Leak Detection Guide

Leak Detection Tips

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. It is best to do this when you are leaving the house for work or running errands. Do not use any water during this time (Make sure not to start a load of laundry, or to start the dishwasher). When the time is up, check the meter dial 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.

Your next step, will be to turn off one item and then do this test again. If there is no more usage then you have found the leak. For example, a toilet that is leaking. If the meter dial does not change then you can turn that toilet back on and go to the next bathroom in the home, turn that toilet off, and again repeat the test.

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 tests 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. However sometimes you still might have a toilet leak that you cannot hear.

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 to 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 off the toilet tank and add a couple of drops of food coloring to the water in the tank. Do not flush! Wait 1 to 2 hours. 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, or there could be a crack in the overflow tube. Using chemicals in the tank of your toilet can also wear down the float and flapper a lot faster.

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 does 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. Also tighten a loose handle or straighten the control arm if it is rubbing.

Weekly periodic maintenance checks of your toilet will conserve water and prevent high water bills. There are leak detection and prevention devices available at your local hardware store. This is a great investment to help prevent high water bills.

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 setting, it could 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 or 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 winter temps.

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 would 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.

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.

Check Outside Faucet Leaks

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. Even leaving an outside faucet on with a hose and spray nozzle attached is not a good idea. The constant pressure from the water could burst the hose and waste tens of thousands of gallons before being discovered.

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 your 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 will not increase your bill (unless you have a pit meter), but repairs to the line are the owner’s responsibility.

Other Symptoms of a Service Line Leak: 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 (located next to your water meter) is leaking. Repairs to the valve are the owner’s responsibility. We will turn off water free of charge so that any repair can be completed. Check the building foundation for cracking, vegetation growing unevenly, or heaving of the earth for no apparent reason. Also, look for a soft spot or depression in your yard, often accompanied by a drop in household water pressure.

We hope this informa on has been helpful and will help you be er manage and locate leaks in your home. If you are s ll having problems finding a leak, we suggest con‐ tac ng a plumber to come to your home to take a look around. If you have any other ques ons, please contact our office.

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