always have a drip tray placed beneath it with a pipe that runs outside. The tank is normally covered with some insulating material as well.

Finally, geysers have a self-sacrificing anode that is used to protect the steel tank from corrosion by sacrificing itself and prolonging the life of the tank.

As water in the geyser heats and cools, one can expect a fairly consistent drip through the pressure relief valve overflow pipe. The overflow pipe runs away from the geyser and transfers the water onto the roof or away from the building. Anything more than a couple of litres per day often points to a faulty pressure control valve. If there is a steady flow of water rather than a slow dripping, it should be replaced.

If hot water and steam are coming out of the overflow pipe, it may indicate a release of the safety valve because of excessive temperature or pressure. The most common cause is a faulty thermostat. This is a serious situation that must be dealt with immediately. Switch off the geyser on the distribution board until it is fixed.

If your geyser bursts or springs a major leak, the drip tray might not be able to cope with the gushing water. If you see water pouring through the ceiling, switch off the main water supply to the house and open a hot tap to relieve pressure. If you know where the tap is that supplies the geyser with cold water, then you should switch that tap off instead so that you will still have water supplied to the rest of the house. Make sure that you switch the geyser off.

With any plumbing issue, it is advisable to call a qualified plumber to investigate. In the case of geysers, you may also want to call your insurance company!

Article reference: Paddocks Press: Volume 5, Issue 9, Page 6

Rob Paddock is the operations director for Paddocks. Paddocks, in conjunction with UCT, are going to present the UCT (Law@Work) Sectional Title Scheme Management course again starting 6 December 2010. For more information go to www.paddocks.co.za or email kate@paddocks.co.za.

Article by: Rob Paddock - www.paddocks.co.za