Water leaks aren't something we think about until we find a puddle on the floor or wet things in the kitchen cabinet under the sink (it happens to everyone so a word of warning, don't store valuable things under faucets). An unlimited supply of fresh water is something we take for granted – long showers, bubble baths, flower gardens, etc.
Water feels unlimited if you live in the US, unless you're a farmer suffering through the recent droughts when there simply isn't enough water for crops and animals. Soon we'll start paying attention as the cost of water increases, like we did when gas went over $4.00 per gallon.
Water leaks average 10,000 gallons wasted per home every year, enough to fill a swimming pool so let's look at why it's important to find and fix water leaks.
Why You Want to Find & Stop Water Leaks
Now is the time to learn and conserve on the water you use, because we all have wasteful habits that don't cost anything to change. The best example? Don't leave the water running while you're brushing your teeth.
- Think about the water you're using – is the dishwasher full? can I delay laundry day? how often and how long do I need to run the sprinklers?
- Consider how you can save water – do you have a water barrel in your garden? and use native plants that need less water. You can look for Water Sense products, that use water efficiently.
- Make a plan to find and fix water leaks at least twice a year – as things that get wet may be ruined (and expensive to repair or replace) and you might create an environment where mold grows.
There's a big difference between a homeowner looking for water leaks (visual and feel) and what a home professional can do with special equipment like moisture meters. There's even sound equipment to find leaks behind walls, under floors and even a concrete slab foundation. That's why it's really important to monitor your water use.
Monitoring Water Usage to Find Leaks
You can't visually inspect all the plumbing in your house, so the next best thing is to monitor your water bills (or meter if you have a well). You might want to start by comparing your use to other homes similar in size and number of family members. We found this water consumption calculator to help you do this and then you might be encouraged to set some goals for reducing water use at your house.
Where You'll Find Water Leaks
The most common water leaks are due to leaking toilet flappers, dripping faucets and other leaking valves. Fortunately, these water leaks are easy to fix (most of the time) if you know where to look. By fixing problems quickly, you also reduce the cost of mold remediation and wood rot repairs, so don't delay.
- Outdoor water use – check outdoor spigots, hoses and irrigation systems. In colder climates, disconnect garden hoses and use frost-free faucet to prevent freezing (more about water leaks and frozen pipes). It's also a good idea to add shut-off valves so you can turn the water off quickly if there is a water leak, which has happened to some of my handyman customers.
- Indoor water use – check around and under sinks (kitchen, bathrooms, bar sink or utility sink), bathtubs, showers and toilets. If toilets sweat (condensation) during hot weather, you can add a hot water line as warm water in the toilet bowl won't sweat.
- Appliances that use water – should also be checked while (and after) operating. Feel the floor under the dishwasher & washing machine to make sure there aren't any small water leaks. Roll your refrigerator out to check that the water supply line (cold water and ice) isn't leaking, which caused mold at my son's house recently.
- Home systems – also use water so inspect around hot water heaters, baseboards if you have forced hot water heat and I'm not familiar with solar systems yet but they might also have occassional water leaks.
- Home safety features related to water – include water filters, water softeners and sprinkler systems for fire safety and these can create water leaks, small or large like the waterfall next door when the sprinklers burst one winter.
Enjoy the Many Luxuries Water Provides
Our homes are meant to support our lifestyles. By learning about, using wisely and maintaining our homes, we can enjoy them more. With 365 days a year to enjoy your home, don't sweat the occasional water leaks!