Household Leak Detection
Whole House Meter Check
Water Meter Your water meter can help detect large leaks or a combination of small leaks. A whole house meter check can inform you of a leak and its flow rate, but can’t tell you where the leak is. If you need help locating your meter and want help conducting the leak check/home water audit call 321-433-8705 or send an email.
Performing a leak check includes the following procedures:
- Turn off all the water inside and outside the home. Tell other people in the home not use any water (including toilet flushing) for the next 20 minutes. You must perform this test when no automatic water equipment, irrigation controller, clothes washer, dishwasher, etc., is in use. Occupants should also avoid using ice from refrigerator ice and water dispensers.
- Record the reading of the water meter, and wait 15 minutes. Be certain no one uses any water during this time.
- Record the reading of the meter again. If the meter has recorded water use during the test, you likely have a leak. Verify that the water use is not due to small appliances such as water filters, water softeners, or whole house humidifiers. Perform test again, if necessary.
- You can calculate monthly water waste from leaks by multiplying the water usage in the “15-minute” test period times 2,880 (this is the number of 15-minute periods in a month).
Water Supply Line
There are sometimes leaks between the meter and the home, in the water supply line. These leaks are often times difficult to detect because the supply pipe is usually buried at least three feet (.91 m) below the ground surface. Sometimes the leaking water will travel along the pipe, back to the meter. If the meter box contains water, and the water is not due to rain or irrigation run-off, this may indicate a leak in the supply line.
Another common exit point for the leaking water might be where the supply line rises above the ground and/or enters the house. If the soil is constantly damp at these locations, not due to rain or irrigation, this might indicate a leak. In cases of severe leaks, the water will seep up towards the ground surface, usually directly above the path of the underground pipe.
Most often, leaks between the meter and the house are the responsibility of the homeowner; leaks from the meter or pipes leading from the main to the meter are the responsibility of the water utility. The water utility should be contacted before any attempt to repair the water supply pipe.
Breaks in the water supply line require the services of a trained professional. If the utility deems the leak to be the responsibility of the homeowner, a professional plumber should perform all repair work.
Faucet leaks are a common occurrence and usually simple to repair. That slow dripping faucet is not just an annoyance; it wastes surprising amounts of water. A faucet dripping slowly at only one drop every two seconds will waste more than 1,000 gallons per year. To estimate the volume of water wasted per year, simply count the number of drips per minute. Every drip recorded in the one minute time span equates to 35 gallons per year. A faucet dripping 45 drops per minute is leaking 1,575 gallons annually (45 drops x 35 = 1,575).
The repairs necessary to stop the leaks depends on the type of faucet, and there are four basic types found in most homes: compression valve, ball types (sometimes called delta), cartridge types, and ceramic discs. Each type of faucet is has unique methods of repair. It is no longer accurate to encourage homeowners to replace the washers; many types of faucets require new o-rings, cartridges, or ceramic discs. With some instruction and guidance, most repairs can be accomplished by homeowners accustomed to using tools and making minor home repairs.
When inspecting the home for faucet leaks, it is important to inspect other water valves around the home, including: showers, bathtubs, water heaters, hose bibs, laundry basins, utility sinks, etc.
Toilet Tank Cut-Away Toilets are one the most common sources of leaks in the home, usually unnoticed by the residents because the leaks are often silent and out of view. Most toilet leaks will send the wasted water directly into the sewer line without detection by residents. Several research studies have found 20% to 35% of all residential toilets leak to some degree.
Large toilet leaks can be detected when the valve constantly emits a hissing or gurgling sound when the toilet is not in use. Smaller, though significant, leaks require the further investigation. Removing the tank lid to inspect the flush mechanisms is the first step.
How a Toilet Works
- To better understand how your toilet works, take the lid off of your tank and flush the toilet a few times. Here is what you will see:
- When you push the handle, the chain lifts the flapper valve (also called the stopper or tank ball).
- Water in the tank flows through the flush valve opening into the toilet bowl.
- The water from the tank forces waste water in the toilet bowl through the trap and into the main drain.
- Once the tank is empty, the flapper valve closes and the fill valve/ballcock refills the tank.
- When the tank is full, the float ball shuts off the fill valve/ballcock.
Performing a dye test will allow detection of leaks in the flapper valve. Test procedures include placing dye tablets or food dye into the tank water to turn the water dark blue or red. If the dark blue or red water appears in the bowl within 15 minutes, there is a leak in the flapper valve.
There are several causes for these leaks, but flapper valves are the most common problem. The flapper provides the barrier, holding the water in the tank until the user activates the flush handle, pulling on the chain attached to the flapper valve. When the flapper is raised, the water in the tank rushes into the bowl creating the flush. After the flush is complete, the flapper falls back down onto the valve seat to retain the water as the tank refills.
Leaks occur when the flapper valve does not create a water tight seal. The seal can be compromised due to several reasons: a) the chain snagging, not allowing the flapper to drop completely onto the valve seat; c) the valve seat is worn; or c) the flapper is worn or warped. A worn flapper is the most common cause by far, and can be easily replaced.
Clean or Replace the flapper and/or flush valve
Toilet Flapper The most common cause of slow leaks is a leaky flapper. Over time, this inexpensive rubber part may decay or get old and stiff to the point that it needs replacing, or minerals may build up on it and/or the rim of the flush valve where it seats.
If the flapper is still in good shape, sometimes all it takes to make it work is to clean it &/or the rim where it seats.
Run a finger carefully around the underside of the flapper and the rim where it seats. Remove any uneven buildup of minerals that might cause a leak. Use a sponge with bleach or steel wool or #500 wet-or-dry abrasive paper.
Cleaning may work to remove mineral buildup, but it's usually best just to replace the whole part. There are a few standard kinds, so take your old one with you to the hardware store for comparison (to ensure you get the right kind). To perform a replacement:
- Close the water valve and flush the toilet. If the valve is completely closed, the tank will not refill and you will not hear water running after the tank empties.
- Pop the old flapper off its hinges, disconnect it from the chain, and pop the new one into place.
- Don't forget to open the valve all the way when you're ready for water again.
- Try flushing a few times to make sure the chain is the right length for the new flapper. It should open when you push the handle and then drop closed all the way when the tank empties. You may have to trim and adjust the chain by trial and error. Also, make sure that the flapper aligns properly with the opening.