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Leaks

A little leak loses lots! Just a slow drip can add up to 15 to 20 gallons a day, while a pinhole size faucet leak wastes 100 gallons in 24 hours!

Toilets are notorious for their hidden leaks. They can waste hundreds of gallons a day undetected. Leaks occur when the toilet is out of adjustment or when parts are worn, so it’s important to check the toilet periodically. Most toilet leaks are at the overflow pipe or at the plunger ball and aren’t hard to find.

  • If the toilet is leaking at the overflow, the water level is usually too high, although the overflow pipe sometimes may leak below the waterline. To stop this kind of leak, gently bend the arm until the valve shuts off the water about a half-inch below the top of the overflow pipe. Sometimes the valve is worn and will run like a leaky faucet and must be replaced. If you’re an experienced “do-it-yourselfer” you can do the job. Otherwise, call a plumber.
  • Plunger-ball leaks are only a little more difficult to spot. The best way to check is by dropping a little food coloring into a tank full of clear water and waiting to see if the color shows up in the bowl. If it does, you probably have a leak at the plunger ball, either because the ball needs replacing or because the mechanism is out of alignment. This is a relatively simple repair for a “do-it-yourselfer.”

Aside from toilets, most leaks are found in faucets and are most commonly caused by worn washers. Check all the faucets in the house once or twice a year. If any of them drip after you’ve turned them off firmly, turn off the water supply line, take the faucet apart, and replace the washer. Usually it’s not hard, although some faucet designs do present a challenge. Any good household do-it-yourself book offers easy-to-understand advice if you need it.

BE A LEAK DETECTIVE

Your water meter is the best leak detector in your home. Turn everything off carefully, so no water is being used anywhere in the house. Then check the position of the meter dial for about 15 minutes. If it hasn’t moved, congratulations! You have a relatively watertight home. But if it has, start checking hose connections, faucets and toilets.

Water Saving Devices

Many different kinds of water saving devices and fixtures are on the market, ranging from special reduced-flow showerheads to water-thrifty shallow-trap toilets. A variety of showerhead adaptors also are available to cut down water use from existing fixtures, although a little self-control to not turn faucets on full-blast does just about as well, at no cost at all. See a good plumbing supply or hardware store for advice, particularly when it’s time to replace an old fixture in the house.

Here are some examples of how much water can be saved by using these devices.

Age and Type of Fixture Water Use Rate (gallons per use) Estimated Annual Water Savings
in gallons per Household
Pre-1950 Toilet
7.0
26,538
1994 Toilet
3.5
9,337
Waterless Toilet
0
7,863
Pre-1980 Showerhead
8.0 gallons per minute
13,619
Pre-1980 Faucet
7.0 gallons per minute
18,212
Pre-1980 Clothes Washer
56 gallons per load
10,339
1990 Dishwasher
14 gallons per load
675

You can see that by replacing old, inefficient fixtures and appliances you can really save a lot.

SHUTOFF VALVES AND EMERGENCIES

Check to see if your main shutoff valve works. It is usually located where the water pipe comes into the house. If it doesn’t, ask a plumber to stop by and correct the situation.

If you have a water leak inside you house, you'll want to be able turn off the water to the whole house to prevent water damage and waste.

— American Water Works Association