Water hammer or banging pipes aren’t just annoying they’re a warning of bigger problems

Water hammer or banging pipes aren’t just annoying they’re a warning of bigger problems

What is water hammer?

Water hammer or banging pipes are differing faults with your water reticulation system.

In theory, you should never hear the sound of water moving through your hot or cold water pipes. All you should ever hear is the water flow from the tap or fixture in the room it’s installed in.

Essentially water hammer is a shock wave created inside your piping.

What causes water hammer?

Plumbing is essentially the movement of water through pipes. It, therefore, has the potential to be noise creating and create what is referred to as water hammer. 

Water hammer that is noticeable occurs with copper water pipes. But plastic water pipes also suffer from water hammer, and it’s just harder to hear it.

Water hammer audible noise in copper pipes is generated primarily by:

  • High water pressure

  • Quick closing mixer taps

  • Quick closing solenoid valves

  • Faulty or worn brass seats in taps

  • Broken tap washers

  • Airlocks in pipes

  • Shock waves in pipes

Water hammer or banging pipes aren't just annoying they're a warning of bigger problems 3

Common noise complaints

There are four very common noise complaints with water pipe reticulation systems being:

  • Sharp banging or hammering sounds coming from pipes

  • A series of loud bangs when the washing machine or dishwasher is in operation

  • A loud bang from a valve or tap

  • Audible ticking sounds that diminish after the tap is turned on

An intense banging or hammering is a result of faulty valves, defective mixer taps, defective solenoid valves, broken taps or broken tap washers or poor clipping of pipes.

A series of loud bangs while you are using the washing machine or dishwasher is caused by the instantaneous opening and closing of the solenoid valves in the machine as it traverses through its cycle.

Excessive water pressure can accentuate all of these causes as water pressure legally cannot exceed 500kPa inside the building.

The ticking sound can build up then diminish and are in fact the sounds generated by pipe expansion. This is caused by the pipe heating up when the hot tap is turned on as the hot water replaces the cold water and then cools down.

Water hammer is a shock wave

Water hammer will occur much more if your pressure is excessive. The common causes of water hammer are quick closing mixer taps or solenoid valves on washing machines and dishwashers.

Water hammer or banging pipes aren't just annoying they're a warning of bigger problems 4

In the picture above the shock wave is generated at the face of a quick closing mixer tap because the flow of water moving under pressure is stopped suddenly by the instant turning off of the mixer tap. The shock wave then ricochets back from the face of the mixer tap cartridge, through the stationary water in the pipe.  The shock-wave creates enormous pressure moving at 1280 meters per second through the pipe.

This same effect is replicated more intensely by the solenoid valves in your washing machine and dishwasher as unlike mixer taps they instantly open and shut as you machine moves through cycles.

Water hammer is an early warning alert

All of the sounds or the audible noise commonly referred to as water hammer tend to be highlighted in copper water pipes. Water hammer still exists in plastic piping systems, but it is diminished significantly as the plastic pipe absorbs the sounds.

Your plumbing reticulation pipes, taps, valves and appliances are all susceptible to damage caused by the impact of shock waves even if you hear no noise.

The noise is essentially an early warning system telling you to rectify the problem before damage occurs.

Water hammer is avoidable

Water hammer is avoidable and can be rectified regardless of whether you have copper or plastic water reticulation piping.

Banging or noisy pipes usually occur when the water reticulation pipes have not been clipped correctly as per AS/NZS 3500.1 : 2018 when the house was originally constructed. This can be much more challenging to rectify compared to water hammer.

To prevent damage to plumbing pipes, taps, fixtures, hot water valves and appliances both the noise element and shock wave element of water hammer need to be eliminated.

The noise element is auditory. The loud bang of water hammer when you turn off a tap or your washing machine is running alerts you to water hammer problems. Without the noise, there will be no indication of a problem until the damage is caused or your home is flooded by a burst flexihose or appliance hose.

