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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Home Maintenance

Home Maintenance

Home Maintenance

home maintenance and safety
Without a home maintenance checklist, you will lose control of essential maintenance items will cost you a lot more in eventual replacement or repairs!

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Regular home maintenance is important!

You should not allow minor repairs to mount up. Your home maintenance plan is essential to creating a safe environment and protecting your investment. As part of your home maintenance list the following safety precautions are essential:

Install the following

  • Change the locks on all exterior doors for security purposes if keys have gone missing.
  • Install smoke detectors on each level of the home. Install carbon monoxide detectors where any fossil fuels may be burned i.e. near the heater, gas stove, near garage entry’s, near fireplaces, etc. This is an important part of home maintenance and safety. If these devices are already present, change the batteries and make a note of when you did to schedule future battery replacements at the same time next year.
  • Install fire extinguishers near stoves, in garages, and keep one handy near fireplaces and woodstoves.
  • Create a fire exit plan to evacuate your home or business in the event of a fire or other emergency.
  • Clean and check your main shutoff points of water, gas, and electrical systems. These locations will have been pointed out to you if you joined your inspector during your home maintenance inspection.

Monthly home maintenance

  • Check that your fire extinguishers are fully charged and serviced.
  • Remove and replace heating and cooling filter elements. If they are the reusable type just clean and replace.
  • Test all Earth Leakage devices.
  • Inspect and clean electronic air cleaners and humidifiers.
  • Clean your gutters and downpipes to ensure proper water flow.
  • Check plumbing fixtures for leaks. A leak can happen quickly.
  • Check your water bill and energy bills for excessive costs. Often times these can point to a leak or even a failing electrical device, such as your refrigerator.

Spring and Autumn home maintenance

  • Check your roof and flashings for signs of damage.
  • Check your roof space for evidence of leaks. Make sure vents are not clogged.  Level out the insulation if necessary.  Often when windy the insulation around your vents will move around.
  • Clean gutters and downpipes and check for signs of leaks.
  • Trim back trees and shrubs away from the home.
  • If you have a basement check for evidence of leaks.
  • Check all walkways for movement and repair any trip hazards that may develop.
  • Clean and operate all windows and doors.
  • An important part of home maintenance is to check exterior hose taps for leaks and repair.
  • Test your pressure regulating valve on your hot water geyser or cold water service into your home.
  • Inspect for the evidence of vermin, termites and insects, treat as needed.
  • Test your garage doors and clean and lubricate all moving parts.
  • Clean or replace exhaust fan filters.
  • Service, clean or inspect all major appliances in your home per manufacturers recommendations.
  • If you have a swimming pool, check the pump and pool filter operate properly.
  • Test the pool water.

Annual home maintenance

  • Replace all smoke detector batteries and carbon monoxide detector batteries.
  • Have all heating, cooling and water systems serviced and cleaned.
  • Inspect chimneys and clean them.
  • Examine all electrical panels and operate breakers to ensure they are not sticking. FOR THE SAKE OF SAFETY, DO NOT TAKE THE COVER OFF THE PANEL!!
  • If you have a borehole, have your borehole tested and have your pump and service tank inspected for leaks or evidence of wear.
  • All homes are suspect of wood-destroying insects (termites, carpenter bees, carpenter ants, etc.). Have your home inspected annually by a professional and treated if necessary.

Every home should be inspected at least every third or fourth year as part of a regular homeowner maintenance and safety program.

Home Maintenance and safety

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THE HOME DETECTIVE » leaking taps

Electricity efficient

electricity

Electricity efficient at home

save electricity
When buying an appliance think not only of the purchase price but also of the operating cost. More efficient appliances will save you considerable money in the long term.

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Saving Electricity

There are many things you can do to save electricity, without affecting your lifestyle or landing up in hot water with your family. An unintended side effect will be that you will also contribute to reducing carbon emissions, thereby helping save the environment.

You can easily save  up to R2000-00 per year by implementing a few practical steps:

  • Adjust the thermostat setting on the geyser to 60ºC
  • Insulate the geyser and hot water pipes.
  • Shower instead of bathing
  • Fix leaky hot water taps
  • Don’t use the hot water tap for small amounts of cold water
  • Fit a low-flow showerhead in the shower
  • Insulate the ceilings in your home
  • Use an electric blanket instead of a heater in the bedroom
  • Air-dry laundry outdoors (as opposed to using a 2kW tumble dryer for two hours each week)
  • Switch off the lights in rooms when they are not occupied
  • Use fluorescent lights in places that require long hours of light, e.g. garage and kitchen
  • Regularly service the pool pump and clean the filter

GEYSER/HOT WATER CYLINDER

The geyser is the highest consumer of electricity in the home. Save on electricity by doing the following:

Set the temperature thermostat of the geyser to the recommended 60°C. The higher the setting the higher the electricity consumption.

