DETERMINING IF YOU HAVE A WATER LEAK
A leak on your line can be very costly. The good news is that even a very small leak can be found through trying a few simple techniques. If you have an unusual high usage on your water bill, here are a few steps you can do before calling a plumber. The PSA does not perform repairs on the customer side of the meter.
CHECKING THE METER
If you think you may have a water leak, your water meter is your best detective to help you find it.
- Turn off all faucets and water-using appliances, such as the dishwasher and clothes washer.
- Locate your water meter and lift the cover.
- Register type meter:
- These have a non-electronic rotating digital register. If you have one of these, the register shows total flow. Note the reading, wait 20-30 minutes (make sure nobody turns on any faucets or water-using appliances) and check the reading. If it has changed, it’s possible you could have a leak somewhere in your system.
- These meters also have a flow indicator. This is a smaller dial or triangle shaped marker on the dial face. It is designed to show low flows. If you see it moving when all water is off (make sure NO water is moving, including toilets filling), you possibly could have a leak.
- Electronic indicator meters (iPERL)
- If you have an electronic indicator type meter (iPERL), the register shows total flow on an LCD display. Note the reading, wait 20-30 minutes (make sure nobody turns on any faucets or water-using appliances) and check the reading. If it has changed, it’s possible you could have a leak somewhere in your system.
- These meters also have a flow indicator. If water is moving through the meter, a circle with a plus sign in the middle will appear in the bottom middle of the display. If this appears, it’s possible you could have a leak.
DETERMINE IF YOUR LEAK IS INSIDE OR OUTSIDE YOUR HOUSE
- After using the steps above, see if the leak is inside or outside your house.
- Shut off the main water valve to inside your house. This is usually located in the basement or crawlspace where the line from the meter enters the house.
- Follow steps 3 or 4 above under Checking the Meter depending on your meter type.
- If the meter has moved or the flow indicator is showing movement when the water is shut off to the house, any leak would be before the shutoff valve. Depending on your plumbing configuration, this usually means it’s on the service line between the meter and the house.
- If the meter has not moved or the flow indicator is not showing movement when the water is shut off to the house, your leak is somewhere inside the house.
For leaks on the service line (buried in the ground), unless you have the equipment and experience, we usually recommend hiring a plumber with the equipment to dig up and repair these lines.
These are just suggestions. In many cases a leak can be very hard to locate and if you are not used to plumbing positioning, you may miss something. All the same, if you try these steps, you should be able to find an approximate location of the water leak.
DETERMINING IF YOU HAVE A TOILET LEAK
In many cases, the culprit of a water leak is a toilet. Check the toilet for leaks by removing the top off the tank and listening very closely. If you hear any hissing at all, try to locate where it is coming from. If you locate the area where the leak is coming from, assess it and determine if you can fix it. If you can’t, then call a plumber.
If nothing is noticeable, add some food coloring and put a couple of drops in the tank (not the bowl). Wait and see if you have coloring in the bowl (could be several minutes to an hour for it to appear). If so, you have a leak in the flapper at the bottom of the tank that is allowing water to seep through. At this point you can assess if you want to do the repair yourself or call a plumber.
If you have more toilets, go ahead and repeat the process with each toilet to make sure you don’t have more than one problem.
OTHER POSSIBLE WATER LEAKS
HOT WATER TANKS
Check the Temperature & Pressure Valve (T&P) on the hot water tank. This is the valve either on top, or on the side of the tank near the top, that has a small metal handle and an opening 90 degrees off the connection to the tank. Sometimes these valves are plumbed directly into a drain and may be leaking without your knowledge. If you can’t remove the drain pipe to check for a leak listen for a hissing sound, it may be leaking. Be careful doing this as the water coming out is hot. Water heater relief valves should also be opened to allow some water to run through them at least once a year. If you’re checking for a leak, this is a good time to do this, especially as this may actually correct the leak (say, if the valve was stuck partially open). Again, be careful as the water is hot. If the valve is leaking, it may need to be replaced. Unless you have good plumbing skills, it is highly recommended that a plumber is consulted as these valves are a critical safety device.
Check the shower head for leaks. It should be a fairly straightforward home repair if this is a source of leaking.
Check for wet areas around your water pipes in your basement, underneath sinks, behind your washing machine, around toilet inlet lines, and behind your shower/bath access. Joints are especially susceptible to leaks.
Check all faucets, including washing machine connections, kitchen, bath, and wash sinks, and outside spigots. Replacing faucet washers may stop these leaks and will only take a few minutes to install.