The elimination of the water hammer eliminates the shock waves which impose undesirable stresses on reticulation pipes, flexihoses and appliances.

Don’t Fall For The Sacrificial Anode Replacement Rip-Off

Don’t Fall For The Sacrificial Anode Replacement Rip-Off

The Sacrificial Anode Replacement Rip-Off 

The great sacrificial anode replacement rip-off resurfaces every few years.

The routine invariably starts in the middle of the day with a knock on the door by a friendly “salesman”. After warm greetings, they state they are in your neighbourhood doing some work and that a neighbour had suggested they do the same “free check” on your hot water service.

This unsolicited pitch or a variation of it is the signature pitch of conmen who prey on unsuspecting homeowners, especially the elderly creating fear about their hot water tank. Commonly they display a great deal of empathy and concern and are only doing the “free check” of your hot water service as one of your neighbours had already had theirs repaired and were concerned for you.

The “free check” invariably concludes with you urgently needing a sacrificial anode replacement. If you have water stains on your hot water tank similar to the photo below then you have a leak in the tank.

What Is A Leaking Sacrificial Anode

As you can see below this tank needed replacement as it was leaking around the sacrificial anode. Installing a new sacrificial anode will achieve nothing.

A leaking hot water tank cannot be repaired.

Water hammer or banging pipes aren't just annoying they're a warning of bigger problems 5

Even if your hot water tank is not leaking the friendly salesman will assure you it is about to start leaking if you don’t replace the sacrificial anode now.

To back it up he will have information from the manufacturers about replacing the sacrificial anode backed up by horror photos.

Water hammer or banging pipes aren't just annoying they're a warning of bigger problems 6

Does A Sacrificial Anode Need Replacing?

Yes, your sacrificial anode on your hot water service should be checked at least every 5 years.

But if it has never been checked or replaced and your hot water service is over 10 years old you are wasting your time replacing it as the damage has already been done to your steel storage tank.

Water hammer or banging pipes aren't just annoying they're a warning of bigger problems 7

The photo above illustrates perfectly a brand new sacrificial anode at the top of the photo. The sacrificial anode in the bottom of the photo was removed after nine years inside a hot water tank.

 Basically your hot water tank is prevented from rusting away by the sacrificial anode. The anode corrodes instead of the steel tank which is the cathode. This principle of electrolytic corrosion control is described as cathodic protection. Hence the term sacrificial anode. As a cathodic surface cannot rust, the steel hot water tank is protected as long as the anode is whole and working.

These days the majority of hot water tanks last around 12 to 15 years. The sacrificial anode prolongs the life of your hot water tank. But once the anode becomes ineffective the steel tank is no longer a cathode and begins to rust from the inside. Once the rusting process begins, it takes about 3 to 5 years for it to eat away through the steel tank wall. 

Who Can Replace A Sacrificial Anode?

As with any plumbing fixture, only a licenced plumber working for a QBCC licensed plumbing contractor can replace a sacrificial anode.

Take it from me knocking on your door and cold-calling is not a professional or viable way to market or operate a plumbing business.

In all likelihood, the person knocking on your door is not a licensed plumber or a licensed plumbing contractor. Simply ask them to produce their licenses. In our experience, they are not a plumber but ordinary old con artists who have no experience or knowledge in servicing a hot water service.

InSinkErator Safety

InSinkErator Safety

InSinkErator Questions

In November it will be 48 years since I finished high school and began my plumbing apprenticeship. Over the years, I have either asked myself every dumb question or have been asked some interesting questions by other people concerning plumbing.

But last week I got asked a question by Steve, a long-standing client that I cannot recollect ever being asked before. The question being, “What happens if I stick my hand into the kitchen sink InSinkErator waste disposal unit when it’s going?

My first response was to wonder why you would contemplate even doing such a thing. That was until Steve explained it was a question posed by his 5-year-old grandson.

Steve was genuinely worried it was something his grandson may try to attempt. Now the question did not seem so dumb at all. Steve was correct to be worried that his grandson would try to see what would happen if he put his hand down the InSinkErator unit when it was turned on because as we all know a 5-year old has little fear.

