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Checking For Water Leaks

If you have recently experienced an unusually high and unanticipated water bill, you may be losing water through a plumbing leak in your home or yard. Water leaks can be deceptively wasteful and difficult to detect. Just a slow drip can add up to 15 to 20 gallons a day, while a 1/16-inch faucet leak wastes as much as one hundred gallons in just 24 hours! Time spent fixing a water leak will be well worth the effort in conservation and cost savings.

Outside the Home:

Two thirds of the average residential water consumption is for exterior use. Check around your yard for puddles, moist soil or unusually lush landscape. These are indicators of broken or cracked sprinkler valves, heads or pipes. These can be replaced or repaired with parts from the local hardware store by a do-it-yourselfer or contracted to a plumber or landscaper.

Inside the Home:

Toilets:
The most notorious household fixture for wasting water and hiding leaks is in the bathroom. The lowly toilet can waste hundreds of undetected gallons a day. Leaks from toilets occur when parts are worn or when the internal mechanisms are out of adjustment. Checking your toilet for leaks is wise when water bills creep up unexpectedly.

Most toilet leaks are at the overflow pipe or at the plunger ball. If it is at the overflow pipe, the water level is usually too high. To correct this problem, gently bend the float arm down so the valve shuts off water about a half-inch below the top of the overflow pipe. Less often, a leak develops below the water line or the fill valve becomes worn. Worn fill valves waste water the same as a dripping faucet. Consult a plumber if you are not an experienced do-it-yourselfer.

Plunger ball leaks are more difficult to detect than overflow pipe leaks. The best way to check a plunger ball is to add an ample amount of food coloring into the clear water tank and wait to see if the dye eventually appears in the toilet bowl. If it does, the plunger ball is probably leaking from either worn parts or a misaligned mechanism. A do-it-yourselfer should be able fix this problem.

Another possible cause for leaky toilets is irregular mineral deposits between the flapper and drain lip. This problem is easily solved by shutting off the water supply, flushing the toilet, sponging the tank dry and sanding off the drain lip mineral deposits with emery paper. Finally, check the flapper to ensure that it closes and seals the drain successfully.

Faucets:
The second most common cause of household leaks is worn washers in either valve-stem-and-washer or single lever type faucets. If any of these faucets drip after they've been turned off firmly, usually the washer is worn and needs to be replaced. This task involves shutting off the water supply, dismantling the faucet and making absolutely sure that the replacement washer is the right size. Usually, this is not difficult; however, some faucet designs do present a challenge. Consult your favorite hardware store or do-it-yourself book. If the faucet still leaks after you've replaced the washer, consult with a plumber.

Valves:
When correcting faulty and leaking plumbing, it is important that your shutoff valves are properly located and in working order. Be prepared to replace the shut-off valve as well. Old valves that no one has turned for years may spring leaks when suddenly turned on. Main residential shut-off valves are usually located where the main water line first enters the home and on the residential side of the water meter. Most sinks, wash basins, water heaters and toilets have their own shut-off valves. Unfortunately, most showers and tubs do not have their own shut-off valves.

Using Your Water Meter to Find a Leak:
As a final point, water meters can be used as an efficient and effective detector of water leaks. This is done by turning off all the water in your home, then check if the flow indicator shown under “Your Water Meter” (Figure 1) is spinning. If it is not, your home is relatively watertight. However, if it is spinning start checking hose connections, faucets, toilets and anywhere else where leaks could develop. Sometimes a curbside meter will also indicate a leak hidden underground. In such instances, call a plumber for advice.

If you have any concerns or questions about high water bills, water leaks or reading your meter, please contact our Customer Service Department at 661-294-0828.
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