The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that household leaks waste almost one trillion gallons of water each year in the United States. This is roughly equivalent to more than 1.5 million Olympic-sized swimming pools.
In honor of “National Fix a Leak Week,” America’s Preferred Home Warranty (APHW) wants to help homeowners find leaks as they happen with some quick and easy tips for spotting problem areas. Not only can these tips save your home budget from taking an unexpected hit, they can also help the planet by helping us all use water more responsibly.
Look for Obvious Signs of a Plumbing Leak
Finding a plumbing leak can be tricky if you don’t know what to watch for. But even if you do, the signs of a plumbing leak may not show up for days, weeks, or even months after the leak has occurred.
If you spot any of the following signs, it’s a fairly safe bet that a leak is located nearby and needs to be addressed immediately.
- Damp, musty, or moldy smells
- Visible mold or mildew in odd places
- Cracks in your home’s foundation
- Wet spots or water stains on walls, ceilings, and floors
- Aerated water or whistling/hissing sounds when water is running
While these signs usually point to a plumbing leak, sometimes a plumbing leak can get overlooked if the evidence is out-of-sight, or goes unnoticed. In that case, you might try these other options.
Monitor Your Water Bill and Water Meter
Even though your water usage may vary from season to season, your water bill is a good indicator that your plumbing system may have sprung a leak. If you see a sudden, dramatic change in your water bill, it’s likely that your home is using excess water somewhere.
Currently, an average family of four uses 12,000 gallons of water a month, according to the EPA. Yet the average household leak can add up to 10,000 gallons of water every year. So, if you notice your water usage creeping up each month, and your bill along with it, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with a plumbing leak. The EPA also says that fixing these leaks can save you about 10 percent on your water bill – and keep your home from wasting more than 90 gallons per day.
Another indicator that you’re using excess water can be found with your water meter. If you have access to your water meter (usually located on the side or back of your house), you can turn off all the water in your house (e.g. your toilets, showers, dishwasher, and washing machine) and write down the numbers you see on the meter. Once you’ve done that, simply check the numbers again an hour later (while continuing not to use any water) and see if things have changed. If water usage increases, it’s probably time to call a plumber.
Inspect Home Fixtures and Appliances
If your water bill and meter haven’t turned up any leaks, or even if they have, the next step is to inspect areas where leaks commonly occur. This can help you pinpoint where the plumbing leak is happening so there’s less guesswork in identifying the source.
When it comes to plumbing leaks, the usual suspects can be found in your kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry room. While you’re inspecting these areas, look for puddles or other signs mentioned above in cabinets, below appliances, next to your water heater, and around tubs, toilets, and showers.
If you’re able to isolate the area where the leak is occurring, you can just as easily isolate the problem by shutting off the water to that specific appliance. In most cases, you’ll find a shutoff valve (similar to a faucet) next to the leaking appliance or water source that can be turned off.
Can’t find the shutoff valve or don’t feel comfortable doing it? A licensed plumber can help, and many offer emergency services if the problem happens outside of their normal working hours.
Perform a Dye Test on Your Toilet
With so many moving parts that control waterflow in your toilet, like the flapper, rubber stopper, and overflow valve, your toilet is a prime location for those hard-to-detect leaks. So if you’ve narrowed a leak down to your home’s commode, doing a dye test could help you identify it as the culprit.
To perform a dye test, simply put a few drops of food coloring into your toilet’s tank, and wait for at least five minutes. Once the timer is up, check to see if the dye has appeared inside the bowl. If a leak is present, you’ll see color inside the bowl – and the worse the leak is, the more color will be present.
Have a covered plumbing issue that needs to get fixed? If you’re an APHW customer, simply start a claim now online. With an APHW home warranty, you can choose your preferred licensed contractor to get your plumbing system back in good condition. Learn more about APHW home warranties to see what else we cover!