Steve was seriously contemplating getting us to remove the food waste disposal unit out of the sink permanently. This was despite him being concerned about the loss of conveniently and hygienically disposing of food scraps which could also increase the risk of a blocked sink.

Water hammer or banging pipes aren't just annoying they're a warning of bigger problems 8

An InSinkErator Has NO BLADES

Like most people, Steve was convinced that an InSinkErator waste disposal unit is a mass of sharp blades spinning around chopping and shredding everything that enters its chamber. Contrary to popular believe an InSinkErator sink waste disposal unit is not like a kitchen blender and it has NO BLADES at all.

Steve was much happier once I explained how an InSinkErator unit works. If his grandson put his hand into the unit when it was turned on then he would at the worse end up with a bruised and maybe cut hand. Although in all likelihood he would pull his hand out as soon as it came into contact with the spinning plate and or its impellers which have absolutely no cutting function.

Very simply instead of spinning blades chopping, cutting and breaking down the food scraps InSinkErator waste disposal works by:

  • Instead of blades, impellers (or lugs) mounted on a spinning plate use centrifugal force to continuously force food waste particles against a stationary grind ring
  • The grind ring breaks down the food scraps into very fine particles – virtually liquefying them
  • After they are ground, the running water flushes the particles through the grind ring and out of the disposer and into your waste-water pipe and into the sewer house drains

How Does An InSinkErator Work? 

If you want to see exactly how an InSinkErator waste disposal unit works have a look at this 90-second video below which gives you a graphic inside view of how a unit works.
After watching the above video Steve was happy to keep using his InSinkErator waste disposal unit because like most people who have an InSinkErator he knew it was the most convenient, environmentally friendly and hygienic method to dispose of food waste and scraps. Generally, waste disposal units create a safer and cleaner kitchen using minimal water and electricity.

Tips on Using An InSinkErator

If you already have an InSinkErator sink waste disposal unit installed here are a few tips to using it which assist in prolonging its working life:

  • InSinkErator waste disposal units can become stuck or seized, and this can be caused by non-food items such as spoons being placed or falling into the unit
  • overfilling the InSinkErator can cause the unit to jam
  • grease or fatty liquids should not be poured into the InSinkErator
  • InSinkErator units should never be run dry, always use with the cold water running whilst the unit is spinning plus always turn the cold water off after turning off the unit
  • cleaning your InSinkErator waste disposal unit once every week by inserting and grinding a handful of ice in your unit. This will remove any buildup that may have been left when grinding food materials, and often gets rid of any smell coming from your kitchen sink drain. If an odour persists after carrying out this cleaning try cutting up and grinding a lemon or grapefruit will give a fresh citrus smell
  • the InSinkErator unit should be equipped with a reset button either at the side of the unit (older models) or underneath the unit.  If your unit fails to start after pressing the reset, then it is probably more than just jammed disposal, and you should call Whywait Plumbing and have one of our plumbers solve the problem.
Trouble shooting why do I not have hot water

Trouble shooting why do I not have hot water

Why do I not have hot water?

May, June and July are the coldest months on the Gold Coast, and no-one wants to start the day with a cold shower in winter. Unluckily for some clients of Whywait Plumbing who are not Service Partners it is in these months they go to the shower and question why do I not have hot water?

Unfortunately, hot water systems are a case of out of sight out of mind. Continually where hot water systems are concerned, there were warning signs that there was a problem. Over the summer months, hot water problems are overlooked as the demand for higher temperature; hot water is not a critical consideration.

Several warning bulletins in Queensland have been issued by the QBCC and Queensland Health advising homeowners that their hot water systems need to be maintained and serviced frequently.

AS/NZS 3500.4:2018 Heated Water Services

The Australian standard that all hot water installation is based around is AS/NZS 3500.4:2018 Heated water services that are an integral part of the National Construction Code of Australia issued by the Australian Building Codes Board and it is all legal requirements in Queensland.

