Symptoms of water leak but no signs of water

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Old 12-08-05, 02:17 PM
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Symptoms of water leak but no signs of water

Scenario: All electric 2 story condo 30+ years old and on slab with a history of pinhole leaks found in copper pipe throughout. Recent problem is presenting itself differently than on previous occasions. Last repair done in June of 05 was a pinhole leak under the slab on garage floor coming away from the hot water heater (hot line leak). Water was evident on garage floor. Present problem began 2 weeks ago where hot water was becoming shorter and shorter before running out. Shutting off the water to the water heater is the only way we are able to have enough hot water to shower. Discovered today that electric bill was 9 times the amount it normally is for the past month. No water is leaking from anywhere we can see. Should add that water meter shows water running when all taps etc. are OFF. Would be most grateful to anyone with suggestions on how to go about detecting where the leak might be before major damage is done again. Professional detection devices are so invasive not to mention quite costly and not always that reliable.
 
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Old 12-08-05, 02:50 PM
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I'll give what help I can. First, turn off the water to the heater with the cold water inlet valve at the top of the tank. Check the water meter, if water is not running, it is definately the hot water line leaking. Since water is not showing up anywhere, it's probably under the slab. Now comes the hard part, finding out where. You MAY be able to hear it under the slab with a piece of steel pipe about 3 foot long. Hold it on the concrete floor and put your ear against the end of the pipe. It's amazing how sound will travel through steel. Start at the area around the water heater. Problem is, when I did slab job plumbing, the water entered the house at one point. Then it was branched by means of tees and soft copper run to all different directions. No squareness as with hard copper. Straight line was fastest direction to fixtures.You may find an inexpensive stethescope for listening also. Good luck.
 
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Old 12-08-05, 04:03 PM
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If runninig out of hot water prematurily I wonder if the dip tube has came off.
 
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Old 12-09-05, 02:47 AM
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Unhappy

Thank you for the input. Here's what I did tonight. I once again shut off the water at the inlet to the water heater & then checked every faucet and hose bibb and all other fixtures for any signs of dripping. One hose bibb was but I tightened it up and it quit dripping. I then went out and looked at the meter and it was still moving. I went and had a look in the overhang of the upstairs balcony where there is an access to the upstairs tub drain to see if there was any water in there since this was the site of a previous leak, but it was dry. Felt around everywhere along carpet and checked light fixtures for signs of any wetness and came up with nothing. I used a stethoscope to listen to the pipes and I could hear water running in the hot side and that was with the inlet valve shut off. I wasn't able to hear anything with the length of pipe but then again, the garage is lower by 2 feet than the patio so the pipe would be very deep across that span of concrete. Does anyone know if you are allowed to repipe above ground? I was thinking that would eliminate the possibility at least up to the house of a leak but as majakdragon says, it's likely it branches off once the line meets up with the house based on where the bathrooms are located. Not sure where to go from here. Can't afford these frequent plumbing repairs and this one has got to be the worst to date. Will let you know what happens with this mess once I know.
 
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Old 12-09-05, 04:49 AM
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Boy oh boy. Sounds you've got a major project on your hands. I don't see why you couldn't repipe above ground as long as the area you live in allows it and it's protected from freezing.
 
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Old 12-09-05, 06:52 AM
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I don't know how water could be running on the hot side with the water heater cold water inlet valve closed. The cold water pressure is what gives the hot water it's pressure. Unless the inlet valve to the water heater is not shutting completely off, there should be no water leaving the water heater.
As Mattison said, check local codes as far as running the water lines above ground. I have seen this done when other slab installations have failed.
 
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Old 12-09-05, 08:23 PM
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In reply to the last posting, maybe I explained it wrong. There is no activity on the water meter when the inlet valve is shut off, only when it is open. I was just making a point that when it is open, and the water heater is full and no fixtures are on and nothing is dripping, there is still activity on the water meter. This is basically how I've come to the conclusion there is a leak somewhere...that and the $952.00 electric bill for this month.
 
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Old 12-10-05, 06:26 AM
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Pinhole leaks are usually from corrosive water, probably low pH (<7). You should have the water tested by a reputable water treatment company. The water should be treated as close to the source as possible. Do not assume that a closed valve is shutting off the water. Corrosive water can eat away the stem and seat. Ball valves are much less likely to be affected. Although not legal or smart, could the relief valve outlet been piped to a drain where you won't see it leaking? An infrared camera can be used to locate a leaking hot water pipe. Is the piping in the concrete copper?
 
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Old 12-10-05, 07:36 AM
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You are certaily a candidate for a complete repipe, based on the leak history. Many places with underslab piping ultimately come to this conclusion. This will not be an easy job based on your description of the property, but it is doable.

There is one other possibility and that is to line the pipes with an epoxy coating. In your case, this would probably be less expensive than repipe. It is supposed to prevent future leaks. If there is an existing leak, that probably has to be found and repaired. Google for ACE DURAFLOW
 
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