By Patricia Garcia
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 1 trillion gallons of water are wasted each year due to minor water leaks in the home. That’s why the agency would like to remind you to check your indoor and outdoor plumbing fixtures and irrigation systems for Fix a Leak Week, which runs from March 18-24, 2013.
A leak, even a minor one, can lead to large amounts of water loss, structural damage to your home and a sizable hit to your wallet. Just ask Chris Orr, a meteorologist in Rapid City, S.D. A small leak where his water meter and water line meet caused six months of headaches and significant damage to his home. Though the city repaired the water meter, he and his wife will have to replace the floor in their bathroom and laundry room and repair and repaint a wall — in search of the leak, they cut into the drywall.
While Orr estimates about 20-30 gallons of water wasted due to the leak, the figure is likely much higher. “People are often amazed at the volumes of water wasted through household leaks,” says Larry Rothman, director of plumbing service for Roto-Rooter, a national plumbing and drain cleaning company. “Something that seems insignificant and often unattended by homeowners, like a running toilet, actually makes a noticeable impact on their water usage and water bill.”
So how can you get make sure your home is free of leaks? The EPA suggests starting by checking your winter water bill. A family of four shouldn’t use more than 12,000 gallons of water per month, so if your family is consuming more than that, you have a leak. Another option is to check your water meter before a two-hour period where no water will be used. If the meter doesn’t read exactly the same two hours later, then you have a leak. You can also install leak detectors in your new home.
Once you’ve determined that you have a leak, your next step is determine the source. The first fixture to check is your toilet. To do this, Rothman suggests adding a few drops of food coloring to the tank and waiting 15 minutes. If colored water appears in the bowl, you have a leak. To fix this issue, replace the toilet flapper.
Another type of toilet leak is an overflow leak. To check for this kind of leak, Rothman says to sprinkle a pinch of flour or talcum powder on the water in the tank. If the flour or powder drifts toward the tank’s overflow tube, then you have a leak. To fix it, replace the float valve.
Toilets are not to blame for all leaks in the home — here are other places the EPA suggests checking:
- Faucets — Check faucet washers and gaskets for wear;
- Showerheads — Use pipe tape and a wrench to ensure a tight connection to prevent leaks;
- Irrigation systems — Check each spring before use to make sure there is no frost or freeze damage;
- Garden hoses — Look for leaks at its connection with the spigot. To prevent leaks, replace the nylon or rubber hose washer and make sure the connection is tight by using pipe tape and a wrench.
Don’t forget to check any appliances with water lines — such as refrigerators, dishwashers, water softeners, air conditioners, water heater tanks and pool fillers — as well as under kitchen and bathroom sinks, where leaks can be hidden behind all of the items you store there. Wood rot, buckling floors and discolored walls and floors can also be a sign of a leak.
By regularly monitoring monthly water bills and the plumbing fixtures in your home, you will reduce the chances of an undetected leak that can cost you lots of time, water and money.
Between Fix a Leak Week and World Water Day on March 22, it’s quite a water-ific week. How will you celebrate and save water this week and beyond? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patricia Garcia is Content Manager for NewHomeSource.com.