How to Detect & Find a Leak in or outside Your Home

The Water Leakage Problem

Water leaks are not only a nuisance, they can be quite costly – not to mention environmentally harmful for areas with low rainfall like Phoenix, Arizona. The biggest problem with leaks is that they can go undetected for such a long time that what seems like a small increase in your water bill can add up exponentially. And, sometimes, cause health problems and expensive damage to your home.

A few facts about leaks from the United States Environmental Protection Agency:

  • The average household’s leaks can account for more than 10,000 gallons of water wasted every year, or the amount of water needed to wash 270 loads of laundry.
  • Household leaks can waste more than 1 trillion gallons annually nationwide. That’s equal to the annual household water use of more than 11 million homes.
  • Ten percent of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more per day.

That is whole lot of water being wasted and a lot of money going down the drain – no pun intended – through higher water bills.

Determining if You Have a Water Leak

The first step to take in preventing leaks in your home is to first determine if you have a leak. You can check for leaks on a regular basis to ensure no new leaks occur throughout the year. Checking for a leak is as simple as checking your water meter:

  • First, make sure that water is not being used inside or outside of your house.
  • Next, locate your water meter and check the leak indicator for any movement. Depending on the brand of your meter, the leak indicator could be a small triangular-shaped dial or a small silver wheel that rotates when water is flowing through the meter. If the dial is moving, chances are, you have a leak.
  • Alternatively, you could take a meter reading, wait 1 to 2 hours, and then take another reading (making sure not to use water during this time). If the reading has changed, you have a leak.

You should check for leaks a few times a year to make sure that any new leaks don’t go unnoticed for an extended period of time. If you’ve found that you have a leak, the next step will be to narrow down the location of the lead to either inside your home or outside your home (such as from pipes running into your home.)

Finding the Water Leak

To narrow down whether the leak is coming from inside or outside your home, follow these steps:

  • First, locate the main shut off valve for your home and shut off the water at the valve. Typically, you will find the shut off valve in the basement or garage directly behind an outdoor faucet, or outside below an outdoor faucet.
  • Next, you’ll once again check the leak indicator for movement or use the meter reading method, making sure not to use any water during this period. If the leak indicator stops moving or there is no change in the meter readings, then you have a leak inside of the house. If the leak indicator continues to move or there is a change in the meter readings, then the leak is outside between the meter and the house.

Once you’ve narrowed down where the leak may be, you can then start looking for signs of a leak such as:

  • Damp, moist or wet spots
  • Mold or mildew buildup
  • Cracks in your foundation
  • Discoloration in your walls or ceilings
  • Warm spots on the floors – particularly concrete floors
  • Smells and odors
  • The sound of trickling water when no water is being used.

If you’re unable to locate the leak, you may need to contact a plumber for assistance.

In the next article we’ll discuss some more in-depth methods of locating a water leak in common areas of your home.

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