March 18-24 is the fifth annual Fix a Leak Week; it’s a good time to do your part to reduce the one trillion gallons of water that leak from homes in the United States each year.
WaterSense, which partners with the Environmental Protection Agency to sponsor Fix a Leak Week, provides these facts about leaks:
- The average home with leaks wastes about 10,000 gallons of water annually. That’s enough to fill a 16’ x 32’ swimming pool with four feet of water.
- Of the homes with leaks, 10 percent of those waste more than 90 gallons per day.
- If a homeowner takes the time to repair leaks, he can expect to save 10 percent or more on his water bill every month.
- The most common leaks, including toilet flappers and faucets and showerheads, can be fixed inexpensively and easily by a do-it-yourselfer with minimal handyman skills.
So, you say you don’t have any dripping faucets or showerheads. Great! But are you sure that you don’t have a hidden leak somewhere that’s wasting water and costing you money?
- During light water usage months, such as January and February, look at your water usage. A typical family of four doesn’t use more than about 12,000 gallons per month during those months. If your usage is above that, you probably have leaks you don’t know about.
- Put a drop of food coloring in the tank (not the bowl) of each toilet. After 15 minutes, check the toilet bowl. If any color shows up, your tank is leaking. Be sure to flush after you check so the food coloring doesn’t stain your tank.
- Check your water meter before and after a period of at least two hours with no water usage, such as when you’re at work or shopping. If the meter moves at all, there is a leak.
- Place an empty pan over the drain in your shower below the showerhead for a day to see if there is any water dripping from the showerhead.
The main leak culprits:
- Toilets – Usually a toilet leaks because the flapper (or valve seal) is leaking or worn out. It’s not a difficult fix; take your old flapper with you to the hardware store to ensure you’re getting the correct new one. There are plenty of tutorials online if you need one. However, if you’re not sure you’re qualified to do this work, contact a licensed plumber to avoid doing more harm than good.
- Faucets - The washer or gasket is probably to blame in a faucet. This is something anyone can fix. Take the old part with you to the hardware store when you go, and be sure to turn off the water at the valve under the sink before you start. If you’re an amateur, check out numerous online tutorials; you’ll be surprised at how easy this fix is. If a new washer doesn’t fix the leak, you probably need a new faucet.
- Showers – First, tighten the connection between the showerhead and the pipe. Use pipe tape to ensure a secure seal. Pipe tape is readily available at any hardware store. If it’s not the connection, the problem may be in the showerhead itself. If possible, swap a leaking showerhead with another one in the house that doesn’t leak and see if that solves the problem. If so, purchase a new showerhead. If not, it’s probably time to call a plumber.
Any time you replace a toilet, showerhead, or faucet, make sure to look for the WaterSense label and install aerators on showerheads and faucets; these are great ways to use less water , which helps the Earth and your checkbook.