How to troubleshoot unseen leaks


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Old 05-06-17, 07:08 PM
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How to troubleshoot unseen leaks

This is a follow-up to an earlier post, based on a response I received in the forum.
From October 2016 to April 2017, my monthly water usage has increased by 352% over the prior year. I live alone; so, I totally control water use. I know there has been no substantial increase in monthly water use from one year to the next (i.e., between, say, October of 2015 and October 2016, etc.). I have used several methods to check for leaks, to check the accuracy of the meter, and to check the possibility that the meter was misread. Nothing!

Someone in the forum posted the following: “You might also check overnight as it's not uncommon for the pressure to increase during the night possibly triggering a leak that isn't really apparent during lower pressure times.” So, for three days and four nights, I performed the following test: I used water as usual from 8:00 am to 8 pm. Then, I ceased ALL water usage during the evening until 8 am the next day. My 3 daytime readings, in cubic feet, were 7.14, 9.59, and 6.33 (average 7.69). My 4 nighttime readings were 83.07, 0.0, 85.88, and 82.72 (average 62.92). I should have expected all 0 readings. Instead, my average for nighttime readings (with all water kept off), including the one 0 reading, was over 8x the daytime readings (normal water use).

That would seem to indicate an intermittent leak that occurs some nights and not others. If a reading of 80+ cubic feet indicates a leak, it would be a leak of ~ 600+ gallons. Seems more like a gusher than a leak! But there’s no indication of a leak in the house or in the crawl space. The other possibility is that the leak occurs in the pipe between the meter and the house. Does that make sense? Would I call just any plumber or a special plumbing contractor to trouble shoot this? Any help would be much appreciated.
 
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Old 05-06-17, 07:25 PM
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Sounds like you have an outdoor sprinkler system that runs at night, with one day set to "off".
 
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Old 05-06-17, 08:43 PM
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I would make a call to the water company before doing anything. Around here utility companies are all about saving you money (after stealing it).
They won't fix a problem, but might advise you where the most use is.

Also ensure that they are not estimating your use/bill, I've heard nightmare stories about that.
 
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Old 05-06-17, 09:29 PM
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I remember mentioning checking over night. It would seem that you do have some heavy duty night time water usage. Obviously it's not a leak or it would be there every night and would not be so close in usage figures every night.

Since the problem is on the residence side of the meter (meter IS registering the problem).... the water company won't be of any great help. A sprinkler system was mentioned. That does make a lot of sense.

Another possible item is a water softener.
 
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Old 05-07-17, 07:45 AM
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A sprinkler system was mentioned. That does make a lot of sense.
Yes, a sprinkler does makes sense, don't know what I was thinking about the meter.

A broken sprinkler line could shoot up like a broken hydrant. Even if the break is in the ground, it could still be going through a lot of water quickly.
 
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Old 05-07-17, 08:39 AM
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I know someone mentioned water softener. If you have a big filter tank in your plumbing line somewhere, which has a hose connected into a drain, it might have a valve which can be set to automatic backwash. The setting usually is for the middle of the night for certain days of the week – and is automatic.

I am thinking if the valve were to go nuts maybe you could start to use a lot of water overnight – and on certain nights. Those backwash rates are many gallons per minute (my Acid Neutralizer Filter backwashes at 5 GPM, some use up to 8-10 ) and you can use a lot of water fast. Even though you are on city water you may still have a Carbon Filter Tank or something like that with automatic backwash.

Just mentioning that because there might be tank in a basement corner or some other place which you don’t pay much attention to, and maybe have totally forgotten.
 
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Old 05-07-17, 10:57 AM
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I would think the OP would know whether they had a sprinkler system running at night, but you never know. I had unplugged and removed the battery from my sprinkler system controller when I winterized it last fall. About a month ago, I de-winterized it, re-installed the battery and plugged it in. I did not program it since I didn't plan to use it until the drier summer months. A few days after I de-winterized it my stepson hosted a party on an unseasonably warm night. At around 1:00 AM, unbeknownst to me, the system had worked its way through the zones in the front and lit up the backyard. Long story short, that is how I know the controller has a default program that runs through all 15 zones starting at 11:00 PM.

Back on topic, the kind of usage the OP is seeing has to be something that is coming on automatically at night. That kind of leak would be evident inside, or outside in the case of a broken underground sprinkler line.
 
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Old 05-08-17, 06:34 PM
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Thanks for the info.

I have always had the sprinkler system set to manual. No program running. But I need to recheck that. That's the only way I can see expelling 600+ gallons. Thanks, again.
 
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Old 05-08-17, 06:36 PM
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You could shut the main sprinkler valve off at night and see if that's where the water is going.
 
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Old 05-09-17, 08:50 AM
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Oh I wouldn’t trust the timer, remember you are trying to find something that is broken, and if you haven’t already done so, you most certainly should power off that timer at least overnight while you troubleshoot this problem.
 
 

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