Leak Detection Tips – Reduce Water Waste and Your Utility Bill

leak detection in action

Leaking Water Is Water Wasted

Leaky plumbing isn’t just a nuisance that can cause floor damage and mold. Water leaks waste a precious resource. We take for granted the fact that water will come out of the faucet whenever we want, just because it does. California residents know better. Even before the 2020/2021 drought, the state faced a water crisis. This is why leak detection is so important. 

One study by the Water Research Foundation found the average home loses about 17 gallons of water daily. During drought conditions, the water you save is not only money you save on utility bills, it is also saving a vital resource that contributes toward the overall health of the environment.

In this post, we take a look at where leaks in the home occur most often and what you can do about it:

  • What your water meter is telling you
  • Different leaks from different points in your plumbing system 
  • Pool and fountain leaks

Using Your Water Meter for Leak Detection

Your water meter measures usage in order to calculate your utility bill. If you notice your bill is higher than usual, and you haven’t been using water any differently, it could be an indication you have a water leak.  

One way to be sure is to:

  1. Make sure all faucets and appliances that run water are turned off.
  2. Record the meter reading.
  3. Wait about 15 minutes and check the meter reading again.

If you aren’t using water, the meter reading should remain the same. If the reading changes, you probably have a leak or perhaps even a series of leaks.

The source of the leak or leaks is the next question. There could be multiple answers, so it’s a good practice to look at all possible locations that might be leaking; just because you found one doesn’t mean there might not be more. The easiest path to find the issue is with a professional leak detection service. 

Possible Sources of Leaks in Your Plumbing System

Potential plumbing leaks could be in a variety of places:

  • Water supply
  • Kitchen and washroom
  • Bathroom
  • Pool or fountain

Water Supply

The water supply line runs between your meter and your house. It’s also buried underground, which makes leak detection more challenging on your own. There are some good indications you can look out for though, including unusually wet soil or water in the meter box that would not be attributed to rainwater. 

The water supply line is not to be confused with the line running from the water main to the meter. If your soil or meter is unusually wet, it could be either line. Contact your water utility first about what you observe. If the leak is indeed between the main and your meter, then the utility is responsible for the repair.

However, if it is the water supply line between your meter and your house, this is your responsibility. In which case you need a professional plumber to make the necessary repairs.

Kitchen and Washroom Leak Detection

Dripping faucets in the kitchen or washroom are obvious culprits. Not so obvious is the plumbing beneath the cabinet. Check underneath to see if there are any drips. It may simply be a matter of tightening a connection or two. Or, if that doesn’t work, it may mean calling a plumber who specializes in leak repair

Bathroom Leak Detection

Faucet leaks are easy to spot in a bathroom, but don’t forget to also look at the plumbing underneath. Tub and shower leaks may require fixtures to be tightened. Sometimes you might need to replace an internal part or the fixture altogether. A quick search on YouTube can provide instructions on how to do these relatively simple repairs.

The toilet presents a different set of potential issues. This can be a difficult spot for DIY leak detection because out of sight is out of mind. But if you hear a gurgling noise from your toilet, it usually means you have a water leak.

If your toilet is making noises, try this:

  1. Remove the toilet lid.
  2. Check the water level. It should be about an inch above the overflow tube. If it is above the overflow tube, water is leaking back into the tube. 
  3. You can try adjusting the chain that is connected to the float, which shuts off the water refill, so it sits lower, thereby lowering the water level.  
  4. If lowering the float doesn’t fix the gurgling noise, put some food coloring in the tank. Wait a few minutes and see if colored water appears in the tank itself. If it does, that means the flapper isn’t properly sealing. Replacing the flapper is an easy fix. Simply pop off the leaking flapper after you disconnect the float and attach the new flapper. 
  5. If the dye test doesn’t indicate a problem with the flapper, and lowering the water level doesn’t correct the gurgling noise, it may mean the refill assembly itself is worn and needs to be replaced. If you decide to try replacing this yourself, make sure you get the right assembly for your toilet, as assemblies vary depending on the manufacturer.

This is a simple fix, but if you don’t feel comfortable with DIY projects, a plumber can easily do the work. Ongaro and Sons technicians are knowledgeable in just about every kind of plumbing problem there is and can resolve the issue for you.

Pool and Fountain Leak Detection

Pools are great for cooling off, and just looking at a fountain can make you feel cooler. However, even a small leak in a pool or fountain can drive up your water bill. You might be able to see a leak in the plumbing system. But a small crack in a pool or fountain may not be as noticeable.

One leak detection tip you can do yourself is to put a bucket of water in the top pool step (or the fountain). With a piece of tape, mark the water level on the inside and outside of the bucket. Wait a day. Make a new mark on the water level inside and outside of the bucket. 

Some water loss from evaporation is to be expected. However, water evaporation both in the bucket and in the pool or fountain should be the same. If the water level on the outside of the bucket is lower than the inside of the bucket, it is a good indication there is a leak either in the structure or somewhere in the plumbing system of the pool or fountain.

Here’s a video on how to conduct a bucket test.