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Thread: 20,000 gallons/ month water usage - help us find the leak

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    danachattanooga is offline New Member
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    20,000 gallons/ month water usage - help us find the leak

    Could three toilets with silent leaks (failed the dye test) account for our high water bill? There are no other obvious signs of leaks. We are a family of four.

    Our bill was $136.00 this month. Since we moved into this house, our bill has consistently been around 15,000 gallons/month. The only change over the past month that we can think of is that we potty trained our two year old and have been flushing toilets more often.

    Will fixing three toilets reduce the usage to normal levels or should we be looking for another leak(i.e. between the meter and the house)?

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    HayZee518's Avatar
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    shut everything off and go look at the meter sweep hand. if it is moving even the slightest you got a leak somewhere. so............ go to every appliance that receives water and shut off its inlet and watch the meter. with everything off the needle shouldn't move, then look at every joint for leaks.

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    LazyPup's Avatar
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    I would definitely follow Hazee's advice and turn off all faucetts then check the meter to see if there is any flow.

    I suspect this problem may be a pre-existing problem that has progressively gotten worse.

    Typically a family of five will consume an average of 300 to 350 gallons of water per day which would then work out to an average of 9000 to 10,500 gallons (1200 to 1400 cubic feet) per month.

    Fortunately Danachatanooga sent me an email directly that offers some additional information. They have only been in this house a few months and the water bills have been consistantly high so based upon the information she provided me directly I would say they have been very conservative in there water consumption.

    Let us examine the consumption and adjust for their personal lifestyle.

    Assuming for the moment that they have code approved shower heads the rate of flow for the shower is 2.5 gal/min and an average shower is 10 minutes for a total demand of 25gal/shower.

    A standard 60" bathtub has a water vessel that is approximate 50"L x 22"W x 16"D. Generaly when bathing children we only fill the tub about 6" to 8" deep so the volume of water would be approximately 50" x 22" x 8" = 8800cu.in
    one gallon of water occupies 231cu.in so the consumption is 8800/231= 38gal. per bath.

    When bathing two children in the potti training age group it is common to put both children in the tub at the same time, but for the moment let us assume two separate baths.

    The daily bath and shower consumption is then:
    2 showers @ 25gal .................................................. 50gal
    2 baths @38gal .................................................. .... 76gal

    She does one load of laundry daily......................... avg.25gal/load

    One load in the dishwasher daily.............................avg 16gal/load

    Typically we would use an average of 5 flushes per person per day but allowing that the children are potti training let us use an average of 8 flushes per person or 8 x 4 =32flushes daily. 32flushes x 1.6gpf = 51.2gal/day

    Let us now add an addition 10gal per meal for food prep, making coffee,tea, drinks etc 10gal per meal x 3 meals per day =...................30gal.

    TOTAL 248gal/day x 30days= 7440gal/month

    As you can see, for the purposes of estimation many of the above figures are probably well above the actual demand yet their monthly consumption is still well below the national average of 350gal/day.

    I suspect one of two problems here:

    1. The water company is computing the billing on statistical average rather than actually reading the meter. (This is a very common practice today). The problem with this approach is that the statistical average would be reflecting the lifestyle of the people who lived in this house before Danachattanooga's family moved in. The simple method to confirm this is to record the actual meter reading on the water meter then go to the water company and see if it coincides with their figures.

    2. There is a leak, perhaps under the slab that has gone unnoticed and it is progressively getting worse.

    She stated that there was a small loss to minor leaks in the toilets which was indicated by a dye test, however the amount of water in question is nearly twice the computed consumption for the structure.
    Last edited by LazyPup; 01-22-2007 at 11:54 PM.

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    leodlion is offline Handyman
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    You got some very good advice in there.

    The only thing I can add is whenever you find the source of the water leak, call the water company. Explain your predicament and perhaps they will give you a break on the past bills. I have a friend who left their garden hose on before going on a 3-week vacation. They got hit with a $600 water bill. They explain what happen and the water company gave them a break.

    Good luck.

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    danachattanooga is offline New Member
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    Thanks - we found it (we think)

    Thank you to all who took the time to respond. We finally found the shut off in the crawlspace. The meter kept running with the water shut off at the house turned off and the meter shut off left on. Therefore, we can only conclude we have a leak in the main water line between the meter and the house. We got an estimate to replace the entire line (75 ft) for $977.00 total. Or, we can have them search for the leak and try to repair it.

