Introduction: How to Check If Your Home Has a Hidden Leak
There is nothing good about a water leak in your home! These steps will help you determine whether your home has a hidden leak that needs to be addressed.
Step 1: Has Your Water Usage Increased for No Apparent Reason?
If your water bill is showing an unexpected or inexplicable increase in water usage, it may be caused by an invisible leak. A leak is bad in so many ways: it causes unnecessary expense, it wastes precious water, and it could even cause damage to your home. Follow these steps to determine if there is a hidden water leak in your home.
Step 2: Find Your Water Meter
Your water meter is usually somewhere outside your home where the meter reader can easily access it on foot. Look for a concrete, metal or plastic cover in your driveway or front yard, or somewhere near the curb. In this example, the meter is under a concrete cover nestled between two bushes adjacent to the street. The meter cover may be stamped with the name of your local water provider, in this case East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD).
Step 3: Open the Meter Cover
It can be tricky to open the meter cover with your bare hands, as meter readers usually have a tool to do it. In this case, we use a screwdriver through the hole in the cover to pull it open.
Step 4: View Your Water Meter
The water meter may be under a cap - open it. Inside you will see a gauge that may or may not be visibly moving. A tiny triangle (red in this example) moves more quickly and offers a finer gauge of motion.
Step 5: Turn Off All Water in Your Home and See If the Meter Moves
Turn off all water in your home, including sinks, dishwashers, washing machines. Do not use the toilet during this test period.
After you turn off all the water, set a toothpick on the meter at the exact location of the arm. This is an easy way to tell if the arm has moved after a period of time.
Wait at least 20 minutes to an hour, and then come back and view the meter.
If you see that the arm is now in a different position, that means YOU HAVE A LEAK and there is water somewhere escaping your system.
Step 6: Follow a Process of Elimination to Find the Leak
Now you will want to eliminate possible locations for the hidden leak. Start by shutting off the water for your entire home. Your water shutoff is typically located wherever a water pipe enters the home. It may be close to an outdoor faucet or hose.
Turn off the water to your house by turning the shut-off clockwise until it won't turn anymore. Then, repeat step 5.
If your meter continues moving during this test, you have determined that the leak is between the meter and the shut-off.
If your meter stops moving during this test, you will need to continue to search for the leak.
Step 7: Check Toilets
Toilets are a likely culprit as possible sources of hidden leaks, because they can run water directly into the sewer without you being aware of it.
Check to see if toilets are causing a leak by shutting off the water supply to your toilet(s) and repeating Step 5.
If your meter stops moving during this time, you've determined that the toilets are leaking!
If the meter continues moving during this test, you will need to continue to check elsewhere.
Step 8: Check Hoses, Under Sinks, and Under Hot Water Heater
If your home has additional shut-off valves that allow you to shut off portions of the home, use them to continue your process of elimination.
Here are some other common places to check for leaks:
- Check outdoor hoses, and be sure that they are turned off at the faucet and not just at the hand-held valve. It's possible for hoses to lay in dirt or grass and drip water without the leak being visible.
- Check under hot water heaters for a drip. These are important to catch early, as they can lead to a failure of the bottom of the hot water heater and a major water mess!
- Check under sinks for puddles or drips.
Step 9: After Your Leak Is Resolved, Contact Your Water Provider
Some water districts offer to reduce your bills if you can show that you had a leak which was subsequently fixed. Once you have found and fixed the leak, contact your water provider to see if any relief is available.
Good luck and may the water gods smile upon your work!