Green Living: Fix that Leak

In honor of the EPA’s national “Fix a Leak Week” (yes, that’s a thing), here’s a household tale of a quick flood and a slow leak.

I don’t know why my husband and I decided to come home early, but I’m glad we did. The second we opened the door, we both heard the ominous sound of running water.

We bolted down the basement stairs to discover about an inch of water covering half the basement floor.

The supply tube that brings clean water into the downstairs toilet had given way and water was spewing out across the floor. A quick turn of the stop valve right next to the wall stopped the flood so we could survey the damage.

We were lucky that we got home so soon after the flood started. Mopping up took only an hour. With a new $5 supply tube from the local hardware store, we were back in business.

It got me thinking about how much water we wasted that day down the drain and how much impact it would have on our monthly New Jersey American Water bill.

That math was complicated by my discovery that the upstairs toilet also was wasting water with a slow leak from the tank into the bowl.

The EPA says that an American home can waste, on average, more than 10,000 gallons of water every year due to running toilets, dripping faucets, and other household leaks.

Considering that one out of 8 people on this planet do not have access to safe drinking water, that’s a crime.

An easy way to check for tank leaks is to place a drop of food coloring in the toilet tank. If any color shows up in the bowl after 15 minutes, you have a leak. (Flush immediately after the experiment to avoid staining the tank.)

Since I wanted to know how much water I was wasting, I checked the water meter before and after a set period when no water was being used.

In one hour, the meter showed three gallons of water gone.

Three gallons of water doesn’t sound like that much, but over a week, it adds up to over 500 gallons of clean, processed water gone literally down the drain. At a few pennies per gallon, over a month, that’s another $5 on my monthly bill.

Fixing this problem required a few tools and a $15 replacement valve and float kit from the hardware store. No more running water, no more leak.

To learn more about fixing common indoor leaks, visit the EPA’s WaterSense site and download New Jersey American Water’s Water Leak Detection Kit.

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