Household Leak Detection | Regional Water Providers Consortium

Household Leak Detection

leaking faucet

According to WaterSense, 10 percent of homes have water leaks that waste 90 gallons or more per day. Taking 20 minutes to check your home for leaks today could save hundreds (up to thousands!) of gallons of water. 


How to Find Leaks Indoors


In the House

  • Bathtubs and Showers - Check the spout and shower head for dripping water. A new washer may be all that’s needed. You may be able to do this repair yourself by unscrewing the faucet and replacing the washer with one of the same size. But before doing this repair, close your home’s main shut-off valve.
  • Toilets - Your toilet may have a silent leak, or your toilet may sporadically run without flushing. Drop a little food coloring in the tank. Wait about 20 minutes without flushing. If color appears in the bowl, you have a leak.
  • Dishwasher - Water accumulated on the floor near the unit could be a sign of a leak.
  • Sinks and Other Faucets - Check for slower leaks by noting wetness in your sink basins. Make sure to look at every faucet in the house, even those that are rarely used.
  • Washing Machine - If you see water on the floor near the machine, it’s a sign of a possible leak.
  • Refrigerator Ice-Making Unit - A leak in the ice-making unit will cause excessive accumulations of ice in the freezer, and may produce small puddles of water under the refrigerator.


In the Basement or Garage

  • Hot Water Tank - The pressure valve release could be stuck. This valve is most often found near the top of the tank, and is usually a large brass fitting threaded to the tank. If it’s not working properly, water will be leaking from it, dripping down the side of the tank and accumulating on the floor.
  • Water Softener - A leak could be caused if your water softener is not recycling properly. The cycling process, regulated by a timer, often occurs between 2:00 - 4:00 in the morning. You’re likely to have a leak in this unit if you hear the sound of constantly running water.
  • Humidifier - Water accumulated beneath the unit is a sign of a leak. Caution: If the overflow discharge is piped into a sewer or drainage line, you may not find any visual signs of a leak. Listen for the sound of running water. If it’s continuous, there could be a leak.
  • Boiler - Listen for the sound of running water. If it’s continuous, and doesn't stop and start periodically, there could be an underground leak in your boiler system. Call your plumber.


How to Find Leaks Outdoors

  • Automatic Sprinkler Systems - Soft spots on your lawn and around the sprinkler indicate a leak that is being absorbed into the ground. Contact your plumber or landscape maintenance specialist if repairs are needed.
  • Swimming Pool - Use a grease pencil to mark the level of your pool at the skimmer. Check it 24 hours later. Your pool should lose no more than 1/4 inch each day. Another leak possibility is the pool system’s shutoff valve, which works automatically and could be malfunctioning, causing a continuous cycle of water to be pumped in and then drained out. If the water level stays higher than normal and it overflows when people are using it, call your plumber.
  • Service Connecting Line - If you find a soft, wet spot on your lawn or hear the sound of running water outside your house, you may have leak in the service line to your house. Shut off the main shutoff valve. If the sound of running water continues, the outside service line could be leaking. Contact your plumber if you detect wet spots.


You can also use your water bill to track your household’s water use. Take a look at your water usage during a colder month, such as January, February, or March. According to WaterSense, if you are using more than 3,000 gallons of water a month, you probably have a leak.


Using Your Water Meter to Test for Leaks


How to Locate Your Meter

Your water meter is probably located in front of your house, inside a concrete or plastic meter box that is set flush with the ground. Look for your meter behind the sidewalk at a side lot line near the street. If your home is on a corner lot, your water meter could be located either on the front or side street. Sometimes, meter boxes are not easily visible due to landscaping and other obstructions.


How to Read Your Meter

Reading your water meter is like reading the odometer in your car. Read all the numbers from left to right that appear under the words “cubic feet.” The first digit on the right represents 1 cubic foot. The second from the right represents 10 cubic feet. The third from the right (usually a different color) represents 100 cubic feet, or 1 ccf. One revolution of the meter sweep-hand equals 1 cubic foot, or 7.48 gallons.


How to Use Your Meter to Test for Leaks

To use your meter to test for leaks, turn off all your faucets and water-using appliances (such as dish and clothes washers) and be sure no one in the household is using any water. Then go to your water meter and lift the cover of the meter dial. Note the position of the sweep-hand, or use a marker on the lens cover. If you have a typical water meter, there should be no movement of the dials on the meter.

Wait 20 to 30 minutes and check the sweep-hand location again. If the sweep-hand has moved, you probably have a leak somewhere in your system. If the small red diamond-shaped indicator on the face of the meter is moving, it also means you probably have a leak. Retest to be certain. Then locate the leak by inspecting all the pipes, fixtures and appliances that use water.


Finding a Water Leak


If you find and fix a leak, contact your water provider. You may be able to get a credit on your bill.