In AS/NZS 3500.4:2018 there is Appendix M which provides guidelines for the operation and maintenance of your hot water system which is below:

M1 SCOPE
This Appendix provides guidelines for the operation and maintenance of a heated water system.
M2 GENERAL
In order to ensure maximum performance and length of operation, water heaters should be inspected periodically.
M3 MAINTENANCE OF HEATED WATER SERVICES
Heated water services should be maintained in accordance with the following:
(a) Water treatment units: Where installed, water treatment units should be inspected periodically to ensure proper operation.
(b) Water vessels and tanks: All vessels and tanks should be inspected and cleaned periodically, and in accordance with any requirements of the regulatory authority.
NOTE: The frequency of periodic cleaning depends upon the quality of the supply water, design, materials of construction and the pipe system. Combinations of materials giving rise to corrosion should be avoided.
(c) Valves: The following valves should be inspected periodically to ensure proper operation:
(i) Temperature/pressure-relief valves.
(ii) Expansion control valves.
(iii) Thermostatic mixing valves.
(iv) Tempering valves.
(v) Other associated valves/devices.
(d) The requirements of AS/NZS 3666.2, where applicable.

Common reasons for why do I not have hot water

why do I have no hot water so call Whywait PlumbingBelow are listed the most common reasons we attend to clients jobs who call up to as why do I not have hot water? Listed are elementary troubleshooting ideas that you can undertake yourself to resolve or understand why your hot water is cold:
  • blown fuse or circuit breaker – replace the fuse or reset the circuit breaker and if it blows again it’s probable there is a fault with your element or thermostat, and you need to call Whywait out to repair
  • Energex relay switch failure – this is not the easiest to detect but if you are on off-peak rates and there are no obvious electrical faults or water leaks then its worth a phone call to your energy supplier to check whether the relay switch has failed to activate in your area
  • defective relief valve – most relief valves on the side of the HWS only have a life span of around 3-5 years. Still, they can jam open so first check if you see water running from it by pulling the lever up and then easing back down again. If water continues to run then you need to call Whywait out to service the unit
  • no water at all – this is when you wake up turn the tap on and cold water flows, but there is no flow from the hot water. Frequently this a failure of the non-return or isolating valve and a quick way to check is to turn the handle on the valve all the way off and then all the way back on. In many cases, the hot water will simply begin to flow again. However, if there is still no flow you need to call Whywait out for repairs
  • water fluctuation from hot to cold – there are several reasons for this occurring, but the most common is a faulty tempering valve. There is nothing you can do to solve fluctuation other than call Whywait and read our information on tempering valves
  • water leaking from hot water tank – there is only a maximum of 7 possible points on an HWS tank where there are joints that can possibly leak. Only 2 of those are concealed in the housing so if the water is leaking from the tank and its not from the visible water connections you need to call Whywait for service to check the HWS. In all likelihood, if the hot water tank is more than ten years old then its a 50/50 chance you need a new one installed

DIY warning

The above reasons are the most common problems you will experience with why do I not have hot water. As you can see above, there are only a few simple DIY solutions when you have no hot water.

A word of warning though. Please never open up the housing near the bottom of the tank where the electrical connections are as they are all live wires inside there and therefore very, very dangerous.

Whether you have a solar, heat pump, gas or electric hot water system they do need periodic maintenance so for all hot water problems call Whywait Plumbing now on (07) 5580 4311 as we guarantee a same-day rapid response for hot water problems.

Google Plumbing like Dr Google is Unreliable

Google Plumbing like Dr Google is Unreliable

Google Plumbing & Dr Google are both like your drunk friend – dramatic & unreliable.

Google Plumbing has no Queensland plumbing licence issued by the QBCC. Likewise, Dr Google has no registration as a medical practitioner issued by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) to ensure the delivery of safe and competent health services.

