According to the EPA, household plumbing leaks waste a huge amount of water – as much as 1 trillion gallons every year across the country, or 10,000 gallons per household. In fact, at least 10 percent of homes lose 90 gallons of water every day. In recognition of Earth Day – and your high water bills – we’ll help you find these leaks, seeps and drips, and show you how to fix them!
1. Faucets – Faucets are the biggest offenders in any home — the kitchen and bathroom sinks, utility tubs, garage water hookups and more. Did you know that a faucet that leaks one drip per second wastes up to 3,000 gallons of water per year? Make sure that you check supply lines and shut-off valves in addition to searching for dripping spigots and seeping handles. Fix supply lines by sealing connectors with Teflon tape. To repair a seeping faucet, you may need a faucet repair kit, available at any hardware store for less than $20.
2. Showers and Showerheads – In showers and bathtubs, dripping showerheads are the most common leak. You may suspect you have a leaky shower if you’re seeing water stains on the ceiling directly below it. But you want to be sure the leak is not due to water escape from a pipe in the walls. If you’re certain that it’s not the showerhead, check the faucet handles. Failing that, you may have a leak inside the wall where your piping connects to the faucet knuckle. If you have access to this part of your plumbing, the leak will be easy to spot. Otherwise, listen to exposed piping to see if you can hear water running. You may need to call in an expert. Check out this great water saving tip!
3. Toilets – If you suspect a toilet leak, there are several things to check, starting with the tank. Make sure the flapper seals snugly and the water control valve functions properly. If the valve inside your toilet’s tank doesn’t shut off once the tank is full, you’ll be running water down the overflow drain needlessly.
On the outside, you’ll want to check the supply line and shut-off valve connections for moisture. You may need to replace these parts or seal connections with Teflon tape.
Two-piece toilets sometimes develop leaks between the tank and the bowl. If you find moisture in this area, you’ll need to replace the gasket that separates the two. Moisture around the base of your toilet indicates that the wax ring needs to be replaced.
If you have a slow leak in your toilet tank, you may be losing hundreds of gallons of water and not realize it. Fortunately, you can easily detect a slow leak by doing the food coloring test: place a six drops of food coloring (blue or red works best) in the back of toilet tank when it’s completely full. Cover, and leave the toilet alone for about a half hour, then check to see if the water in the bowl of the toilet has become tinted with the dye from the tank. If it has, you’ve got a leak between the tank and the bowl, indicating a weak flapper (be sure to flush away the dye). Because you often can’t see or hear a leak inside of a toilet, too many people ignore them, only to pay for it in high water bills. Check here for some common DIY toilet repair costs.
4. Appliances – Appliances are another likely suspect – particularly the water heater, washing machine and dishwasher. Leak-proof these items by sealing threaded inlet hoses with new gaskets and Teflon tape. Pressure fittings and hose clamps may need to be tightened or replaced. On the water heater, check both the inlet and outlet pipes for leaks as well as the drain and pressure relief valves.
5. Checking Pipes and Fittings – Wherever you can see exposed piping, check the valves, joints and other fittings. The faster leaks will be easy to spot just by looking for moisture. Slow leaks, however, can be tricky. On galvanized steel and copper plumbing, look for areas that are rusted, corroded or mineralized. Leaking PVC pipes and fittings will have a buildup of drip marks or grime.
Unless they’re major, leaks within walls, floors or ceilings are more difficult to spot. Keep an eye on your water meter and shut down sections of your plumbing system one by one until the meter stops moving.
6. Outdoor Leaks – Even if your hoses and outdoor fixtures didn’t freeze during the winter, the seasonal temperature fluctuations can damage outdoor spigots, hose connections and nozzles. Repair hoses and nozzles by replacing the rubber gaskets in the connectors. If your spigot warped or cracked over the winter, you’ll need to replace it. Otherwise, you can fix a dripping outdoor spigot by replacing the valve stem.
More rarely, water mains, irrigation systems and other buried water lines develop leaks. Sometimes you can spot the leaks by searching for wet areas or low spots in your lawn. You can determine whether your irrigation system is leaking by locating an exposed section of pipe and listening to it. If you can hear a humming or hissing noise while the system is turned off, there is a leak somewhere in the system.