    What would be the best thing to do? The plumber that came out was surprised that there was no soft spot in the yard.

    We did contact the water company and they said that there was a long process that had to be followed but that they may be able to adjust our bills.

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    HayZee518's Avatar
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    obviously find the leak or keep paying large amounts for your water. your call. no soft spot maybe because of a sandy soil and the water keeps going down not up! maybe there's a neat little cache its going into -

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    leodlion is offline Handyman
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    Quote Originally Posted by danachattanooga View Post
    ..Therefore, we can only conclude we have a leak in the main water line between the meter and the house. We got an estimate to replace the entire line (75 ft) for $977.00 total. Or, we can have them search for the leak and try to repair it.

    What would be the best thing to do? The plumber that came out was surprised that there was no soft spot in the yard.

    We did contact the water company and they said that there was a long process that had to be followed but that they may be able to adjust our bills.
    Did you make the test that Hayzee suggested where you shutoff ALL appliciances/toilet/etc that uses water and see if the water meter still moves? He meant closing the shutoff valves of all three toilets? Making sure all of the faucets, in and out are close, refrigerator maybe, washer, dishwasher, etc? Any swimming pool or spa? And if the meter is still moving, then, definitely you have a leak. You can even find out how much by timing the meter movement how much water is leaking out. Sometimes you can hear water going thru the pipe too.

    If still leaking, you have no recourse but to have it fix. How old are the pipes? If not too old, find and fix the leak. It may not be too expensive, I am not sure. Otherwise, yes, have the pipe replace. Good luck.

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    LazyPup's Avatar
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    In my personal opinion it would be foolhearty to just repair the leak.

    We must keep in mind that the entire length of the line was initially laid at the same time so based upon the evidence of this leak we can be reasonably sure that the general condition of that line is near the point of failure. While you may be able to find someone who would be willing to locate and repair the leak in all probability the cost of doing so would be at least 1/2 the cost you were quoted to replace the line.

    If you are replacing the line I would make a small suggestion here.

    Code minimum size for a water supply line is 3/4" and as a result nearly all older homes currently have a 3/4" supply line.

    Code now requires that we use a series of tables in the code book to compute the actual load in "Fixture Units' then determine the size of the line based upon the actual load.

    Based upon the fixture list that you previously sent me I did the workup for your house and the recommended size of line would be a 1" line. For the moment you could keep the existing meter and interior piping but understanding that you are considering replacing the supply line I would strongly suggest you upgrade that to a 1" line. This would only be a slight increase in material cost and it should not change the labor cost at this time.

    Based u

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    danachattanooga is offline New Member
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    Thanks

    I think based on what all of you said, we will have the entire line replaced instead of just trying to locate and fix the leaky part of the line. I will talk to the plumber about using a 1" line, Lazypup, thanks. Our house is 10 years old , by the way.

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    10 year old water line shouldn't need to be replaced

    None of the commonly installed water service pipes used ten years ago should need to be completely replaced now.

    If you want to save yourself some money, dig up the water line on your side of the meter, or, if there is a sidewalk, on your side of the sidewalk from the meter and check for leaks where the water service pipe connects to the meter or your end of the pipe under the sidewalk.

    Another place to check is where the water service pipe enters the house. If you know where the pipe enters the foundation, you may have a leak just outside the building line.

    Leaks at either end of the water service pipe typically occur where the service pipe adapts to the material coming out of the house or out of the meter. For instance, your water line could be plastic and the pipes at the house or meter metal. Fatigue cracks are common where plastic pipe and metal pipe meet. I always figured it was due to the difference in the way different materials expand and contract.

    You should also check with the plumbing company to find out how much of the bid for a new water line covers the cost of digging. Digging takes time but not a lot of skill. You carefully uncover the pipe at the meter and follow it to the house. When the ditch is open, a plumber can replace the water line in very little time and you can fill the ditch in yourself.

    Also, if you are digging up the original water line and uncover a leak caused by a sharp rock, or some other easily understood cause, a plumber can make a repair quickly if there is enough pipe uncovered on each side of the leak.

    Be careful when covering the new pipe or burying the patched pipe. If your soil has a lot of sharp rocks in it, consider covering the pipe with a couple of inches of clean sand before adding the soil from the ditch. Compact the soil every two inches of fill with a hand tamper so it all goes back in the ditch.

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