As good as Google can be for searching everything and anything I guarantee no-one at Google ever completed a plumbing apprenticeship or a medical degree or an electrical apprenticeship.

I was chatting with my GP recently, and she voiced her frustrations with patients that Google their symptoms and then make an appointment to see her. Almost invariably, Dr Google is wrong. Usually, the patient has typed in symptoms that frequently give an utterly incorrect diagnosis of multiple possible ailments. She said even more frustrating is that she then spends most of the appointment convincing them Dr Google was wrong.

She was so happy when I told her as plumbers we go through exactly the same issues daily. Everyone I know that is in a service industry that has a consumer focus has the same problems and frustrations of being an instant expert thanks to Dr Google or Google Plumbing or Google Electrical.

Google plumbing advice is almost always wrong as Google cannot replace Whywait Plumbing ServicesWe all agree Google is excellent, especially for product searches. But when you are in business, it can also be incredibly frustrating when clients tell you they have Googled the problem and you are wrong. Ultimately for doctors or plumbers or electricians, all we can do is diagnose the issues based on the information presented and go through a process of elimination of possible causes.

The headline above comparing Dr Google to a drunk friend I just had to adapt and use after I saw it in a column by Tony Shepherd of The Adelaide Advertiser just after discussing Dr Google with my GP. I must admit it amused me as the description is perfect – dramatic and unreliable. You can read the full column by clicking here as it is a great read. The first lines are “Cyberchondriacs, step away from the search engine. Online symptom checkers are almost always wrong and should never replace a real medical professional, writes Tory Shepherd.”

This advice equally applies to plumbing because it can be difficult enough to diagnose plumbing problems when on site let alone on a computer or over the phone. As I continually reiterate no professional plumber can diagnose issues over the phone or give you an accurate price. There is only one way to diagnose plumbing problems, and that’s by having a real plumber on-site to investigate. Even then, complex issues become a process of elimination.

From the plumbing and ultimately health perspective, the most frightening issue we’ve seen with COVID-19 is all of the online suggestions on DIY installations of bidet seats and douche sprays. Google searches during the “toilet paper crisis” increased tenfold for bidet seats due to multiple social media posts and newspaper articles on so-called alternate toileting devices. Google will only ever give you generalised answers that are tailored to you as Google tracks you online with artificial intelligence.

Dr Google & Google Plumbing will never have the experience to solve plumbing problems that Whywait Plumbing hasTony Shepherd correctly points out – “Maybe it’s best to think of Google not as a medical professional but as Librarian Google, who holds plenty of information and might be able to help you find it, but might also be miffed at the amount of noise you make so just points you in the general direction of some stuff.”

My favourite lines after that are – “Or Friend Google who, after three champagnes, will tell you everything’s going to be great, but at 2 am starts crying into their whisky about how you’re going to die.”

Those lines above sum up precisely the daily frustrations that so many consumer-focused service businesses experience. The old saying about computers of rubbish in, rubbish out is correct. The flawed Google searches of an inexperience person create multiple issues as nonsense input into a Google search will guarantee nonsense results.

Ultimately Google is a tool or research assistant that can help you put things together in a logical manner or can throw a real spanner in the works. A Google search cannot replace a doctor or an electrician or a plumber, no matter how good Google artificial intelligence is.

How much will a leak add to your Gold Coast water bill?

How much will a leak add to your Gold Coast water bill?

Whywait Plumbing how to read your water meterYour Gold Coast water bill issued by the City of Gold Coast as a Water and Sewerage Rate Notice arrives every three months. Currently, every water meter is manually read every three months with your Gold Coast water bill coming soon after. The cost of water is set every year as part of the budget process with the detailed current water pricing for 2020-21 available from Gold Coast Water.

What are the costs on your Gold Coast water bill?

