There are sometimes leaks between the meter and the home, in the water supply line. These leaks are often difficult to detect because the supply pipe is usually buried at least 3 feet (.91 m) below the ground surface. Sometimes the leaking water will travel along the pipe, back to the meter. If the meter box contains water, and the water is not due to rain or irrigation run-off, this may indicate a leak in the supply line. Another common exit point for the leaking water might be where the supply line rises above the ground and/or enters the house. If the soil is constantly damp at these locations this might indicate a leak. In cases of severe leaks, the water will seep up towards the ground surface, usually directly above the path of the underground pipe. Most often, leaks between the meter and the house are the responsibility of the homeowner; leaks from the meter or pipes leading from the main to the meter are the responsibility of the water utility. The water utility should be contacted before any attempt to repair the water supply pipe. If the utility deems the leak to be the responsibility of the homeowner, a professional plumber should perform all repair work. This repair should never be attempted by a homeowner.
Faucet leaks are a common occurrence and usually simple to repair. A faucet dripping slowly at only one drop every two seconds will waste more than 1,000 gallons (3.7 m3) per year. The repairs necessary to stop the leak depends on the type of faucet, and there are four basic types found in most homes: compression valve, ball types, cartridge types, and ceramic discs. Each type of faucet has unique methods of repair. If you are accustomed to using tools and making minor home repairs you should be able to repair minor faucet leaks.
Toilets are one the most common sources of leaks in the home, and usually go unnoticed because the leaks are often silent and out of view. Several research studies have found 20% to 35% of all residential toilets leak to some degree. Large toilet leaks can be detected when the valve constantly emits a hissing or gurgling sound when the toilet is not in use.
To begin looking for leaks remove the tank lid and inspect the flush mechanisms. The water level in the tank should be no higher than 1 inch below the top of the overflow tube. If the water level is to the very top of the overflow tube, water is slowly leaking into the overflow tube and down the drain. The problem has one of three causes: 1) the water level is adjusted too high; 2) the float is damaged and not shutting off the refill valve; or, 3) the refill valve (ball-cock assembly) is worn and needs replacement.
Some homes have whole house humidifiers, most common in homes with forced-air central heating systems. This humidifier is usually attached to the furnace ducting and directly plumbed to the water supply pipes to provide constant water supply to the appliance’s water reservoir. The equipment often includes an overflow drain to the sewer in case the refill valve fails to close. When the valve does fail, the water is sent directly into the sewer. This allows leaks to occur for months or years before anyone realizes the water waste. It is important to check the operation of this equipment regularly during the heating season, and turn off the water supply to the equipment during seasons of non-use.
In arid climates, some homes are cooled by evaporative coolers, also called swamp coolers.The device uses the evaporation of water to cool air sent into the home. The evaporative coolers are most often connected to the home water supply to maintain water in the cooler’s reservoir. The refill valve for the reservoir occasionally fails to close, causing a constant stream of water to enter the reservoir and drain out the overflow line. The overflow line is often connected to wastewater drain, allowing the leak to persist for months or years before the water waste is detected. The cooler can be easily checked for leaks by shutting off the equipment, and observing any water draining through the overflow line. Leaking coolers can usually be repaired by simply replacing the refill valve, re-circulation pump, or water lines.
Even a minor swimming pool leak can cause substantial damage and result in huge water bills and it is estimated that one pool in every 20 has a leak. A pinhole-sized leak in a pool plumbing system with 40-pound pressure (psi) will lose approximately 970 gallons (3,672 liters) of water in a 24-hour period. This comes to about 30,000 gallons (113,562 liters) a month or 360,000 gallons (1,362,748 liters) per year. Some signs that your pool might be leaking include a loss of one-eighth inch (0.32 cm) or more of water in a 24 hour period, algae formation too soon after chemical treatment, loose or falling tiles, pool deck cracks, gaps and cracks in the pool shell, a settling of the whole pool or spa structure into the ground or constantly damp soil surrounding the pool and/or under the house.
To check for a leak in your pool or fountain, place a bucket on the top step of the pool and fill it with water (also applies to fountains). Put a piece of tape on the inside and the outside of the bucket and mark the water level of the pool and the water level in the bucket. After 24 hours make a new mark on the tape with the new water level in the pool and the bucket. If the water level in the pool/fountain has dropped more than in bucket, there probably is a leak in the pool/fountain structure or plumbing system.