leaks

Fix a Leak Week

By: Shelby Egan

The U.S. EPA’s WaterSense program is celebrating Fix a Leak Week from March 18-24, 2013.  This week is dedicated to teaching people how to conserve water in their homes by checking pipes and irrigation systems for leaks. Leaks within our homes waste precious water and can even account for 1 trillion gallons of water wasted per year in the U.S.!  Leaks include running toilets, dripping faucets, and other leaking pipes in your home that can easily be fixed. Although I live in a small apartment and don’t have an outdoor lawn to worry about, I still find ways to make sure I am saving water at home by only running the dishwasher when it’s full and when giving my cat fresh water, I use the old water to give my indoor plants a drink.  It’s also easy for you to save water at home by turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth and when washing your hair.  By visiting Fix a Leak Week’s homepage, you and a parent or guardian can learn how simple it is to help save water in your home by fixing leaks in running toilets, turning faucets all the way off, using a bucket of soapy water for dishes instead of a running faucet and many other cool ways.  By making these everyday changes, you will help protect the Earth’s water and feel good about yourself in doing so.  

Shelby Egan is a student volunteer in the EPA’s Air and Radiation Division in Region 5, and is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She has a passion for protecting natural resources, cities she’s never been to and cooking any recipe by The Pioneer Woman. 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Leak Hunter

By: Danny Orlando

It’s funny how some leaks concern us and we will fix the problem right away.  Suppose you walk up to your car and a tire seems really low or you check your hot water heater and see water leaking.  These are the type of obvious leaks we repair everyday.  But, what about the heated or air-conditioned air in your home?  These leaks are elusive and require a ‘hunter’ mentality.  And so where do you start?

My house is a 1985 cedar ranch with a finished basement.  I purchased the house in 1991 and I quickly saw the energy bills increasing.  At the time, I was only concerned that everything worked and I didn’t know as much as I do now.    An event that stands out in my mind and one that made me realize I had more than a minor problem occurred one cold winter morning.  The temperature approached zero degrees (unusual for Atlanta) and the windows in my kitchen had a considerable amount of ice forming on the inside of the aluminum window frames.  Even if you don’t know much about energy efficiency, this should get your attention because ice inside your house is not a good thing unless it’s in the freezer.  There were other signs of inefficiencies, too.  Back bedrooms were hot in the summer and cold in the winter.  I would dust one day and have to dust again the next day.  A visit to the garage was a pleasant experience because it was often more comfortable than some of the living areas.  And, there was insulation that was turning black.  Time to get busy and start the hunt!

A great way to begin is to have an energy audit performed on your home.  Select a company that specializes in testing your home and finding the big problems.  They will use specialized tools that will reveal what you can’t see.  This type of audit will really open your eyes and will be worth every penny.  It will provide you with the treasure map that you need to move forward.   Since 1991, I have had four of these done and the air leaks in my house are now few.

Be warned!  Leak hunting is addictive.  You will need some cans of foam sealant (there are two types – water-based and expanding), duct sealant (mastic), and some electrical outlet gaskets.  Some places to look for leaks are under sinks, tubs and toilets, the dryer exhaust area, the fireplace damper, wiring holes, electrical sockets, air-conditioning ductwork, and holes on the outside of the house.  If you replace flooring, you also have an opportunity to foam or caulk under the baseboards.

Since I started my hunt, I have reduced my electricity usage by nearly 37 percent, or $600 dollars per year.  I’m still hunting and I do find unsealed holes/penetrations that I missed. For a leak geek this is an exciting moment.  Leak hunting will improve the air quality in your home, reduce dust and allergens, and you will probably see fewer bugs in your house.  Let the hunt begin!

Danny Orlando joined EPA’s Atlanta office in 1991 and oversees the ENERGY STAR program in the Southeastern states.  His family’s quest for lower energy bills has inspired him to become an avid leak hunter. For more information on home improvement with ENERGY STAR, click here.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Fix a Leak: Little Effort, Lots of Savings

By Tom Damm

2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the nation’s law for protecting our most irreplaceable resource.  Throughout the year, EPA will be highlighting different aspects of the history and successes of the Clean Water Act in reducing pollution in the past 40 years.  The month of April will focus on Water Conservation.