Install a timer on the geyser. It will then switch itself on and off at predetermined times. Alternatively, you can switch the geyser off for a few hours each day.

Switch off the geyser before you go away for two or more days.

LIGHTING

  • It is not true that you should leave fluorescent lights on to save electricity. Although efficient, they consume electricity none the less.
  • Use timer devices on plug sockets to switch lamps on and off, e.g. at night.
  • Use CFL bulbs, solar lamps, motion detector lights or photocell/day-night lights for exterior lighting.
  • Dimmer switches help regulate the light level and reduce electricity consumption (e.g. for recessed downlights).
  • Make the most of natural light entering the house.
  • Install a skylight instead of switching lights on during the day.

ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES

General

When buying an appliance think not only of the purchase price but also of the operating cost. More efficient appliances will save you considerable money in the long term.

  • Switch off all appliances such as TVs, DVD players and stereos when they are not in use.
  • Most electrical appliances continue to draw small amounts of power when switched off. 75% of the electricity used for home electronics is consumed while the appliances are turned off. Unplug the appliance when not in use.
  • Switch off your computer if not in use for the next two hours.
  • Unplug seldom-used appliances, e.g. an extra fridge or freezer in the garage.
  • Unplug your chargers/transformers when not in use.
  • Buy appliances with an ‘energy efficient’ label or rating. The government is introducing a standardised energy-efficiency labelling system, for comparative rating purposes. An ‘A’ rating is the most energy efficient, while a ‘G’ rating is the least efficient. Products such as computers and monitors, provided that the power management features are activated, are also energy efficient.
  • Replace old appliances with new ones. The savings in electricity costs will more than make up for the replacement costs.
  • Do not buy larger and more powerful appliances than you need.
  • Do not buy an electric appliance where a hand-operated one will do.
  • Use the correct appliance for the job, e.g. don’t make toast in the oven.
  • Use a microwave oven, toaster, electric grill, pressure cooker, electric frying pan and bottle warmers where possible, as they use less electricity than ovens and stove hobs.
  • Air-dry laundry instead of using a tumble dryer. If you do use a dryer, dry a full load and make sure the lint filter is cleaned after each use to ensure air circulation.
  • Fold up your laundered clothes, so you don’t have to iron them.
  • Do all your ironing at the same time instead of in stages. Switch the iron off before you are done, then complete ironing on stored energy.
  • Use distilled water in steam irons to prevent calcium build-up.
  • Empty or replace your vacuum cleaner dust bag frequently.
  • Defrost food in the fridge the night before instead of defrosting in a microwave oven.
  • Instead of leaving appliances such as a TV or DVD player in standby mode, switch off at the mains. Leaving an appliance on standby is equivalent to leaving a 75W light bulb burning continuously.
  • Turn off computer monitors and computers completely rather than leaving them in automatic standby

Stove/Oven

  • A microwave oven is cheaper to operate than a stove (for reheating and cooking).
  • Match the size of the pot to the size of the stove plate/element.
  • Make sure that the bottom of a pot has good contact with the stove plate and is not warped or uneven.
  • Keep stove plates clean.
  • Keep lids on pots when cooking to conserve heat and energy.
  • For solid plate stoves, bring food to boil on high/max, then turn down to simmer until ready (or switch off and allow the latent heat to finish cooking).
  • Boil water in a kettle instead of using a pot on the stove to get hot water.
  • Soak beans, lentils, samp and the like in cold water overnight. This will save several hours of cooking.
  • Don’t cook food for longer than necessary.
  • Use a pressure cooker.
  • In the oven: cook several dishes simultaneously.
  • Keep the oven door closed until the food is cooked (use the oven light to check instead). Every time the door is opened, heat is lost and must be replaced.
  • Ensure that the rubber seal of the oven door is in good condition and that the door closes properly.
  • Don’t use the stove or oven to heat a room; use an oil heater instead.
  • Replace your oven with a convection oven. It uses less electricity and cooks faster.
  • Consider replacing your electric oven and hob with a more energy-efficient LPG gas model.

Kettle

  • Use cold water to fill the kettle.
  • If you are making one cup of tea/coffee, boil only enough hot water.
  • Store any surplus hot water from the kettle in a vacuum flask and use later for a cup of tea or for washing up.
  • De-scale lime build-up on the element (using distilled white vinegar). It reduces efficiency.

