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Go With The Flow

Water is the life blood of a home – ask anyone who has had their water off for a few hours. As long as it is flowing as it should, water and how it gets to us is not usually on our minds. When it sputters or comes out brown, when the pipes gurgle, the toilet won’t flush or worse, our plumbing suddenly becomes a priority.

Most of us only call a plumber to solve plumbing emergencies, and forget that they spend a lot of time learning about water efficiency, water pressure and find out first about new products and solutions.

That said, Regan Frost of Regency Plumbing, encourages the rest of us to learn about what’s going on behind our walls so that we can save money and prevent costly failures.

When it rains …

The most common reason for a call-out, says Regan Frost, is leaks. “We often get a call after the homeowner has received their water rates. They see the huge bill and realize there must be a leak. Everyone should check their water and power bills whenever they get them – it’s often the easiest way to spot a leak!”

Shower leaks are the most common. Frost has seen a lot of failed showers turn into complete new bathroom fitouts, as shower leaks can be caused by any number of problems, in any number of places in a shower.

A common shower leak can occur where the shower mixer breaches the waterproofing to connect to the water hose inside the wall. Mixers are frequently used and wear over time may result in leaks inside the wall. To prevent this possibility, ask your plumber to use a wet wall caddy in this area. Wet wall caddies such as the Aquatite Cavity Cup capture leaks inside the wall and force them out, to run down the tiled or acrylic face of the shower instead. The leak is then visible, so the homeowner can see it and can get it repaired, avoiding potentially thousands of dollars of damage.

“Often, after we have removed a failed shower, we find that the damage is much more extensive than we originally thought. A leak can be going on behind the wall hidden from sight long before the homeowner sees any signs of it. If the flooring has rotted, which is not uncommon, it’ll require more extensive repairs than just a new shower.”

Under pressure

Only in the last fifteen years have mains pressure systems become common in New Zealand. Low or unequal pressure systems are common in older houses. Uneven supply or insufficient volume of water is particularly noticeable in bathrooms, says Frost.

Cold shocks or hot scalds when someone else is using the water at the same time are particularly noticeable in the shower. Regular shower mixers use manual control for both temperature and flow, so this is a common problem. Thermostatic shower mixers on the other hand allow the user to set a constant, desired temperature with an internal thermostatic wax element responds continuously to maintain that desired temperature.

They are safer too: if the cold water supply fails, the thermostat shuts off the hot water supply completely, eliminating risks of scalding.

Methven Tahi Thermostatic Shower Mixers are designed and made in NZ for NZ conditions. They are suitable for showering and bath filling in mains pressure installations only and feature a rotary control temperature setting with a 38°C safety stop.

Other than older systems, another cause of low volume of water in suburbs is that mains made of galvanized steel tend to rust out over time, narrowing the internal bore of the pipe.

“A lot of the time when people decide to change their hot water system for a mains pressure one, they will have problems with their tapware. Tapware isn’t usually suitable for all pressures – a plumber will know this and be able to talk you through all the consequences of upgrading your system and what other things might need to be changed to get the end result you want.”

Sound advice

More and more, says Frost, plumbers are getting asked to make their plumbing more efficient. “People want the convenience of as much hot water as they need, right now. They don’t want to have to wait for it to travel through miles of pipe to reach the tap.”

For long homes, he says, he would install a circulating ring main with well-lagged (wrapped) or thermally efficient pipes to allow swift, steady access to hot water at all points in the house.

Acoustic comfort is also highly valued in our everyday life. According to Frost another common complaint is noise from the toilet upstairs gurgling down through the bedroom wall after someone has flushed. In larger houses as well as in apartments and townhouses, dampening the noise of waste pipes is becoming a priority.

Poliphon, from Marley, is an affordable way to achieve comfort, peace and quiet. With a multi-layered pipe wall and a specially designed acoustic clamp, the noise generated by the waste system is contained within the pipes themselves. Vibrations between the sections of pipe are absorbed and no noise is transmitted between the pipe and the building structure.

Avoid costly mistakes

Frost encourages those undertaking a building or renovation project to educate themselves in their options before taking the plunge. Those who have problems with water pressure or volume should call a plumber, he says, before deciding to buy a new hot water system. Regency Plumbing will have a stand at the Auckland Homeshow, demonstrating the difference is between a low or unequal pressure system and a mains pressure system and Frost encourages those in the area to stop by and have a look.

Engaging a professional plumber when undertaking building or renovation jobs will avoid stress, delays and unnecessary future complications with your plumbing.

For more information on Regency Plumbing, click here.

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Resources

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