Sometimes you may have a leak and not even know it. The best indication will be a high water bill. This information is being provided to help you identify and locate water leaks. If you suspect a water leak, a good place to start is with the obvious:
Slow drips from a faucet can add up quickly and waste thousands of gallons of water a year. A leaking faucet is frequently the result of a worn rubber washer which is relatively easy to replace if you have the right tools. Check with local home centers, hardware stores, or the Internet (keywords “repairing leaky faucets”) for instructions on how to repair faucet leaks. If you don’t feel comfortable doing the repair work, a plumber may be your best option and could save you money in the long run.
Generally they are not as prominent or visible as a dripping faucet, but toilet leaks are very common and can be easily found. A properly functioning toilet will not allow water to flow from the tank to the bowl unless the toilet is being flushed. The first step to finding a toilet leak is to remove the tank lid and make a quick observation of the water level. Don’t worry; tank water is clean until it enters the bowl. If the water level is too high, most likely water is exiting the tank through the overflow pipe and draining to the bowl. Adjust and check the filling mechanism (usually a float valve) for proper operation. The next step is to place food coloring or a dye tablet in the tank water. Do not flush for 30 minutes. If colored water appears in the bowl, you have a leak. If the water remains clear, this is a good sign that water is not leaking from the tank to the bowl. Since the flapper valve at the bottom of the tank may not seat properly every time after a flush, it may be necessary to repeat the dye test. Another easy method, but not always 100 percent effective, is to listen for leaks. If you hear a sound that appears to be a leak and it stops when the fixture valve is closed, odds are the filling mechanism should be replaced. Sometimes a toilet leak will be very obvious. It is called the phantom flush. Actually, there is no flush but a slow leak through the flapper valve that eventually lowers the water level in the tank to a point that the fill mechanism will replenish all water drained from the tank. It is similar to the refilling of the tank after a toilet flush.
Most leaky toilets result from 1) a high water level in the tank overflowing into the bowl, 2) a worn or offset flapper valve that does not properly seat every time, or 3) a defective filling mechanism (float valve). After repairs have been made, it is usually a good idea to repeat the leak test. Be mindful that “easy fixes” such as bending the float back to shape or adjusting how the rubber flapper falls, often end up failing soon afterward. Normally, it is best to replace any defective components since they can be purchased at hardware stores or home centers at a nominal cost.
If you observe water flowing out of a meter box, this is indicative of a condition requiring prompt attention. Call the water utility at 479-751-5751. A utility representative will be dispatched to assess the leak and determine if the water utility needs to repair meter connections in the box. Repairs inside the meter box normally do not result in a repair bill to the customer. However, leaks that are located just outside the meter box could be the customer’s responsibility. If you see a stream of water or a wet/soggy area that is normally dry or perhaps a patch of exceptionally green grass in a lawn that is otherwise not so green, these are telltale signs used to identify the location of leaks. If the leak is not repaired, it can become progressively worse with the passage of time. Leaks should be repaired as soon as possible since they won’t go away on their own.
The state plumbing code requires all hot water tanks to be equipped with relief mechanisms to control excessive pressure and high temperatures in the tank. Most have a single temperature and pressure relief valve (T&P valve) mounted on top or attached to the side of the tank near the top. All T& P valves are required to have discharge piping directing water under pressure away from the tank to a safe location that will prevent injury to the public when the valve activates. Quite often a leaking T&P valve will go unnoticed as the discharge pipe will terminate outside or to a crawlspace under the house. T&P valves normally remain closed and do not discharge water unless it is leaking, or the valve is opening due to high temperatures or excessive pressure conditions in the tank. If these conditions exist, it is recommended that you engage the services of a professional plumber unless you have experience and expertise in such matters. Replacing the T& P valve may not correct a hazardous condition causing the valve to discharge either continuously or intermittently.
Using obvious detection methods will often reveal the source of water leaks, but some may be concealed and more difficult to find. This is particularly true for a leaking pipe located under the floor in a crawl space, or one located below a concrete slab. Water leaking from an underground pipe is not always evident above ground. Leaking water can permeate through porous soil or disappear into fissures. When looking for a leak, always be suspect of recent excavations or boring activity. If a water line is accidentally damaged by those digging or boring in your yard, it could be leaking, and the water may never surface.
Before securing the services of a professional plumber or a leak detection specialist, any high meter readings should be confirmed by the water utility. When the high meter reading is being confirmed, utility personnel will also determine if the meter is “running” (registering water flowing through the meter), either intermittently or continuously. The customer’s cooperation is requested to make sure all water using devices are turned off when the meter is being read to check for leaks. This will include automatic devices such as ice makers, clothes washers, and dish washers.