Greta Goosen, Head of Customer Experience at MiWay Insurance
Cold, and sometimes wet South African winters come with their fair share of household issues; many of them being water related. One of the most notorious of these issues are burst geysers – a problem that can cause major inconvenience and potential property damage. With colder weather fast approaching, South Africans can prevent unnecessary damage caused by a burst geyser with some careful planning, a watchful eye and a plan of action to navigate this season of high risk.
Offering her practical advice for homeowners in this regard, is Greta Goosen, Head of Customer Experience at MiWay Insurance. As she explains: “We typically receive an influx of burst geyser-related claims during the winter months. But what many South Africans do not realise is that sometimes these claims can be avoided with a few simple maintenance checks that will go a long way in preventing unwelcomed surprises.”
Regular maintenance checks as a preventative measure
As she advises, one of the tell-tale signs to look out for are signs of corrosion or rust. Geysers should be examined outwardly at least once a year for rust damage. Brown or murky water coming from your hot water taps are also usually evidence that corrosive damage has set in. This should be regarded as a warning sign and an opportunity call out a qualified plumber who can provide an assessment of the remaining lifespan of the geyser.
Geyser bursts are also commonly preceded by small leaks. Every geyser should be fitted with a drip tray that allows for proper drainage and it is considered normal for the overflow pipe to drip on occasion. But frequent leaks may be a sign that the geyser is taking strain and may need to be repaired or replaced.
In winter, when temperatures drop suddenly and dramatically, the difference between the cold water entering the geyser and the hot water leaving it is more significant. The rate at which the geyser expands and contracts therefore increases faster, leading to potential metal fatigue. For this reason, it is good practice to have a plumber check that the geyser’s thermostat is in working order and can continue to regulate the change in seasonal temperature.
Practical steps to take when a geyser bursts
A burst geyser has the potential to cause substantial water damage to items such as wooden floors, ceilings and furniture. It can also pose a serious threat to your household’s safety if the leaking water comes into contact with electrical fixtures.
When a geyser does burst, it is recommended that you immediately switch off the home’s main water supply as well as the main energy source at the distribution board. After doing so, all electrical equipment should be removed from the site and leaking water should be mopped up to reduce the potential for further damage.
Cover your bases when it comes to insurance
Once these safety steps have been followed, your insurer should be alerted to the incident. Claims by MiWay clients can be processed via the app or the MiHelp emergency assistance department which can assist with sending a plumber to the home if the geyser leaks or bursts during the weekend. As part of the claims process, clients also need to be aware of what ‘resultant damages’ are – these are essentially any damages to an existing structure or fixture caused by geyser leakage or a burst.
Depending on the insurer, consumers may also be able to opt for add-on cover to protect their valuables in the event of a geyser burst. These value-added policy extensions can provide much-needed relief and prevent homeowners from having to shoulder the accumulative cost of water damage.
Greta urges consumers to ask their insurers for an outline of the emergency claims process – having someone on hand who can assist, even on weekends can make sure that your household is not disrupted for too long.
It’s also worth investigating whether your insurer covers the worst-case scenario in which a property becomes uninhabitable for a time due to extensive water damage.
As Greta concludes: “Never underestimate the potential of water to cause significant damage. In the winter months, where any excess moisture should be avoided at all costs to curb the development of mildew, mould and stagnation, staying on top of your geyser maintenance and using insurance as a safety net is the best way to manage this risk.”