The Shame-Free Guide to Finding Leaks and Avoiding an Accidental Orchid Farm

Everyone’s house has water leaks. Yes, even yours, which is odd because everyone knows how good you are at maintaining things, and a leak seems like something you’d notice. But the average household loses 10 percent of water to leaks, so you aren’t alone. Doing a little leak detection will reduce your water usage and bill, and can catch a problem before it becomes an insurance claim. Consider this article a midsummer PSA: Address leaks now rather than when it’s unpleasantly cold in the winter and you have to tromp around in the rain and snow to shut off your water.

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Step 1: The Leak Check. This takes time, but it’s hands-off, lazy time. You can do lazy time. DO check the number on your water meter, then wait 1–2 hours while no water is being used and check it again. If the number has changed, you have a leak. There’s some nifty technology below that makes leak detection much easier, but, absent technology, good old fashioned counting is the way to go. DON’T hide in embarrassment when you find a leak. Remember, 10 percent? That’s you. No shame. We don’t have time for shame. We don’t do shame, we only do solutions. Time to move on to sleuthing.

Step 2: Leak Locating. More hands-off, lazy time. You’re getting good at this. DO test if the leak is inside or outside of your house. Since outdoor irrigation often connects to the home water line before the main shutoff valve for the house, you can check for outdoor leaks by turning off your water there, at the main. If, after 1–2 hours, the number on the meter has changed, your leak is outside. If it hasn’t changed, your leak is inside, past the shutoff. DON’T shut off the main at the street, or wherever it connects to your local utility’s pipes. It’s unnecessary (since you can shut it off at your house), and boy oh boy do the utilities hate it when you mess with their connections. Also, when you lift the cement lid to their shutoff valve, it’s chock full of spiders and critters and dementors and what have you. If you can’t find your house shutoff, call your utility company. They’d prefer to come show you where it is than have you twirling their valve (not a euphemism) on and off.

Step 3: Outdoor Leaks. OK, now you have to do something. Ease in. You got this. We’ll tackle indoor and outdoor areas separately. DO check all of your connections for drip irrigation and sprinklers, especially at the valves for an automatic timer. Check for broken emitters on the drip lines and cracked sprinkler heads. If a pipe has a leak, the ground nearby is usually spongy or just won’t dry. You’ll have to dig up the area to be sure, but a leak is a good bet if you see any amount of water pooling. DON’T give up on fixing and just keep digging to make yourself a nice, natural, in-ground pool. That’s called a pond, and if you do that, you’ll need to get some fish, and some good, solid fishing equipment because we know you don’t do anything halfway. You’ll probably also need a kayak, which means you’ll need a new car to haul it around and a whole wardrobe of wicking clothes…you see where this is headed. It’s better to just repair the leaky pipe.

Step 4: Indoor Leaks. No leak outside? Let’s turn inward. Focus your mind, locate your peaceful center, and … just kidding. It’s time to head inside your house. DO go room by room, and fixture by fixture. Be methodical. In the bathroom, put dry paper towels under the tap in the sink and tub or shower. If it shows a drip, there’s a leak. For toilets, put a few drops of food coloring in the tank; if any color has come into the bowl 30 minutes later, there’s a leak. DON’T stop looking after you find a leak. Put your ego away! There’s a good chance you have multiple leaks, so as long as you’re in the thick of the leak detection weeds, you might as well see it through.

Step 5: Fixing Leaks We believe in you! You got this. DO see if you can fix it first. If it’s intimidating to think about doing any plumbing whatsoever, take a step back (check your peaceful center?) and search the internet for common fixes. Because if all you need to do is swap out a washer in your faucet, or replace the toilet flapper, a trip to your hardware store and a DIY website is a cheaper, easier, and more satisfying solution. There are a bizillion websites that will walk you through the steps of fixing the leaks. Everyone’s plumbing, fixtures and DIY abilities vary, so poke around for a site that fits your needs and skills. If you don’t have time or DIY ambition, call a plumber. You took the time to find the leaks, so the fixes should cost you less than if the plumber had to sleuth and fix. Good job! DON’T put off fixing the leaks because it doesn’t seem like they waste water. The water loss adds up, and it can cause real damage. Remember that thing about how we know you don’t do anything halfway? These small leaks will turn into bigger leaks, and soon there’s water flowing in your home at all times and it’s so humid you have no choice but to grow orchids, but to do that you’ll have to take horticulture classes and you don’t have the time for that, so you just sit in your house with malnourished orchids, fanning yourself and wondering why you didn’t just fix the leak when you found it long ago.

That’s all there is to it. Finding leaks in your home is usually simple, it just takes time. And what about the nifty technology mentioned above? Wouldn’t it be easier to see leaks as they’re happening, and be able to shut off your water remotely? Buoy™ to the rescue! Buoy can detect leaks as small as one teaspoon per hour, and you can shut off your water with the touch of a button on our app. The app shows you where and how much water you use around your home, so you can use water in the places that are important to you. Learn more and order a Buoy here. Nice job finding your leaks. Relax for now; you can take up orchid farming when you’re good and ready.