Cylinders

Q: Can I fix my leaking cylinder?
A: Leaks in a hot water cylinder are usually caused by corrosion or from the action of hot water and pressure. If your cylinder is leaking this is usually a sign that the tank is wearing out and should be replaced. It doesn't make financial sense to repair a tank if it's reached the end of its life, which is generally 20-40 years for electric low-pressure tanks and five to 20 years for mains pressure steel tanks. (For the latter, the valve train may need upgrading to meet modern codes and installation instructions.)

Turn off the tap in the piping that leads to the cylinder or the tap that controls the water to the header tank in the ceiling. If you have a mains pressure gas-heated hot water system, cutting off the mains supply will do the trick. Also turn off the power to the cylinder.

You will have to wait until the water system empties before the flow at the leak slows down. A small leak in a pipe can be temporarily fixed with a rubber patch and metal clamp or sleeve. This should be followed by a permanent repair as soon as possible. Call Laser Plumbing Te Puke on (07) 573 8249 and we can repair/replace what is required to solve the problem.

Q: How do I make my electric storage hot water cylinder more efficient?
A: If you put a wrap around it, you will reduce heat loss, which wastes valuable energy. Wraps are available from your local hardware store.

To increase efficiency, the pipes leading from your storage water heater should be lagged for the first 2 m of horizontal piping using pre-formed closed cell foam pipe insulation of 12 mm nominal thickness. This insulation material is available from hardware stores.

If the pipes run upwards first, then horizontally, the lagging will still need to extend to the first 2 m of horizontal piping, as well as the vertical section of pipe.

If the pipes run downwards before you get to the 2 m horizontal length, the downward pipe acts as a heat trap. You do not need to insulate beyond the first 150 mm of the downward pipe.

If in doubt, call Laser Plumbing Te Puke on (07) 573 8249 to do the job for you.


Drains

Q: How do I unblock my drain?
A: Most blocked sewer and stormwater drains are caused by tree roots penetrating broken or cracked drains. It is rare for a foreign object to go down the drain and block it, as it would have to pass through the pan U-bend or the gully trap U-bend where the waste pipes discharge.

To unblock the drain, there are three methods of 'rodding':

  • Hand rod
  • Machine worm
  • Industrial water blaster

None will actually repair the drain - just unblock it. The only sure method of repair is replacement. Call Laser Plumbing Te Puke on (07) 573 8249 if you are unable to clear the blockage yourself or need a quote to replace the drain.

Drain cameras are sometimes used to give reassurance by showing evidence of the blockage. However, a plumber can usually tell you what the problem is - and where it is - just by using a hand rod, assuming they can gain access to the drain.

Drains that are in good condition rarely get blocked; particularly the new PVC drains used today. So, while rodding is cheaper than replacement and can keep a drain clear for a period, you may decide it's better to fix it if the problem continues.

Q: How high should the lip around a gully trap be?
A: Wastewater gully traps are connected to the sewerage system. The lip must be at least 25mm above a paved surface and 100mm above an unpaved surface to stop rain entering the gully at times of high rainfall.

If the gully is damaged or doesn't have a sufficient lip, the rainwater (or stormwater, as it's known) enters the gully, placing an extra burden on the sewerage system. It can even contribute to wastewater overflows during very wet weather.

If you are having landscaping work done, such as new concrete paths and patios or flowerbeds, make sure the lip around the gully trap isn't affected. If yours is a modern plastic gully, you can buy an extension at your local plumbing merchant and do the work yourself. Just remove the grating, fit the extension and glue it in place. If you have a ceramic gully, you will need the help of a plumber, call Laser Plumbing Te Puke on (07) 573 8249 and we will sort out your gully for you.

If you do see ponding/pooling in the area, never drill a hole in the side of the gully trap to let the water drain away!

Q: What do I do if my toilet, sink, bath or shower is blocked?
A: A rubber cup plunger can be effective when pumped up and down for a couple of minutes. If it's a blocked sink, keep a damp rag over the overflow while you do it. If that doesn't work, remove the trap under the sink to check for blockage (remember to keep a bucket underneath!), or try flexible wire to dislodge a possible blockage in the pipe.

If none of this works, call Laser Plumbing Te Puke on (07) 573 8249.

Q: How do I retrieve valuables lost down the sink?
A: If you've just washed your hands and realise you're short of a ring or precious stone that was there before, there's a good chance the treasure can be recovered.

The item may still be trapped in the curve of the waste pipe, so the first step is to stop any flow of water right away and call Laser Plumbing Te Puke on (07) 573 8249, we may be able to find the object by dismantling the waste pipe.


Frozen pipes

Q: How can I prevent my pipes freezing or bursting in winter?
A: You can reduce the risk by repairing leaking taps and fittings, and lagging external water pipes. Also, check that your hot water cylinder vent pipes aren't susceptible to getting iced up. This means you may have to lag all of the vent pipe if it is out through the roof. Also, if you have a relief valve at the end of the vent pipe, make sure the valve is pointing down so it can't be blocked with a plug of ice.

