Photo: istockphoto.com. Our homes rely on water—as long as its safely contained in a pipe, sink, tub, or appropriate appliance, like a dishwasher. But water can fast become the enemy if it goes where it shouldn’t, potentially damaging a home’s structure or furnishings.
- Check your water meter
One of the best ways to tell if you have a leak in some part of your plumbing is to check the water meter. To do this, you'll first have to turn off all the water in your home. Shut off all faucets, and make sure the dishwasher and washing machine are not running. Next, watch the meter and see if it begins to change. If it does, you likely have a fast-moving leak. If the meter doesn't change immediately, wait two hours and check it again. If it has changed despite all the water being off, you may be dealing with a slower leak. The leak could be anywhere after the meter, or even underground. Remember that all piping after the meter is a homeowner’s responsibility.
Plumbing leaks, unfortunately, are pretty common, even in newer houses, and it’s likely that every house will suffer from at least one.
What’s more, not all leaks are obvious; in fact, they can be awfully insidious, making it crucial to catch and repair a leak as soon as possible. Every homeowner should know how to find a water leak, so read on for wise advice on determining whether you’ve sprung one and how to identify its location so you can nip the plumbing problem in the bud.
Monthly water bills are fairly predictable, so if you receive one that’s unusually high—and you haven’t been using excess water—you may have a leak.
The Environmental Protection Agency suggests that a family of four will typically use no more than 12,000 gallons per month, except perhaps during the summer if you water a garden or lawn. Even small leaks, such as a faucet with a steady drip, can waste as much as 10,000 gallons of water per year, so keeping an eye on your water bill is a smart, proactive practice. RELATED: 14 Sneaky Ways to Save Money on Your Water Bill. If you suspect a leak, monitoring your home’s water meter will give you a definitive answer.
The meter is often located beneath a manhole-type cover near the street or (in areas where temperatures don’t dip below freezing) on the side or back of the house, near to where the water supply line enters the house.
Follow these steps to monitor the meter:. Turn off all water faucets in your home and make sure the washing machine and dishwasher are not running. Check the water meter and make a note of the numbers you see. Come back in an hour and check again. If the numbers have changed, there’s a leak somewhere.
To determine if the water leak is in the house or outdoors (only for homes with meters located at the street), turn off the shut-off valve on your home’s main water supply pipe.
This is either located in a basement or a utility room where the water pipe enters the home. Check the water meter, write down the numbers, and wait another hour. When you check again, if the numbers have not changed, the water leak is inside your home. If the numbers have changed, the leak is in the buried water line that runs to the house. Everyone wants a lush lawn, but if an area in your yard is much greener (and grows faster) than the rest of the grass, it could indicate the spot where a buried water line is leaking.
- Use common sense
Make a practice of regularly checking in the back of cabinets and under basins for any signs of mold or foul smells that might indicate a leak: prompt attention could save you thousands in repairs. Consider having a professional plumber make an annual inspection of your home to check for leaks or potential problems.
Be especially vigilant if your home is over 25 years old; your plumbing system may be on the declining side of its life expectancy. Inspect all accessible connections at the water heater, pumps, washing machine hoses and valves for oxidation or discoloration – clear signs of a slow leak.
If you suspect a leak anywhere in your plumbing system, call in a professional to make a repair as soon as possible. Don’t wait until it gets worse and you end up with a real mess on your hands!
If the leak is profuse, you might even see some puddles on the surface of the ground.
Photo: istockphoto.com. If the water meter test indicates a leak inside your home, check the cabinets under the kitchen, laundry, and bathroom sinks to make sure they’re dry.