Have you noticed that the amount you’re paying your local water authority has been increasing lately? Before you get too worked up about it, check your bill carefully against previous bills. You need to see if the amount you’re paying per gallon or pound is different, or the amount of water you’re using is different. If you don’t have a previous bill to reference, call the water authority; they will have access to your past bills and can show you what your past usage was, and also tell you if there have been any rate increases.
Maybe you’re just curious to see if your household is as conservative with water as it can be. You’re on a mission to see if your kids are running too much water when washing their hands, or if the lawn sprinklers are watering the driveway and sidewalks, as well as your lawn. You want to know if you’ve got nagging little leaks in and around your home that are costing you extra water, and therefore extra money. Let’s have a look.
If you open your toilet and you see water movement inside of the bowl, it’s telling you that the flapper is leaking. You can try wiping the flapper and the flapper seat off with a rag or a paper towel. After the flushing that took place when you were cleaning off the flapper settles down, recheck the toilet and if the water has not stopped, go to the hardware store and buy a new flapper. This should take care of the problem. If this is a serious problem, you will hear your toilet flushing when nobody is using it.
If you detect wetness around the base of the toilet, you need to do some experimenting. The first thing to do is check to see if the toilet is sweating. If that’s the case, there are some tricks you can try. Refer to the Plumbing Circle Blog for helpful tips for this situation. If the water appears when the toilet is flushed, it’s probably drain water. Fixing this leak will not help with the water bill, but it is a health issue and needs to be dealt with. If it is constant, then it may be a tank leak that is slowly making its way down past the bowl and onto the floor. This issue can be fixed by taking the tank off of the bowl, checking or replacing the gasket, and retightening the screws.
A good indication of faucet leaks—especially if you don’t hear them—is water drops in the sink. Here again, you can be fooled. Sometimes faucets will leak if water is being run someplace else. For instance, if you’re taking a shower, sometimes a weak gasket in a sink will start to leak because of the reduced water pressure. Sometimes the stopper in the faucet needs more pressure to hold it against the seat, and water running someplace else robs it of that pressure. If your faucets are leaking, you can buy gasket kits at home improvement stores for most faucets. This should take care of the problem.
Some of the most common household water leaks involve outside spigots and hoses. The reason is that people don’t pay much attention because the water is dripping outside and not on a floor someplace. You can buy gasket kits for these faucets as well. As for the hose and hose connections, those gaskets can be replaced easily enough.
This issue can crop up under sinks, in the basement or crawl space, or at the outside spigot. To fix this problem, you can try back seating the valve in question by opening fully, and then cranking on it just a little further in the counterclockwise direction. If back seating doesn’t work, try tightening the packing nut with an adjustable wrench. Do not go too far at once, because you can make the valve very hard to operate if you’re too rambunctious with the tightening. Sometimes it’s just easier to replace the valve rather than repair it if tightening the packing didn’t work.
Remember that saving water and saving money go hand and hand. You’ll be amazed how much money you can save just by fixing small leaks in and around the house!