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Q&A with Handy Mac: Pipe problem and sale issue

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Anna has a noisy pipe problem and Ken is struggling to sell his house

Anna has a noisy pipe problem:

Q: Our domestic water system has a single geyser in the roof which has developed an airlock problem. Two plumbers have tried to correct it without success (one of them twice – we are reluctant to call either of them back as they charged R500-plus, and the problem is still there.

The airlock appears to accumulate overnight and vents itself when drawing off hot water first thing in the morning. It manifests itself forcefully (coughing and spluttering) in our upper level bathroom daily, and occasionally downstairs in the kitchen. I’m suspicious of the geyser. One plumber removed, inspected and cleaned the filtration valve on the geyser, but it made no difference.

Please advise how we would diagnose and get rid of this problem. Does it require a professional, or can you talk us through it?

A: This is not my speciality, so I asked my friend Lee to comment.

“Assuming the system in question is a high-pressure unit and of the enamel-lined tank variety, I would guess the sacrificial anode is where the problem lies.

“This anode is inside the tank and helps prevent accelerated oxidation of the steel tank. The anode is made of zinc, aluminium or magnesium.

“Some anodes have been found to give off efflorescence, resulting in trapped air at the head of the unvented system.

“This air will cause an initial draw-off of water to splutter. This seems consistent with the symptoms experienced by the inquirer. To remedy the above would require an anode replacement, bearing in mind that a more suitable anode metal is specified.

“A qualified plumber should be able to undertake the above, preferably one who is registered with the Institute of Plumbing of SA.”

Ken has decided to retire to Plettenberg Bay, but is having problems selling his house in Cape Town – the sale has been dragging on for months.

He has written me a long email, but what he is really trying to determine is this:

Q: “What should and should not be included for repairs in the plumbing and electrical compliance certificates, as I feel the company the estate agent provided is including things I am not sure about.”

A: I could write an entire column on this subject, but space is limited. I googled “electrical and plumbing certificates Cape Town”, and got an answer clearly setting out what should be covered and what should not. Ken has been quoted for work which does not need to be included. I would suggest that anyone selling their property does homework first to ensure they are not being ripped off.

I also sent Ken’s mail to my old consultant friend John from HouseCheck, and he replied:

“Electrical compliance certificates issued by a licensed electrician are compulsory everywhere in South Africa when a property is sold. Plumbing compliance certification is required in Cape Town. If Ken thinks the quotes are excessive, he is entitled to get alternative quotes.”

*Handy Mac, aka Don MacAlister, is our expert on household DIY issues. If you have a question for him, please send it to or SMS only to 082 446 3859. Find Don on FB:

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