Karen Siddall
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With Halloween just around the corner, now might be the time to check for the vampire living at your house.

You didn’t know there was a vampire at your house? Well, he’s not all sparkly, and he really doesn’t play by the vampire rules either. This guy is the one that preys on your plumbing and slowly, but surely, sucks your hard-earned money out of your wallet each and every month when you pay your water bill.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the average household's water leaks can account for more than 10,000 gallons of water wasted every year and ten percent of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more per day. That kind of water loss can really add up on your water bill.

Some of these leaks are easy to detect; you can see or hear them. There’s that leaky faucet in the kitchen or the showerhead that won’t quite turn completely off or, even more often, the toilet that continues to run sometimes after you flush if you don’t remember to jiggle the handle just right. Thankfully, these types of problems are easy to correct, and many you can do yourself. No need to call in expert assistance! There’s even YouTube videos for this.

Unfortunately, there are hidden or ghostly leaks as well. You don’t see or hear them but they’re there... lurking…waiting…

Some of these are easy to fix yourself. However, a couple may require you to call in ghoul-friends.

Toilet tank – You can usually see or hear leaks that cause water to move in the bowl or tank but there is a silent leak that is common to toilets caused by a deteriorating or improperly sealing flapper. The flapper keeps the water in the upper tank from seeping into the bowl below.  You can check condition of the seal made by the flapper by coloring the water in the tank with a small amount of food coloring or Kool-Aid.  Do not use the toilet for 10 minutes. Then check the color of the water in the bowl, if it is now the same color as the water in the tank the flapper needs to be replaced. (It is possible that the flapper and valve just need to be wiped free of any buildup to properly seal again.) Be sure to flush the dyed water away after this to keep from staining the tank or bowl.

Hot water heater – Your water heater can also be a hidden source of leaks, if it is installed out of the line of sight. Most commonly leaks can appear at the drain valve (the spigot used to drain the water from the bottom of the tank), the temperature and pressure relief valve, and even from the bottom of the tank itself as it gets old. Unfortunately, water heater leaks can affect your wallet 3 different ways: not only in on your water bill and for repairs and replacement, but if the leak was on the hot water line, your energy bill can take a hit as well. Minor fixes you may want to tackle on your own, others may require a professional.

Outdoor faucet or hose bib – Leaks associated with your outdoor faucet, although visible, just may not be where you conduct your normal, everyday activities allowing them to go undetected for quite a while. Make sure the water is turned off at the hose bib especially if a hose is still attached, and not just at a nozzle on the hose. Disconnect, empty, and store garden hoses for the off-season. Be sure to wrap outdoor faucets as the temperatures dip!

Sprinkler system – Sprinkler heads and their supply grid are all subject to leaks. It’s long been a common practice to inspect, repair, and perform maintenance on the landscape sprinkler system in the early spring before putting it back in service. But checking its integrity before putting it in “off-season” mode makes sense as well. If you’re not out enjoying your yard during the winter, you’re less likely to observe standing water from a leaking system. Check the settings on the controller to make certain it is only running when and where you need it. Turn each sprinkler zone on and check for low pressure or water bubbling from the ground or irrigation components. This means your system has sprung a leak somewhere. Don’t forget to check your backflow and solenoid valves for drips.

If you still feel like you’re in the dark about what may be sucking you dry, you may want to try checking the house as whole for water loss. Investigate this by, first, reading your water meter. Wait 15 minutes without using any water in the house and then go back and read your meter. (You may need to stop appliances that use water automatically like a standalone ice maker or an ice maker in your refrigerator/freezer from cycling.) If you show water usage after only this length of time, you’ve got a pretty good leak going somewhere. Extend your waiting period to 2 hours and even slower leaks will become apparent. If you’ve checked all your water-using appliances and fixtures already, the leaks you’re probably facing at this point may be in the water supply lines between the meter and the house or under your foundation, and time to call in a plumbing professional.

For more information on these tips and others, visit the Prairielands GCD website at or call (817) 556-2299. The Prairielands GCD office is located in the Liberty Hotel, 205 S. Caddo St., Cleburne, TX, 76031. In addition, most water service providers can also provide more detailed information on leak detection in your home as well as water conservation.

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