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Why it's important to get your geyser checked before winter

While a geyser bursting isn’t necessarily as violent or destructive as it sounds - it is better to avoid this home disaster before it happens.

Beware metal fatigue

Contraction and expansion of the geyser tank and its parts takes place during normal usage when hot water exits the geyser and is replaced by cold water. In winter however, the cold water temperature drops considerably.

This means the temperature difference between the cold water entering the geyser and the hot water leaving the geyser is higher than in the summer. This increases the expansion and contraction rate, which can lead to metal fatigue. Which is why it's important to get your geyser checked by a professional before the colder winter months set in.

How to spot issues before they happen

Santam Insurance's risk management team suggests asking a professional plumber - as registered on the Plumbing Industry Registration Board - to check that your geyser has all of the important safety features, such as the vacuum breakers, shut off valve, temperature and pressure safety valve and the multi (pressure) valve. These are important safety features of the whole water heating system.

The following checklist should also ensure your geyser is well maintained:

  • Insulate your geyser with a geyser blanket. This prevents heat loss, reducing the cost of electricity needed to keep water hot.

  • Turn down your geyser temperature to 60 degrees Celsius. This will save some money on your electricity bill.

  • Check that the electrical isolator switch is within 1 meter of the geyser. This was not a requirement on old geysers. The geyser also has to be earthed.

  • Check that you have a drip tray and that it can safely drain away any leaks from a burst geyser. This will save you a lot of discomfort from having to claim for and replace mouldy carpets or cupboards.

  • Fix leaking geysers which would be dripping water outside through a pipe from the drip tray that is under your geyser. A steady drips wastes a lot of water but also means your geyser will need to continuously heat more water which adds to your monthly water and electricity bills.

  • There should be a cover over the thermostat and element. These are often just left lying next to the geyser.

  • Maintain your geyser by replacing the self-sacrificing anode. Anode rods come installed with geysers and are generally made of magnesium or aluminium which are screwed into the inside of the geyser. This anode, or rod, prevents corrosion of the geyser by "self-sacrificing" its metal which attracts the corrosion of the water and its minerals preventing rust. When there's no sacrificial metal left on the anode, the tank can rust out but generally last about five years. This depends on the water quality and usage. Therefore you can save money by maintaining your geyser with a replacement anode.

  • Check that you have the appropriate plumbing piping. The geyser may be fed with a plastic pipe, up to the shut off valve, but the pipe into and out of the geyser must be copper or galvanised steel.

But what exactly are the warning signs of your geyser failing?

According to Budget Insurance spokesperson Graham Craggs, "A defective geyser is a serious concern. Besides destroying fixtures and fittings in the property, it can also cause serious injury or even death.”

Budget Insurance suggests you look out for the following:

– If you notice that your geyser is not hot like before

– If water pressure is insufficient

– If excessive steam or water is coming from the hot water overflow pipe on your roof

– If your geyser makes a strange hissing, cracking or humming sound

– If you notice wet and damp spots close to the geyser

"Should the geyser burst, switch off the electricity’s main switch and turn off the water utility and call your plumber and insurance company immediately."

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