Are your residents complaining about high water bills? They could be experiencing a water leak. Water leaks are a common issue in apartments, condominiums, townhomes, and homes; no property is safe! Whether it is a slow leak from a kitchen faucet or water running through a toilet, your resident’s water and sewer bills will be directly affected. It’s important to educate residents about common water leaks, especially if they have never lived in a submetered unit.
The toilet is the most common leaky fixture in a residence. If a resident’s water consumption begins to steadily increase or they experience a spike in usage from one month to another, they should first check their toilets. If residents hear the toilet fill up or run and it hasn’t been used recently, there is a leak.
The flapper valve is the most common part of the toilet to wear out and cause leaks. The valve is located in the bottom of the tank and is responsible for creating a seal that holds back the water to be used by the next flush. As the flapper valve ages, it begins to deteriorate, which leads to an improper seal. If not sealed correctly, water will run from the tank into the bowl and out of the toilet once it becomes full.
A very simple way to determine if the flapper valve is not sealing properly is to put a few drops of food dye into the tank. If you notice dye in the toilet bowl after 30 minutes, the flapper valve should be replaced. When the toilet is flushed, a metal chain or rod lifts the flapper to allow the water in the tank to replace what is in the bowl. If the chain does not have the correct tension, it has the potential to become kinked. The flapper valve cannot create a proper seal if there is a kink in the chain, which allows water run down the drain.
The other common parts of the toilet to develop leaks are the tank float and overflow. The float determines how much water is to be held in the tank. Once flushed, the flapper then seals at the bottom and the tank begins to fill to prepare for the next flush. When the water reaches the desired level, the float closes the water valve as to not overfill the tank. If the float is set too high, water can run right down the overflow tube and into the drain. All floats have an adjustment and it is imperative that it is set correctly. The water level should be at least an inch below the top of the overflow tube.
Many faucets and shower heads drip at a rate of once per second and can contribute to over 3,000 gallons of water wasted per year. The same can be said for almost any other water valve in the residence. Sinks, washing machines, and dishwashers all have the potential to leak around their respective connections.
When a resident’s water consumption begins to exceed 10,000 gallons per month, it’s possible that there could be a water leak in the unit. Water meters can be used as tools to troubleshoot leaks that may otherwise be undetectable. On the register head of most meters, there is a flow indicator that moves when water is flowing through the meter. If all water consuming fixtures are not in use, the flow indicator should not be moving. If the flow indicator is moving, there is a leak. Using the flow indicator on the meter, you can begin to go from fixture to fixture, shutting off the valve that supplies water to it. After shutting off a valve, return to the meter and check if the flow indicator has stopped. Do this one fixture at a time until the leak is isolated so the issue can be fixed or reported.
While some leaks will continue to increase on a monthly basis until fixed, other situations might show an immediate spike in water usage. Educating residents on common water leaks and conservation skills will not only help them to lower monthly utility bills, but can also help to boost resident satisfaction and renewal rates at your property.