Keeping the house warm in winter is a good way to help avoid frozen pipes. As most homes now have ceiling insulation, all plumbing pipework and header tanks in the attic should be insulated if you have any chance of frost. In alpine or severe frost areas, lagging with a small heating element running through it should be considered. These usually use around 15 watts of electricity but keep pipework from freezing. Running costs are very small compared with the price of repairing the damage caused if freezing pipes burst.

If your pipes do become frozen, turn off the water supply at the street, turn the power off to the Hot water Cylinder and call Laser Plumbing Te Puke on (07) 573 8249 to attend to your frozen pipes.


Hot water

Q: How can I adjust the water temperature coming out of my hot taps?
A: If your water's too hot, it can be downright dangerous! Each year, children are admitted to hospital with burns caused by water coming out of the tap too hot. Children are particularly at risk because they have relatively slow reaction times, their skin burns more quickly and deeply and at lower temperatures than adults, and they have a smaller body area.

An alarming number of NZ homes have hot water that's dangerously hot. At 60°, a child's skin can sustain a serious burn in one second. At 54°, it takes 10 seconds to burn. A safe bath temperature for young children is between 37° and 38°. When you're running the bath, always put the cold water in first and stay in the room to supervise. Test the bath temperature with the inside of your wrist before putting your child in.

If you think your tap water may be too hot or too cold, contact Laser Plumbing Te Puke on (07) 573 8249 so we can check the temperature and advise you on ways of adjusting it, if necessary.

This may include lowering or increasing the temperature in the cylinder, or installing tempering valves, temperature limiting taps and shower mixers.

Tempering valves control the temperature of the delivered water by mixing cold water with hot as it leaves your hot water cylinder.

The New Zealand Building Code requires that all new and modified existing hot water systems in people's homes have hot water delivered to bathroom fixtures at no more than 55°.


Roofing

Q: Can I repair spouting myself?
A: Usually spouting, gutters and downpipes work quietly and efficiently to take water away from the house on to stormwater drains. Spouting channels rainwater from the gutters to downpipes, so a blockage or hole in the system can mean rivers of water.

If problems arise, you can check that leaves or moss haven't built up and blocked outlets - an autumn clean out is a good idea. When taking a look, wear soft-soled shoes to give you a secure grip. Set the ladder on a firm base and ensure it is at least a metre higher than the roof. If you have a combination stepladder, make sure the hook is in place at the hinged section.

If a blockage isn't the culprit, then age could have caused metal spouting and downpipes to rust. This problem is best attacked as soon as possible - rust spreads fast and if caught in the early stages less spouting may have to be replaced.

The most common spouting material today is PVC. Light and hardwearing it doesn't require painting and it is relatively easy to install. While DIYers can install their own rainwater systems, Laser Plumbing Te Puke can do the job for you. We have the skills to ensure the product is right for the job and that the installation is correctly done.

We will also know whether you need a building consent. Generally, consents aren't needed for small spouting jobs, but requirements do vary around the country.


Showers

Q: Why is there poor water flow in my shower?
A: If you have poor shower pressure, it's probably because your water supply tank is mounted on your hot water cylinder or in the roof space. Or it may be that you have a pressure-reducing valve supplying water to the hot water cylinder.

There are several ways you can boost the hot water pressure at the shower:

  • change the shower mixer
  • change the shower rose - they get clogged up with deposits over time and restrict the flow of water
  • change the method of supplying water to the shower by using a pressure-reducing valve with open vent
  • change the hot water system to valve vented
  • replace the hot water cylinder with a medium-pressure or mains-pressure type

The chosen method will depend on how much water you want at the shower, how much it costs to do and what is possible. Call Laser Plumbing Te Puke on (07) 573 8249 to come and assess the situation, and list the best options for your budget.


Stormwater

Q: What is stormwater?
A: Stormwater is basically rainwater - stormwater drains channel the rainwater from your roof. If they are connected to the public stormwater system, the water will feed straight into natural waterways, such as lakes, rivers and sea.

It's important to keep stormwater and wastewater (from your toilet, bath, shower, sink, basin, washing machine and dishwasher) completely separate.

If you're connected to the public sewage system, the wastewater runs through your sewage pipes into the public system and on to the local treatment plant. Once treated, it can reenter our waterways. If stormwater gets into the public sewage system, it can flood the sewers, making the untreated sewage overflow.

It can get in from something as simple as an incorrectly connected stormwater downpipe in your home.

Check that:

  • your stormwater downpipes are properly connected to the stormwater drain
  • there are no inside or outside sinks or basins connected to the stormwater downpipes
  • your wastewater goes into a separate wastewater gully trap with a raised wall to keep any stormwater run-off out of the sanitary sewer

If you suspect that your stormwater is entering the sewerage system call Laser Plumbing Te Puke on (07) 573 8249 and we can advise what is necessary to correct the situation.


