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November 8, 2017
There are many factors that can lead to getting an unusual high water bill including equipment failure, time of year, and changes in household behavior. If you feel like your water bill does not accurately represent your water usage, you will need to do some detective work to figure out what is causing the surge and if there is a possible leak somewhere. Here are some steps you can take to help save water and determine if you have a bigger plumbing issue.
Read Your Meter
Water meters are a good tool for helping determine leaks. Most water meters have low-flow indicators that look like triangles that turn while water is flowing. The rotating needle, or sweep hand, does one full rotation every time 10 gallons of water has gone through the meter. Turn off all sources of water and check the low-flow indicator to see if it is moving to determine if water is flowing somewhere throughout the house. If it is moving, you will need to find the source or determine if you have a leak.
Check Toilet & Plumbing Fixtures
Toilets and faucets are the most obvious sources of leaks. If a faucet or shower head is leaking, it is a relatively simple and cheap fix. Most likely you will need to turn off the water, unscrew the fixture, and replace the rubber washer. Leaking faucets can waste 3,000 gallons of water a year. If you think the toilet is self flushing or leaking, you can add some dye to the upper tank and wait a bit to see if the coloring makes it into the bowl. If the dye is gone after a few hours of no usage then you have a self flushing issue. Running toilets can use up to 200 gallons of water in a single day.
Inspect Lateral & Irrigation Lines
Underground water lines connecting your home to the metered connection can crack or become loose due to a variety of factors, such as age, tree placement, or animal activity. These leaks can be difficult to locate and therefore you must look for noticeable signs in the lawn, such as spots of lush grass or constantly damp areas. You may need to hire a professional plumber if you cannot locate the leak.
Behavior or Equipment Changes
It is not uncommon for water usage to double in the summer compared to the winter. This is due to activities such as filling pools, using sprinklers, washing cars, etc. If you have a kid home from college or a visiting guest you should also expect a higher water bill, and should budget accordingly. Buying new equipment such as a washing machine or freezer can also suddenly increase your bill, and therefore it is important to look for energy efficient appliances. Finally, changes in behavior such as going from using a dishwasher to hand washing or taking up gardening can also result in a water usage spike. Be cautious of this and try not to waste water whenever possible.
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