March 7, 2011

Fix a Leak Week

Dale Armstrong, Coordinator Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program, Pinellas County Extension

March 14 - 20 is Fix a Leak Week sponsored by the EPA WaterSense® Program. Fix a Leak Week serves as a reminder to everyone to perform a leak test.

You should periodically check indoors and outdoors for obvious water leaks, even if you do not suspect you have a leak. You may be motivated to take action due to obvious or suspected water leaks because you observe a dripping faucet or broken irrigation sprinkler head, or perhaps because of a higher than normal water bill. And it is important to test for leaks now and then to determine whether you might have a less obvious or hidden water leak. Once you understand the process it’s really not too complicated to perform yourself, and it could save significant amounts of water as well as money.

Performing a Water Leak Test
Step 1: Indoors – turn off all appliances that use water (including ice maker), and make sure no sinks, showers, toilets, etc. will be used while performing this test. Outdoors – make sure all spigots are off; if you have a sprinkler system for landscape irrigation, locate the check valve assembly and shut off the valve. Also, turn off the irrigation controller time clock during the test.

Step 2: Locate your meter box, which is usually several feet in from the edge of the road. Remove the cover from the meter box and observe the water meter. The meter should have a triangular red disk that is sometimes called a leak indicator because with everything you turned off, the indicator should not move.
a. If the indicator is moving (or lacking an indicator, you observe the meter dial moving) you have a leak indicated, most likely indoors. Go on to step 3.

b. If no movement in the indicator or meter dial is observed, wait 10 minutes or so and then check again. If either has moved, you have a slow leak, most likely indoors. Go to step 3.

c. If you observe no change in the meter then you do not have an indoor leak. Now go to the sprinkler system check valve that you previously turned off and turn it on. Again observe the water meter for movement. If the meter dial or indicator moves that means you have a leak either between the sprinkler check valve and the sprinkler zone solenoids or one or more solenoid valves are not shutting off completely when turned off by the time clock controller. NOTE: A weeping sprinkler head or a constantly wet area around a sprinkler head may indicate a leaking solenoid valve for that zone. You may need to contact an irrigation system specialist to sort this out.
Step 3: If an indoor leak is indicated you will need to explore everything inside the house that uses water. Information on how to conduct the search, including toilet leaks, may be found in the resources listed below.

Step 4: There is also the possibility of a leak between the meter box valve and the house. You can test this by finding the main water valve into the house (located near the house) and turning that off. If the meter still moves with the house supply valve and irrigation valve off, then you probably have a leak between the meter box and the house.

Step 5: If the specific source of the leak is not readily determined following these steps, then it is probably time to contact a license plumber.


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