For most homeowners who use around the average daily water usage of 451 litres, the highest costs in the quarterly Gold Coast water bill are their sewerage and water access service charges. If you look closely at your water bill you can see that you have the following access charges:

Residential Charges Cost
Sewerage access charge per quarter

$181.03

Water access charge per quarter

$53.02

Total Access Charges per Quarter

$234.05

The usage charges per kilolitre as measured by your water meter are made up of council charges and Queensland Government charges as below:

Residential Charges Cost

City of Gold Coast water per kilolitre

$1.090

Queensland Government water per kilolitre

$3.122

Total Cost of Water per Kilolitre

$4.212

In reality, even if you did not use one drop of water, you would still pay for water and sewerage access service charges of $234.05 every quarter or $936.20 every year.

In our experience, the average water use of 451 litres or 0.451kL per property is not an accurate guide to your water use. Most homes with more than one occupant will use 1-2 kL every day. Remember your water usage will vary every day based on the number of occupants at home each day, and their water use behaviours. That is why we recommend you read your water meter weekly as that will give you a better guide about your average consumption but will also alert you to a potential water leak.

The real cost of water dripping from a tap

What will cause your usage charges to blow out is having leaking water. Leaking taps and toilets are frequently overlooked and put off to another day. A dripping tap that drips one drop every second will use 40 litres of water a day. The reality is that it becomes 280 litres a week and then 1214 litres a month and then 14560 litres a year. This is all water charged for on your Gold Coast water bill that you never utilised for any useful purpose.

If we translate the litres wasted to the cost of water, then the numbers become real.

Cost of a Dripping Tap at 1 drip per second Residential Cost at $4.212 per kL or 1000 litres Business Cost at $8.662 per kL or 1000 litres

1.66 litres per hour

$0.007

$0.014

40 litres per day

$0.169

$0.347

280 litres per week

$1.180

$2.425

1214 litres per month

$5.114

$10.516

14560 litres per year

$61.327

$126.119

The real cost of a leaking underground water main

A dripping tap or running toilet you can visually sight but the real killer to your Gold Coast water bill is your underground water main pipe leaking. For residential users, these are usually leaking polypipe water mains that were never installed correctly when the house was built. Only occasionally is a water leak apparent and bubbling to the ground. Most of the time they are a silent Gold Coast water bill killer leaking 24/7 undetected.

There is no real average for any leaking water main because it depends on the type of break in the pipe and what the incoming water pressure is.  Currently, we have a small leak where we have water monitoring installed that is leaking on average of 44 litres per hour, so we use that as a basis for what a leaking water main will cost on a Gold Coast water bill.

Cost of a leaking underground water main at 44 litres per hour Residential Cost at $4.212 per kL or 1000 litres Business Cost at $8.662 per kL or 1000 litres
44 litres per hour

$0.185

$0.381

528 litres per day

$2.223

$4.574

3696 litres per week

$15.568

$32.015

16016 litres per month

$67.459

$138.731

192192 litres per year

$809.513

$1664.767

A leak at 44 litres per minute is only a small leak. It is highly unlikely to show up bubbling to the ground unless it is directly under the grass in a shallow trench. Even looking at your water meter, it will not be evident unless you are testing your water use at the meter by checking for a water leak.

How much does a leak cost per litre

We have always recommended that you test your water usage through your water meter every month. By having comparable figures, you will soon ascertain whether you have a leaking pipe.

We have always recommended that you install an AquaTrip water leak detection system after your water meter. An AquaTrip Water Leak detection system with an integrated automatic shutoff valve supplied and installed by Whywait Plumbing is a permanently installed leak detection protection system that quietly protects against leaks 24/7. It is a one time only insurance payment.

With our modern leak detection methods, it’s a much easier job to find a leak but unless you have an AquaTrip installed or use our water monitoring service you will still pay for a lot of lost water before you become aware of the leak.

If you think you have a leak contact us because every litre that you lose is costing you $0.004212 for residential properties or $0.008662 for businesses on your Gold Coast water bill. If you believe that is inconsequential, we have just rectified a leak for a business client that was in a 40mm underground pipe that was leaking 96 kL every day, which is 96000 litres every 24 hours. This leak was costing $831.55 every day.

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