How to Check for Leaks in Your Home or Business

A water leak in your home or business can be very expensive, and it can add up quickly over the course of a billing cycle without even realizing that there is a leak to begin with.

Leaks in toilets can be very hard to detect as most of us do not stay next to the toilets within our homes or businesses for very long. Flappers do go bad quite often and without hearing them re-fill the tank when the toilet wasn’t flushed, it’s impossible to know if they are leaking or not. Leaks in a basement are also far harder to detect than say, a leak in your kitchen sink. We pass our kitchen sinks far more often than we patrol our basements, and a dripping faucet is easier to notice than a mist in a dark corner of a sometimes already damp basement.

Fortunately, checking for a leak in your home is easy if you know what you are looking for. I’ll walk you through the steps:

1. First, make sure that everything that uses water within your home is off — dishwasher, washer machine, showers, sinks, sprinkler systems, and that toilets are done filling up if flushed recently.

2. Then, locate your water meter. If your building has a basement, most likely it is located there. If the building is without a basement, it could be located in a cupboard, closet, under the house in a crawlspace, or in a meter pit outside in your yard.

3. There are very few meters other than Sensus meters located within our system, so we’ll focus on those. But if you do find that you have a different meter, the principle stays the same. 

4. After you have located your meter and the leak indicator dial on the meter, check to see if the dial is moving. If the dial is moving and you are positive that you have everything off that uses water in your house, chances are that you have a leak within your home.

5. If the valve beside your meter is able to be shut off, turn it to the off position to verify that the leak indicator dial stops when you do this. If when turning it back on, the dial spins once again, then you have a leak. Note: you may have to watch the meter dial for several minutes before it may spin. Toilets do not constantly use water when they are leaking. They fill intermittently.

6. Once you have determined that you have a leak within your building, then you can start looking for it, or simply call a plumber who has the expertise to both find it, and fix it.

To determine if you have a leak within one of your toilets follow these easy steps:

1. If you want to go the easiest route of all, simply add some food coloring to the water in the tank, not the bowl, of your toilet and wait. If the coloring seeps into the bowl of your toilet when you come back into the room later on, then the flapper has gone bad in your toilet and it’s time to replace it. Either call a plumber or visit the hardware store to pick up a new one if you are a DIY’er.

2. If you’d rather not use food coloring in your toilet, locate the shut off valve behind the toilet.

3. Turn this valve to the off position.

4. Leave the bathroom for several minutes. It could take up to an hour. Make sure that no one flushes the toilet during this time period or you will have to start over.

5. Re-enter your bathroom and turn the valve behind the toilet to the on position. While you are doing this, listen for the water to run, re-filling up your toilet’s tank. If this happens, your toilet’s flapper is bad and it’s time to replace it.

6. If the toilet seems fine and you still can’t find the leak, call a plumber to assist you or contact water/sewer billing or the public works director by filling out an online form or by calling (814) 371-4220 to schedule an appointment for assistance with your meter.

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