That steady drip from the bathroom faucet is more than an annoyance- it can actually lead to 10,000 gallons of wasted water each year! That is the amount lost by the average home with leaks, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
To encourage households to find and fix leaks, the EPA is sponsoring National Fix a Leak Week from March 15-21. It’s a good time to schedule some detective work to keep your home from adding to the one trillion gallons of water U.S. households waste each year.
Reducing the amount of water wasted is just one benefit of repairing leaks. Whether you rent or own, avoiding property damage is another benefit. Leaks cause damage in several ways, such as:
- Corroded pipes: A constant flow of water causes rust and corrosion in pipes. This corrosion can also ruin shut-off valves, causing them to need replacing.
- Drywall damage: When ceilings or walls get wet, they sag and split. A leak in an upstairs bathroom results in a cracked or stained ceiling below.
- Warped floors: Repeated exposure to water makes wood floors stain or warp. Water can also seep beneath tile and warp the sub floor.
- Mold growth: The biggest concern related to water damage is mold, which is a health hazard. Mold can cause allergy-like symptoms such as stuffy nose, wheezing and itchy eyes or skin. Surfaces exposed to water or high humidity can grow mold in as little as 48 hours.
The EPA recommends using a mold remediation contractor for a moldy area that is larger than 10 square feet. For example, SERVPRO, a leading cleanup and restoration company, has a six-step process which includes drying and dehumidifying, along with cleaning and sanitizing. The final step is to repair and restore the space to its original condition.
Assess Water Usage
In addition to assessing any damage that may be done as a result of water leakage, it’s also important to assess water usage and whether or not you may be unnecessarily wasting water. Here are some recommended steps:
- Review water usage: Look at your utility bill during a typical colder month, like January. If a family of four uses more than 12,000 gallons of water per month, there are major leaks.
- Check the water meter: Your water meter should not move when you don’t use water. Read the meter, two hours apart, after no water use. If the meter has changed, you probably have a leak.
If your water usage assessment causes reason for concern about leaks, you then need to find those leaks! This requires knowing where to look – below is a checklist that can help:
- Toilets: To identify toilet leaks, place a drop of food coloring in the toilet tank. If any color shows up in the toilet bowl after 10 minutes, there is likely a leak.
- Faucets: Listening is the simplest way to see if a faucet is leaking. Also, turn it on and notice any wild sprays or if water leaks from the base of the faucet.
- Shower heads: Leaks in the shower can hide in plain sight. We notice a shower head clogged with limescale or water dripping from the hose connections and think nothing of it. Yet each of these issues requires simple maintenance and repair.
- Bathtub: To reveal a common maintenance issue, turn on the tub, then divert water to the shower. If a lot of water is still flowing from the tub spout, it’s time to replace the tub spout diverter.
- Under the sink:It’s easy for leaks to go unnoticed beneath a sink. Look for water pooling under pipes and rust around joints and edges.
- Appliances: If the supply line to an appliance leaks, water will pool beneath it. Check for puddles beneath dishwashers, refrigerators, washing machines or water heaters.
- Outside: An irrigation system with a leak the thickness of just a dime can waste nearly 6,300 gallons of water per month. Each spring, inspect an in-ground irrigation system to be sure it was not damaged by frost over the winter. To spot leaks, take notice if the water pressure is low when you turn it on. See if puddles form when the sprinkler is running or if the lawn is greener near sprinkler heads.
You can save time and money – and repair headaches! – by checking your plumbing during National Fix a Leak Week. By making simple repairs, you can reduce your annual water bill by 10 percent. If you are reasonably handy, a quick Google search yields advice and tutorial videos. For complicated repairs or mold issues, it’s best to reach out to a plumber or mold remediation contractor.