This week is designated as “Fix a Leak Week” and is a good reminder to check your household fixtures for plumbing leaks. With this winter having been a hard one, a really good place to start your inspection is, of course, your outside spigots and lawn irrigation lines. If you didn’t remember to close and drain your hose connections, you could be looking at cracked or broken valves and water lines. Any major leak of this type is one you’ll want to fix immediately, because as the weather warms, you’ll run an increased risk of mold growth in indoor areas, and loss of performance and other damage in outdoor systems.
According to the EPA, water leaks in the average American household can waste more than 10,000 gallons of water each year. Nationally, the agency estimates that leaks consume more than a trillion gallons of water annually. That’s enough water to serve 11 million households. If you think this number sounds high, keep in mind that 10 percent of homes that have water leaks waste more than 90 gallons each day.
Sometimes it can be tough to confirm that you have a water leak. Dripping faucets and leaking connections are easy to see, but other fixtures like your toilets, showers and appliances may hide evidence of their sneaky water consumption. Use your water meter during a short period – say 2 hours – of “water inactivity” in your home to help you determine whether or not your fixtures are secretly consuming water.
You can test toilets for leaks by putting some food coloring in the toilet tank. If the colored water in the tank shows up in the bowl within 15 minutes, your toilet is leaking water. Most often, leaks from the toilet come from a failed or failing flapper valve. Alternately, the tank can fill too much when the toilet is flushed. If you dye your tank water and no colored water shows up in the tank within the test period, flush the toilet to clear out the colored water.
If your toilet doesn’t pass the colored water test, change the flapper valve at the bottom of the tank. This is very easy to do, and it’s a simple, cheap repair. If your toilet tank overfills, you can adjust the refill shut-off point by adjusting the refill valve. Usually, the optimal fill point is marked on the overflow tube in the tank. Try to adjust the refill to shut off at or near this point.
Dripping showers, faucets and connections are also signs of water leaks. Sometimes, simply tightening the connections around these fixtures can eliminate drips, but be careful not to overtighten the connections. Mineralization and debris from the water system can foul valves, making them difficult to close completely. Sometimes, just taking the valve apart and cleaning it or using Teflon tape around the connections can restore proper, drip-free operation.
If that doesn’t eliminate the drip in your faucet, you may need to replace a washer or ceramic disk. In some sealed faucets, these may not be replaceable. In this case, you’ll replace the entire faucet instead.
Outdoor irrigation systems can be a source of significant water waste. Even a very small leak or crack in an irrigation system hose can waste more than 6,000 gallons of water per month. It pays to inspect your outdoor watering system (or have a professional inspect it) every year before you begin outdoor watering.
If you have a major break in your water line or you know that you have a leak but just can’t find it, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing and Heating for immediate repair services. We offer true 24/7 emergency assistance for all of your plumbing, heating and cooling needs. Call us at (617) 288-2911 anytime. Don’t forget to like Boston Standard Plumbing on Facebook, and enjoy a leak-free summer!