Leak Detection Tips; save water = save money

To check for concealed leaks, there are two good do-it-yourself approaches:
  • The Meter Check:     Check all faucets, inside and outside, to make sure they are off.  Find your inside water meter and mark the position of the dial hand with a crayon or pen and write down the digits of the meter reading.  Wait 1 to 2 hours.  Do not use any water during this time.  When the time is up, check the test dial on the meter to see if the hand has moved away from the mark you made.  Also, check the reading to see if it changed.  If the hand has moved and/or the reading has changed, you have some type of leak.
  • Listen for Leaks:     Check all faucets, inside and out, to make sure they are off.  Take a large regular screwdriver (preferable 10" on longer) and firmly place it on the hot or cold side of any faucet.  Place your ear on the plastic handle and listen for water sounds.  You can also do this test on any exposed pipes, valves or fittings.  If you hear the sound of running water (it is usually noticeable), you have a leak.  Faucets, pipes and fittings should have no sound if there is no leak.  
Look for Toilet Leaks:  A leaking toilet is one of the most common water wasters, but toilet leaks are less noticeable than faucet leaks.  Here are some simple test that you can use to see if you have a toilet leak.
  • Flush the toilet.  Wait for the toilet to stop refilling, and then make a visual inspection of the bowl.  If water can be heard, your toilet is leaking.
  • Remove the toilet tank lid and check the water level in the tank.  The water level should come up to 1" or so below the opening of the overflow pipe.  If the water level is too high, water can flow continuously down the overflow tube.  If the water level is even with the top of the overflow tube, try sprinkling a little powder on the surface of the water.  If you see the powder go down the overflow tube, the toilet is leaking.  To stop the leak, adjust the water level with the adjustment screw or adjustment clip.
  • Although water may not be seen or heard running, your toilet may have a silent leak.  Try conducting this simple experiment.  Take the lid of the toilet tank and add a couple drops of food coloring to the water in the tank (the Utilities Office has dye tablets you can pick up at no cost if you do not have food coloring on hand).  Do not flush!  Wait 1 hour.  If the food coloring shows up in the toilet bowl, your toilet has a leak.  The plunger ball or flapper probably needs to be cleaned or replaced.
  • Check the operation of the flush handle. The handle controls the lifting and lowering of the flapper or bulb.  Take the lid off the toilet tank and flush the toilet.  Make sure that the handle mechanisms operate smoothly and do not hang-up or jam.  Check the chain that goes from the handle mechanism to the flapper at the bottom of the tank.  The chain can get caught under the flapper if it is too long.  A sticking handle can keep the flapper or float ball from completely closing off the bottom drain and the result can be a huge water bill.  Tighten a loose handle or straighten the control arm if it is rubbing.
  • Weekly and monthly periodic maintenance checks of your toilet will conserve water and prevent high water bills.
Look for Faucet Leaks:
  • All faucets, including those in the basement or storage areas, should be checked periodically.  Most faucet and shower head leaks result from worn out washers.  Replace washers on dripping faucets and showers immediately.  Even a small leak can waste several gallons of water a day and can add up on your bill.  Your water heating costs will also increase if it is a hot water leak.  A dripping faucet wastes about 1,500 gallons in three months.
  • Periodically check outside faucets for leaks, especially during the summer watering season.  Children wanting to cool off in the heat might not always shut the faucet off all the way.  A hose mistakenly left on can dribble away thousands of gallons of water over the course of a summer.  Outside faucets can freeze in frigid winter temperatures.  A frozen spigot can crack or burst and turn your yard into a lake of ice causing a costly fix.  If your house does not have frost proof spigots, be sure to turn water off at the valves on the lines that supply outside faucets.
Check Your Service Line for Leaks:
  • Your service line is the pipe that connects our house to the water main.  It is buried about 42" underground (below the frost line) to keep it from freezing in the winter.  A service line leak is the property owner's responsibility to repair.  Look at the walls where your service line enters the house.  Look for discoloration, moisture and sponginess.  At the same time, check to see if your main control valve, near the meter, is leaking.  Look for soft spots or depressions in your yard, often accompanied by a drop in household water pressure.
Other Places to Look for Leaks:
  • Furnace Humidifier:     A furnace humidifier needs a continuous supply of water, often supplied by a line or tubing plumbed directly into the mechanism, which will be attached to your furnace.  Control valves can stick open, causing water to flow through the humidifier using 1 to 2 gallons of water per minute.  Customers should also remember that if you have the humidifier setting on high or even medium, it can be running 24 hours a day during very low temperatures.  If you think you have a leak with your furnace humidifier, call the company that installed it for a contractor who specializes in furnace humidifiers.
  • Water Softener:     Control valves can stick on water softeners, causing them to continuously recharge or "regenerate".  If this happens, you will need to turn the softener off and call the company who installed it or a repair company.
  • Ice Maker:     Automatic refrigerator ice-makers have a water supply line or tubing.  This tubing can develop a leak, sometimes even inside a wall.
  • Sprinkler System:     In-ground sprinkler systems can develop leaks that are very difficult to find.  Look for wet spots in the yard.  This can indicate that a station may be running too long or that it has a leak.  If you think you have a leak in your sprinkler system, call the company that installed it or a company that specializes in sprinkler systems.  Be sure to drain your system before cold winter temperatures freeze the lines and cause a break.  Also, be sure that your main valve to the sprinkler system is turned off during this time.
  • Hot Water Tank:     Water heaters can develop leaks at the fittings or from the drain valve at the bottom of the tank.  Also, corrosion can eat through the inside liner.  Flushing your water heater will help with build-up and corrosion.  Your owners manual will let you know how often you should flush your water heater.  Leakage from the hot water tank can go undetected for a long time if the tank is in the basement with a floor drain.  A higher than normal electric, gas or water bill can be the result of a hot water tank leak.
  • Swimming Pool:     To check your pool for a leak, fill a five gallon plastic bucket to approximately 1" from the top with pool water and mark the water level in the bucket.  Mark the normal water level on the pool with tape, a wax pencil or crayon.  Turn off all water filling devices.  Place the bucket on a step in the pool and wait 24 hours.  If the water level in the pool drops more than the water level in the bucket, you have a leak.  If needed, contact a pool contractor who specializes in detecting swimming pool leaks.
  • Underground Lines:     Some homes and businesses have plumbing lines running from one building to another, or to a detached garage or storage building.  Breaks on these lines are difficult to find.  Watch for wet spots or ground erosion near where lines are located or listen on the line that goes underground to hear if water is leaking.