Fridge/Freezer

  • Ensure that the rubber seals are in good condition and that doors close properly. Check by placing a piece of paper or banknote between the door gaskets. The note should be difficult to pull out. If not, replace the seals.
  • Place the fridge/freezer away from a potential heat source (e.g. oven, direct sunlight).
  • Avoid leaving doors open for longer than necessary, to minimise cold air escaping.
  • Defrost the fridge/freezer regularly (once every two months) – frost buildup of 1cm or more increases running costs.
  • Frost-free fridges do not require defrosting but use more electricity.
  • Don’t set fridge thermostat setting higher/colder than necessary. Turn down even lower for periods when you go away for two days or more.
  • Fully stocked fridges/freezers maintain temperature better than empty ones. Remember not to overfill the fridge. Place water-filled bottles in the fridge to keep in the cold. Water bottles in the freezer will also keep frozen food colder for longer during a power outage (crumpled newspaper also helps to fill any spaces).
  • Allow hot or warm food to cool down naturally before placing in the fridge or freezer.
  • Cover liquids and wrap foods stored in the fridge. Uncovered foods release moisture and make the compressor work harder.
  • Carefully clean the condenser coils of the fridge regularly. These are typically located behind or underneath the fridge. Leave a sufficient space (e.g. 10cm) between the fridge and wall for air to circulate around the condenser coils.
  • Replace old fridges/freezers with more efficient modern ones.

Using your Washing machine to save electricity

  • Short cold water wash cycles are efficient than longer hot water washes. Detergents formulated for cold water get clothes just as clean. 90% of the energy used by the machine is used to heat water.
  • Skip the washing machine’s pre-wash cycle if washing is not that dirty.
  • A front loader washing machine uses less water and costs less to operate than a top loader.
  • Washing a full load of clothing is more economical than small/medium loads. If you are washing a small load, use the appropriate water-level setting.
  • If using a hot wash for bed linen, for instance, set the machine to wash at 60degC instead of 90degC.

Dishwasher

  • Ensure the dishwasher is full, not overloaded. Half loads cost as much as full loads.
  • Instead of using the pre-rinse cycle, scrape food soil off plates and rinse briefly with cold water before placing in the dishwasher.
  • Use short cycles for all but the dirtiest of dishes.
  • Clean the filter regularly. Blocked filters reduce efficiency and waste energy.

SAVE ELECTRICITY WHILE SPACE COOLING (summer)

  • Use a fan or ceiling fan, where possible, instead of an air conditioner saves electricity.
  • Keep all windows closed when the air conditioner is running.
  • Keep direct sunlight out by closing curtains/blinds.
  • Check the air conditioner filter regularly and clean or replace when necessary.
  • Install ceiling insulation fibre to keep your house cool (it reduces warm air conduction).
  • A north-facing house is best for taking advantage of the natural light. The house is also warmed by the low sun in winter and cooler in summer when the position of the sun is higher.
  • Ensure that trees planted on the north side of the house are deciduous to shade north-facing windows in the summer and allow the sun through in winter.
  • Shade north-facing windows with overhangs or deciduous trees.
  • Install retractable shade awnings above west and east windows, or install reflective film on windows.

SPACE HEATING ELECTRICITY SAVING TIPS (winter)

  • Close windows, curtains and doors at night to contain heat within a room. Open curtains during the day to allow sunlight in.
  • Seal up cracks or holes (caulking). Reduce air leakage on doors and windows with weather strips to keep out cold air. Use a ‘door worm’ or ‘sausage’ to block draughts under doors.
  • Use a fireplace (if installed) instead of a heater.
  • Close the fireplace flue damper when not in use.
  • Insulate the ceiling to regulate the temperature and to prevent heat loss.
  • Cover bare/tiled floors with rugs or mats.
  • Wear warm clothing and use an extra blanket on the bed to keep warm.
  • Use an oil heater (with thermostat) instead of a bar heater. Set it at a medium/comfortable level to save electricity.
  • Ceiling fans can keep you comfortable in winter too. Reversing the direction of the blades pushes warm air down in the room.
  • It is cheaper to use an electric blanket than a heater in the bedroom.
  • Install ceiling insulation fibre. It minimises warm air escaping.
  • Create a windbreak with evergreen trees/shrubs or a barrier to stop chilling winter winds.
  • Planting deciduous trees (which lose their leaves in winter) will provide shade in summer and allow maximum sunlight in winter.
  • A north-facing house provides ideal natural light and is good for winter heating when the sun is at a lower angle than in summer.

POOL FILTER PUMP USES LOTS OF ELECTRICITY

  • Swimming pool pumps use up to 20% of total electricity consumption in the home. Simply reduce the time interval for running the pump by two hours a day (e.g. 6 hours instead of 8 hours in summer).
  • Use a pool cover. This will keep the pool cleaner reducing the number of required backwashes. Due to lower algae growth in winter, the pump running time can be further reduced.
  • Clean/backwash the filter regularly and remove foreign materials from the strainer basket.
  • Spa baths/jacuzzis are one of the highest consumers of household electricity because of heating requirements and pump operation.

I will do an energy audit for you to help you assess your electricity usage and the implementation of energy-saving recommendations

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THE HOME DETECTIVE » leaking taps

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