January 4, 2022

'Silent leaks' make big splash on your water bill

While going through the day’s mail, you might notice the water bill. You’re on autopay, so you rarely check it out, but eh, let’s look, shall we? You don’t expect any surprises.

But surprise! It’s hard not to notice the bill is up $40 from the last one. After all, it’s right there on the first page.

You rationalize. Maybe the increase is seasonal?

That is possible. Water bills are often higher in the summer or when you are hosting visitors. Homeowners also notice spikes when filling swimming pools. But now that fall is beginning, usage should be going down.

Okay. Maybe it increased from spending more time at home during the pandemic.

Not likely. Industry experts say average home water usage increases were insignificant the last 18 months. If you are experiencing noticeably higher rates, it might be an unnoticed leak.

Often referred to as “silent leaks,” you won’t necessarily see any pooling water. Like most homeowners, you will only find out when examining the bill.

Before you call the plumber, here are the most likely places silent leaks occur:

• Leaky faucet: A leaking kitchen or bathroom faucet leaking at a rate of 1 drip per second can waste up to 20 liters in a day! Not a ton, but enough to raise your bill.

• Old water heaters: Look around the base of the hot water heater for any signs of seepage: The average lifespan of a hot water heater is about 8 years.

• Washing machine: Check behind and underneath your washer to make sure no water is escaping. Also, high efficiency washers use 50% less water than older models.

• Dishwasher: Look for wet, warped or discoloration stains on your floors, walls, and cabinets. Despite the occasional leak, a dishwasher is more efficient than washing by hand.

• Outdoor leaks: Malfunctioning sprinkler systems or outdoor spigots could be leaking, or just not turned all the way off. Look for pooling or other evidence of water flow.

And now, the grand champion! The number one silent leaker is: Your toilet! Depending on type, it uses 6 – 32 liters a flush, accounting for 25% of a household’s indoor water use – and that’s when it is working correctly! If a toilet is leaking, it could waste up to 330 liters a day, easily doubling normal use.

If a toilet makes sounds when not being flushed, requires you to jiggle the handle or flushes on its own, you may have a silent leak. Drip 10 to 15 drops of food coloring in the tank. If it appears in the bowl within a few minutes, you have a leak. The most common leaks are around the plunger ball or the flapper valve.

Although it can be a nuisance to identify the exact cause of your higher water bill, water conservation is good for the environment and your community, and good for your personal bottom line.