It’s almost that time of the year where we hear this phrase bouncing around and continually drilled into us through all forms of media.
Now I’m not here to ramble on about being waterwise, I’m here to help you try to reduce your water bill through one simple check of one household fixture, your toilet. Rising water prices along with other house hold consumption prices (ie electricity and gas), are putting continual strain on a lot of W.A households and we all are looking for that bit of relief.
So your toilet, this area of the house is in constant use everyday of the year, just think about how many times we’ve flushed that toilet this week let alone a whole year and unless there is a blockage and a major problem where the toilet becomes unuseable we will continually use it without any sort of maintenance. Why should I pay for maintenance when it’s doing it’s job?, I do my business – it flushes it away; simple.
Well yes it is technically doing it’s job but in doing so you could be wasting hundreds of dollars in water every single year. This money would be better spent elsewhere right?
Your savings will come by checking if your toilet cistern is leaking. I’m not talking about leaking water onto the floor either. That would be too obvious. The leaking occurs at the back of the toilet bowl through the flush pipe. Sometimes it’s very visible, like a constant stream of water that continually runs, other times it’ll start as a light trickle and then gradually get worse.
If it’s not that visible an easy way to check is to put your finger or an object on the back of the bowl so you can see the water flow pooling around your finger or object. You may also hear the cistern constantly filling up particularly at quiet times of the day like night time. This is the water inlet letting water through. This is because as the water runs into the bowl out of the cistern the water coming into the cistern through the flexible hose is filling it up till the level where the float valve in the cistern cuts off the water supply, of course if water is continually running out, the float valve limit is never reached so water continues to flow in and out in a constant cycle.
There are two different changeable washers in a toilet cistern, the inlet washer and the outlet washer. The inlet washer is the smaller of the two and stops water from running into the toilet cistern. If this is worn then water will continually run in and out through the overflow mechanism in the cistern, as the cistern fills and continues to fill because the water inlet is not shutting off properly.
The overflow pipe is a safety device to stop your cistern from overflowing out the top of the lid and onto the floor, this is just a pipe that drains down into the flushing chamber. An indication that your inlet washer is worn is you can see, if you take the lid off the cistern, water reaching the overflow pipe and running over the top and down the overflow.
If the outlet washer is worn then the water level in cistern will never reach a point where the float valve, which houses the inlet washer, is able to shut the incoming water off because the float hasn’t floated enough to reached it’s shut off level. As water flows in gravity and a worn outlet washer take over and water flows out continually at varying speeds depending on the condition and wear on the outlet washer.
The above picture shows an example of an outlet washer, you can see the washer has become rippled and bubbling of the rubber can cause this washer not to seal properly on the plastic seat it presses down on, this in turn creates the leak. This can be easily changed out by pulling and stretching the rubber washer out from the locking flush valve mechanism and stretching a new one back into position.
The above pictures shows a fluidmaster inlet valve. Accessing the inlet washer involves rotating the top of the valve and then removing it revealing the inlet washer on the inside.
Before replacing any of these washers it’s advisable to switch off the shut off valve for the toilet so you don’t have mains water pressure flowing into and through the inlet valve while you are trying to change the washers. There are many different types of inlet and outlet washers so it’s advisable to replace like for like to ensure the valves function efficiently.
So you can see it can be a continuous cycle of water coming in through your cistern and out through the toilet bowl into the sewer pipes. If this is happening constantly throughout the day and night the wasted water litres add up and so does the dollars. It’s effectively like leaving a tap slowly trickling.
These types of jobs get put off regularly by home owners because it is a leak but its not leaking onto the floor or cabinet and it doesn’t have the potential to cause damage, the toilet also functions in a normal way, no real problems right?. The thing it is damaging though is your hip pocket when it comes time to pay those water bills.