Barbara (B.J.) McDuffie of the ECA installs faucet aerator during Fix a Leak event.

Barbara (B.J.) McDuffie of the ECA installs faucet aerator during Fix a Leak event.

Consider this: The average American home leaks more than 10,000 gallons of water a year – about the amount of water needed to wash 280 loads of laundry or take more than 600 showers.  A faucet that leaks at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year.

Though my family cringes when I volunteer to fix things, knowing that I’m likely to do more damage than good, even I could handle this one:

Unscrew the end of the faucet spout, pop out the existing rubber washer and filter screen, install a low-flow aerator and its washer, reattach the end of the spout.

That’s it.  Time involved? About 30 seconds.  Watch this video of how to install the aerator if you don’t believe me.

Barbara (B.J.) McDuffie of the Energy Coordinating Agency demonstrated how quick and easy it can be to save money and water during a recent EPA Fix a Leak Week event at the Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia, where sets of new fixtures – aerators, showerheads and toilet flappers donated by the Delta Faucet Co. – were being installed throughout the building.

“Fix a Leak Week is a time for us to highlight the benefits of finding and fixing residential leaks,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin, having just repaired a leaky fixture in his own home. “So we’re urging everyone to take three basic steps – check, twist and replace.”

  1. Check for leaks. Toilet leaks can be found by putting a few drops of food coloring into the tank and seeing if color appears in the bowl before you flush. Don’t forget to also check irrigation systems and spigots.
  2. Twist and tighten pipe connections. To save even more water without a noticeable difference in flow, twist on a WaterSense labeled faucet aerator or showerhead.
  3. Replace the fixture if necessary. Look for the WaterSense label when replacing plumbing fixtures, which are independently certified to use 20 percent less water and perform as well as or better than standard models.

Can’t wait to break out the tool box.

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.  Prior to joining EPA, he held state government public affairs positions in New Jersey and worked as a daily newspaper reporter.  When not in the office, Tom enjoys cycling and volunteer work.  Tom and his family live in Hamilton Township, N.J., near Trenton.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Question of the Week: When was the last time you fixed a leak?

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. Nationwide, more than 1 trillion gallons of water leak from U.S. homes each year. That’s why WaterSense is promoting Fix a Leak Week from March 15 to 21, 2010, to remind Americans to check their plumbing fixtures and irrigation systems for leaks.

When was the last time you fixed a leak?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.ea

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Climate for Action: Conserve Energy Through Water Conservation

The average family in the United States uses 400 gallons of water every day. We use it to cook, clean, drink, garden and for many other indoor and outdoor activities. Water is definitely an important resource to us all and is essential to our everyday lives. Unfortunately, to get this water to our homes it takes a lot of energy. Two to three percent of the world’s energy consumption is used to treat and pump water to our homes. And, the percent of energy that we need to treat and pump our water changes from region to region depending on how much the region consumes. In California, for example, about 20 percent of the state’s energy is used to treat and pump its water. Therefore, in order to conserve energy, it is important to conserve our water use within our homes. The EPA estimates that by practicing water conserving techniques, you can reduce your water use by 20–30 percent. By reducing your water use, you will be able to reduce your homes energy use and also be able to save some money and reduce your carbon footprint. And, it’s very simple to reduce your water use!!! Some simple things that you can do include:

  • Listen for dripping faucets and running toilets. Fixing a leak can save 300 gallons a month or more.
  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and save 25 gallons a month.
  • Run your clothes washer and dishwasher only when they are full. You can save up to 1,000 gallons a month.
  • Find out more ways you can conserve water

Can you think of other things we can all do to conserve water? Be sure to let us know so we can all save energy by practicing water conservation.

