High Water Bills

MY WATER BILL WENT WAY UP! HOW DO I FIND A LEAK?

pressure regulator water leak

Your high water bill could be due to either a temporary increase in water usage or a leak. To find out if it’s a leak, first shut off all your water-using fixtures in the house.  Don’t close the shut-off valve where the water supply enters or below the pressure regulator at your house at this stage!

Take the cover off your water meter box and flip open the protective cover plate on the meter dial. Normally, your metre box will be somewhere along the front property line, often near a corner. You may have to dig down a little in the dirt to find it.

The meter may be a newer one that has a small round or diamond-shaped low-flow indicator near the centre. The low flow indicator may be red or black like in the photo above. It should not be turning. But if it is, there’s a leak somewhere in your plumbing system. At a meter without a low-flow indicator, note the meter reading or take a picture with your cell phone. Check back in an hour or so and see if it has changed.

There are a number of places to check if the meter says you have water flow indicating a leak:

1. Taps

Not just the at the sink and basins taps! Also, check the taps at the washing machine hookup, bath, shower, and the outside hose taps.

2. Toilet Cisterns (tanks)

A flapper valve that doesn’t seat properly at the bottom of the cistern will cause a leak. Check the ballcock arm and overflow tube as well, it may also be defective. Drop a dye tablet (available in most hardware stores specifically for toilet testing) in the tank. Do not flush, and wait for 15-minutes. If the colour shows up in the bowl, the toilet needs repair.

3. TPR Valve at the Geyser

The small valve with a flip-up handle at the top or side of the geyser called a Temperature and Pressure Release (TPR) valve. This important valve is designed to open if the water gets too hot, to keep the tank from exploding. These valves sometimes fail by opening slightly and letting loose a slow trickle of hot water. The water normally runs in a steel or copper pipe to a location at the exterior wall. Find the termination of the TPR valve and check for a drip. NEVER work on these valves yourself! Only a suitably trained and experienced plumber should!

4. Water Pressure Regulator

You will usually find this valve where your water supply enters your house. Alternatively, it may be before the geyser on the cold water supply. A certain amount of water is discharged from the drip of the pressure regulator during the course of normal operation. This discharge is normally directed away from the foundation of your home with discharge pipe. It should discharge either into a gulley close by or directly into a sewage pipe. If the pressure regulator is in your roof a copper or steel pipe should run to the outside of an exterior wall. It may discharge into the gutter if your home has gutters.

If a pressure valve is leaking excessively, it is possible that the pressure valve is faulty. It means the pressure in the geyser and its pipes may be too high. Additionally, an excessive leaking pressure valve can lead to large increases in water usage. Put a bucket under the discharge. If it’s leaking more than 5 litres per day replace it!

5. Geyser Tray Discharge

If water is dripping out of the geyser tray PVC pipe It could mean your geyser has sprung a leak. The leak could be at the geyser drain valve or the geyser itself. For whatever reason, it does mean you have a problem that requires the attention of a suitably qualified plumber.

6. Under The Floor Slab

Leaks under the ground floor of the house are the hardest to detect until they get really bad. Walk around the perimeter of the home and look for any muddy areas at the base of the walls. Also look for any areas where the soil has washed away at the wall or paving, creating a hollow. Wet spots in the floor and moist, discoloured skirtings are other clues.

7. Between the Water Meter and the House

Again, leaks here are difficult to detect until they become gushers and water starts bubbling up out of the ground. But some homes have a secondary water shut-off valve in the ground, usually where the water supply enters the house. The valve will normally be below the pressure regulator. If your house has one, close it! If the meter continues to show water flow then your problem, or part of it, is underground in the yard.

Galvanised water pipes tend to fail prematurely because they eventually rust. Although fine for underground and cold water installation, Polycop fails fairly quickly if used for hot water systems. Also, copper pipes can deteriorate early when the water is especially acidic. In addition, copper pipes are easily damaged. So also take into consideration the type of piping you have. And, when all else fails, call a good plumber.

8. After the Shut-off Valve at the House

If your meter indicates a leak and no leak is discovered in the underground piping, or at any of the other points mentioned above, the leak might be after the pressure regulator in the pipework in the walls or the ceiling. Again, at the water meter, note the meter reading or take a picture with your cell phone. Check back in a couple of hours or so and see if the low-flow indicator has changed. If it has changed you probably have a slow leak in the house’s water supply system in the house itself! A slow leak over a long period of time like a month can still cause a high water bill! It does mean you have a problem that requires the attention of a suitably qualified plumber to trace the leak in the house’s walls or floors.

Lastly, it can be a combination of small leaks that are sending your bill so high!

When I do your Maintenance Inspection I will check your water system as well!

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