If you've noticed that your water bill is higher than usual despite your attempts to conserve water, there's a chance you may have a leak somewhere in your house. Not all leaks are easy to find; if you have a leak in a water-using appliance, you may not notice a difference because there is no flooding. If you think you have a leak, but aren't completely sure, you can find out by narrowing down potential causes and sources for a leak.
Shut Off Your Water
The first step is to find out whether a potential leak is inside your house or whether it's behind the shutoff valve. To do this, locate the shutoff valve that controls the supply of water to your house. This can be near the side of your house's foundation, in your garage or in your basement.
Once you've shut all water off completely, locate the water meter. This is sometimes by the shutoff valve, but it could also be under a lid by the street. When water is moving through the meter, the dial will move. If the meter isn't moving now that you've shut off the valve, it means the leak is inside your house.
If the meter is still going, the problem is outside your house, and you'll need to call a plumber to fix it. You can also call your water supplier for help locating the leak.
Looking For Leaks Inside
To find your leak, you'll have to turn your water back on, so open the shutoff valve once again. At this point you'll want to take things step-by-step.
- Toilets: Toilets are a very common source for leaks. Listen closely for any hissing or dripping noises coming from the tank which will give away running water. You can also put a few drops of food coloring into the tank. After a few minutes, look at the water in the bowl. If any of the food coloring is now in the bowl, there's a leak in the toilet fixture. This can be caused by a flapper valve leak or a flush level bar problem.
- Sinks: When checking your sinks for leaks, look both under the sink and at your faucet fixture. Many leaks can be caused by worn rubber washers or if your handle no longer shuts off water completely. Also take a look at the flex lines leading to your faucet, as these can start to leak with wear.
- Water heater: Check your water heater for any signs of leakage, such as a hissing or dripping sound. Also look at the overflow pipe; some dripping is normal, but a steady drip or even small flow of water can indicate that water pressure inside your tank is too high. This in turn means more water being used and dripping out of the tank.
Looking For Leaks Outside
Leaks can also show up outside, and may not immediately be noticeable if the source is a faucet or hose you don't use often.
Look at the hookups for your sprinklers, hoses and other watering tools. Most leaks will come from the faucets or water valves, but you can also look at the ground covering the pipes; if any area is consistently damp or has a large growth of weeds, there is water there that shouldn't be.
Check all of your sprinkler hookups for damaged sprinkler heads or connections. If you use a drip irrigation system, make sure water isn't flowing too fast or that nothing has been adjusted accidentally.
If you have any crawlspaces, look inside them with a flashlight. These can be hard to find, so make sure to look where you know pipes are buried or covered with plastic sheeting.