Help with Leaks

If EyeOnWater sent you a Leak Alert, there are a few things you can do before calling a plumber.

The first is to perform a simple test to verify that water is flowing when it shouldn’t be.

  1. Turn off all of your faucets both outside and inside the house, and make sure you are not running any appliances that use water (dishwashers, washing machines, ice makers, etc.).
  2. Look at the dial on your water meter. If the numbers on its dial are moving or if the water meter has a leak indicator and it is spinning, you have a leak.

The next step is to locate the source and approximate location of the leak.

  1. Visually inspect your home and property for obvious signs of a leak.

    –Dripping faucets, puddles near appliances that use water (refrigerators with ice makers, washing machines, hot water heaters, water softeners, etc.), wet spots on a ceiling or wall, etc.

    Outside–Pools of standing water where there shouldn’t be any water, unusually soft or soggy spots in the ground, patches of lawn that are deeper green than surrounding areas, etc.

  2. Listen for leaks. Some leaks take place out of sight, for example, by flowing into drains, behind walls and underground. Carefully listen to your water pipes, appliances and even your toilet tank. If you hear a faint hissing sound, you may have found a leak. Keep in mind that you may have more than one leak, so be sure to inspect as many potential leak sources as you can.
  3. Use your sense of smell. Leaks are a common cause of mold growth around the edges of bathtubs, under kitchen sinks, in walls and subflooring and other out-of-the-way places that make them difficult to see but easy to smell.

When it comes to narrowing down possible causes, EyeOnWater may be able help. For example, both the web and smartphone app versions of EyeOnWater display the latest flow rate of currently active leaks. “Latest flow rate” means the amount of water loss per hour. Smaller water leak amounts  of about 0.1 to 5 gallons (0.4 to 19 liters) per hour can usually be attributed to dripping indoor or outdoor faucets. Medium water leak amounts of between 5 and up to 20 gallons (19 to 75 liters) per hour could be a leaky toilet or a leaking connection between a water pipe and an appliance. Medium-sized water leaks could also be the result of a running faucet. Still larger leak amounts of 20 or more gallons (75 liters) per hour might indicate a problem with an irrigation system or aging, galvanized water pipes. Remember, these are merely possibilities intended to help you narrow down potential causes.

Common sources of leaks in a household include but are not limited to:

Water faucets–leaky faucets are typically caused by worn gaskets.

Water hoses–Rubber hoses can crack as they age. Continued exposure to the elements can damage garden hoses and the plastic tubing of drip irrigation systems. Washing machine hoses are another potential source of significant water loss and—on the rare occasion they burst— property damage.

Toilets–There are a number of ways that toilets can leak. For example, when the tank doesn’t fill completely, water will run continuously. Sometimes jiggling the flush handle will correct the situation. Slow leaks sometimes develop between the tank and the bowl, between the water supply fitting to the toilet or when flappers are no longer seated correctly. A flapper is the device at the bottom of the tank that prevents water from flowing into the bowl until the toilet is flushed. If your toilet is leaking at its base, it could be because its bolts aren’t fully tightened or because the seal between its base and floor has been damaged.

Broken irrigation lines and water pipes–Sprinkler and Irrigation system pipes can become damaged. Tree roots and debris can clog and break water pipes. Freezing weather followed by heat spells can burst or damage pipes above or below ground, causing significant water loss and property damage.

For these and other reasons, it is important to fix leaks as quickly as possible.

For more on fixing leaks, see WaterSense from the Environmental Protection Agency.

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