About the author: Michelle Gugger graduated from Rutgers University in 2008. She is currently spending a year of service at EPA’s Region 3 Office in Philadelphia, PA as an AmeriCorps VISTA.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Fix A Leak: Fix Leaks, Save Water & Money

About the author: Steve Burton* the SW territory contact for Ferguson Enterprises, Inc.’s Private Label Program. Ferguson is the EPA’s 2008 WaterSense Retailer/Distributor Partner of the Year.

We have a two-person household in an average-size home in Oro Valley, Arizona. In November 2008 we discovered the guest bathroom had a slow internal leak caused by an aging fill valve inside the toilet tank. The only reason we thought to look for a leak was the spike in our water bill that month.

We found a slow leak inside the toilet tank in our hall bathroom. The noise was faint. If the fan was on or if you were not directly in the bathroom, you could not tell there was a noise coming from the toilet tank.

The impact this one slow leak had on our water usage/bill during November 2008 is below.

  • Sept 2008 $41.97
  • Oct 2008 $51.33
  • Nov 2008 $148.30
  • Dec 2008 $58.66
  • Jan 2008 $33.64

This drove home how important it is to check/maintain water fixtures in our home to conserve water and save money. For about $15, we were able to fix a leak that was costing us $100 a month!

* EPA does not endorse any contractor, commercial service, or enterprise.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Fix a Leak: Detecting and Fixing Toilet Leaks

About the author: Ed Del Grande is host of “Ed the Plumber” on the DIY Network*, and regularly appears on HGTVPro.com as the plumbing expert. He writes a nationally syndicated column, “Ask the Plumber,” which appears in newspapers across the United States. Del Grande is a native of Rhode Island.

image of author, Ed Del Grande, kneeling next to a toiletHow do you know when a toilet is leaking? Faucets and showerheads will drip, which is a dead giveaway for a leak. But what about toilets?

Have you ever experienced your toilet “running” for a long time after a flush, or had to wiggle the handle to make it stop, or does it ever randomly “run” at night, even when nobody flushed it? A “running toilet” is a leaky toilet.

If you’re toilet is leaking, most likely it’s a bad flapper. If you look inside the tank, you’ll notice a ‘rubber stop’ at the bottom of the tank. This device is no longer creating a water-tight seal, and your toilet is leaking. To confirm, you can drop a couple drops of food coloring in the tank. If you see any food coloring leak into the bowl, your toilet is leaking.

You can purchase replacement parts for your toilet at any hardware store or home improvement center. This should stop the problem. And, these replacement kits are pretty easy to install.

However, if you’re taking the time to make this fix, you should check to see how many gallons your toilet uses with each flush. The federal mandate is 1.6 gpf, but if your house is old, or you haven’t remodeled in quite some time, chances are you have a toilet that uses 3.5 gpf or more. And that’s a waste of water – a waste of 2 gallons of fresh drinking water with every flush. If you have an old toilet, consider replacing it with a new, WaterSense labeled toilet. These new toilets don’t sacrifice design or performance.

To get some great information on new toilets, and what to look for, check out www.epa.gov/watersense/.

* EPA does not endorse any contractor, commercial service, or enterprise.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Fix A Leak: Fix Leaks, Save Water & Money

About the author: Steve Burton* the SW territory contact for Ferguson Enterprises, Inc.’s Private Label Program. Ferguson is the EPA’s 2008 WaterSense Retailer/Distributor Partner of the Year.

We have a two-person household in an average-size home in Oro Valley, Arizona. In November 2008 we discovered the guest bathroom had a slow internal leak caused by an aging fill valve inside the toilet tank. The only reason we thought to look for a leak was the spike in our water bill that month.

We found a slow leak inside the toilet tank in our hall bathroom. The noise was faint. If the fan was on or if you were not directly in the bathroom, you could not tell there was a noise coming from the toilet tank.

The impact this one slow leak had on our water usage/ bill during November 2008 is below.

  • Sept 2008 $41.97
  • Oct 2008 $51.33
  • Nov 2008 $148.30
  • Dec 2008 $58.66
  • Jan 2008 $33.64

This drove home how important it is to check/ maintain water fixtures in our home to conserve water and save money. For about $15, we were able to fix a leak that was costing us $100 a month!

EPA does not

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.