Taps

Q: My tap keeps dripping - what should I do?
A: You have two options:

1. Do nothing. The downside of this is that it is both annoying and expensive. The tap will be ruined due to the seat being worn away, requiring a costly replacement. And, if it's the hot water tap, you'll be wasting precious energy. If you have a water meter, you'll be paying for the water, too.

2. Repair the tap as soon as possible. This is a cheap repair compared to a full replacement, as above. Replacing a tap washer is easy. The hard part is turning the water off, if the valve can be found and it works. Taking the tap apart can also be hard, though not generally. If it's the hot water tap, you can turn off the hot water at the hot water cylinder.

Q: What if a tap gets stuck open?
A: Usually, this emergency has been building up over time. The tap may have needed an extra turn or so to stop the water, and the continual force of tightening it has eventually strained the shaft. As is often the way, it's best to remedy problems at the first sign that something is amiss with the plumbing system.

In this case, a new tap needs to be installed. If it's a hot tap stuck open, turn off the outlet tap from the hot water cylinder so you can save most of the hot water. Call Laser Plumbing Te Puke on (07) 573 8249 and we will be able to attach a new fitting for you.

If your local council has been working on the main in your neighborhood, pebbles and grit may get into your pipework. If this happens and the taps are blocked - or worse, jammed open by the debris - give the council a call and tell them what's happened.

They should send out someone promptly to flush out the systems and get any bits and pieces out of the taps. If you do notice any problems, try to minimise the taps you have to use.

For this, and other plumbing emergencies, it's important to know how to turn the water off at the TOBY and also turn the power off to the Hot Water Cylinder.

Q: Do you have any advice about choosing bathroom and kitchen fittings?
A: Many taps and mixers are designed for use specifically on mains pressure or low pressure systems only, and the wrong tap on the wrong system can lead to very disappointing performance and cause problems in other arrears of your system.

If you're choosing fittings, it's a good idea to consult with Laser Plumbing Te Puke on ph (07) 573 8249 to see what your hot water system is and what taps will work on it. A lot of imported products are designed for mains pressure and won't work effectively if you're on a low-pressure system.

Many a time, the plumber has had to come behind and fix up a job done with elegant but functionally disappointing fittings that are not suited to the piping/pressure system installed in your home.

Fittings and fixtures made in NZ generally have the advantage of being made to suit local conditions and are backed up by the product knowledge of the manufacturer.


Toby

Q: How do I locate my water toby?
A: A water toby is the valve that allows all the mains water to be closed off if you have a major leak or while plumbing work is carried out. For this reason, it's important to know where it is.

The toby is often under a lid close to the boundary of your property. A paint mark on the kerb may mark the point where your property's water pipe connects to the mains. But if you are unable to locate it, call your Council.

The Council looks after and owns all the pipes up to and including the toby (unless you are in a shared driveway, in which case local rules apply).

If the toby is located within your property, it is still owned and maintained by the Council, but they usually move it back outside your boundary when carrying out maintenance.


Wastewater

Q: What is wastewater?
A: Sanitary sewers collect the used water from your home. This is what's referred to as 'grey water' and 'black water'. All the water from your toilet is black water and the water from your bath, shower, sink, basin, washing machine and dishwasher etc is grey water.

If you're connected to the public sewage system, the water will run through your sewage pipes into the public system and from there to the local wastewater treatment plant. Once the water has been treated, it can re-enter our waterways.

Q: I'm building in an area with no public sewage system. What do I need to know?
A: If you're not connected to the public sewage system, you have three main options for collecting and treating your wastewater:

  • a traditional septic tank
  • an on-site domestic wastewater treatment system
  • a managed, 'decentralised' wastewater treatment system
  • On-site domestic wastewater treatment plants have been commonplace in New Zealand since the mid Nineties. They use a biological process to treat the waste from your toilets, showers, baths, washing machines, dishwashers and basins.

At the end of the process, you have clean, odourless treated water that can be used to irrigate your section.

They can often be adapted to existing septic tanks, and are particularly suited to sites with poor soakage or high water tables, or sensitive environments where the traditional septic tank doesn't meet the requirements of the Resource Management Act because the effluent discharge is not of sufficient quality.

Aerated wastewater treatment systems break down effluent using a process similar to that at most modern sewage treatment plants in towns and cities. The system can be installed discreetly underground. If you would like more information or a quote call Laser Plumbing Te Puke on (07) 573 8249.


Woodburners

Q: I think the rules have changed - can I install a woodburner in my home?
A: For some, there's nothing like coming home to a real fire. Many woodburners can also be used to produce hot water to varying outputs for your home by installing a water booster, or wetback - and this is where the services of a plumber are required.

If your home is in an urban area, there are now regulations about the type of new woodburners that you can install. Some local authorities/councils no longer allow the installation of a woodburner in a new residence.

The woodburner design standard is one of a number of National Environmental Standards for Air Quality, introduced in October 2004, and its aim is to minimise emissions of smoke and soot.

Call Laser Plumbing Te Puke on (07) 573 8249 and we can advise on your situation and even help with permits.

To find out more, and for an up-to-date list of compliant woodburner models, visit the Ministry for the Environment's website.


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