In honor of EPA WaterSense Fix a Leak Week, we’re turning our attention to leaks. How do you know if your water is leaking? As for many problems, awareness is the first step in remedying the issue. But leak awareness is deceptively tricky when you’re preoccupied with more visible problems.
That said, hidden leaks can be devastating. Household leaks alone waste a trillion gallons of water each year in the US. The average home leaks more than 10,000 gallons a year – the same amount of water it would take to do 270 gallons of laundry! (For more information on chasing down household leaks.
Commercial facilities face even greater challenges. Leaks make up around 6 percent of all water use at commercial properties. That water would be better used on landscaping, washing, or conserved for later, check out the EPA’s quick room-by-room leak guide).
Commercial properties should aim to chase down leaks as effectively as a household can. So where are these leaks hiding? And what are you doing to find them? Here are some helpful tips and reminders, as well as an indoor and outdoor spot check routine.
The Lowdown On Leaks
Even the most conscientious facilities and property managers can miss important considerations when it comes to leak prevention and stoppage. For example, how many of the points below are you aware of?
- Almost all plumbing fixtures have at least one component (valve, flapper, or gasket) that breaks down over time.
- A leaky faucet dripping at one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year.
- Equipment malfunctions contribute to water running continuously when it’s supposed to be shutting off.
- One missing sprinkler head can waste up to 25,000 gallons of water over 6 months, or about $90. That’s for a single sprinkler head.
- A dime-sized leak in an irrigation system can waste 6,300 gallons of water per month.
- A shower head leaking 10 drips per minute wastes 500 gallons per year, or the equivalent of 60 loads of dishes worth of water.
A leak or malfunction may not cause damage or disruption right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a big problem. Tomorrow’s headache could be hiding undetected inside walls, under floors, or right outside your door.
To manage your indoor leaks, it’s important to incorporate information-gathering and good leak hygiene into your routine. To start taking action, follow the 1-2-3 of indoor leak awareness and prevention:
- Track your use of water and energy – take a look at all water and energy bills from the past year. Read your sub-meters and track usage spikes. Do you have an organized system that allows you to spot patterns and irregularities over time?
- Set up alert systems – Install leak detection alarms and failure alerts on equipment that uses water (boiler systems, cooling towers, etc.). If equipment fails, you don’t want to rely on a manual spot-check or your next utility bill to figure it out.
- Incorporate leak detection into daily rounds – Train your team to listen for the sound of running water, the sight of unexpectedly wet floor drains, and other irregularities. Create clear signage and instructions for reporting leaks to maintenance staff.
Your Indoor Spot-Check – if you know where to look, you may be able to cut off leaks before they become a series problem. Make sure you or your staff check the following as they take inventory of water waste:
- Restrooms – automatic sensors, toilets and urinals, faucets, and showerheads can all be the source of stray drips or running water.
- Kitchens – equipment with shut-off valves and sensors, spray valves, dishwashers, sinks, faucets, steam equipment, and food disposal systems must all work properly in order to avoid leaks.
- Mechanical rooms – boiler and steam systems, cooling towers, and any equipment with single-pass systems must be checked to make sure water is only flowing when it’s needed.
When it comes to outdoor leaks, the EPA recommends 4 steps for awareness and prevention. These steps are:
- Inspect – Check for clogged, broken, and missing sprinkler heads.
- Connect – Check the places that sprinkler heads connect to pipes and hoses. Do you see any pooling or damp areas?
- Direct – Examine whether you’re routinely watering sidewalks, pavement, or driveways. Direct all hoses and sprinklers so they’re only watering landscape.
- Select – Update your watering schedule in accordance with seasonal weather patterns.
Your Outdoor Spot-Check – during your daily checks, you’ll be able to spot visible problems. Make sure that you’re aware of the common places water can become a problem outdoors. They are:
- Landscape – Look out for pools and puddling in areas where there are plants, grass, and shrubs.
- Irrigation systems – Examine the grounds for any broken nozzles, sprinkler heads, or malfunctioning hoses.
- Pools and fountains – Check water levels; consistently lowering water lines may mean there’s a leak that’s draining the area.
- Pipes and drains – Pooling, mold, and rust are sure signs of leakage.
Lastly, the most important thing you can do is teach others to become warriors in the battle against leaking. Set up clear protocols for alerting maintenance and repair staff, so that leak prevention becomes a group project.
Make sure that you include regular audits of potential problem spots, both indoors and out. You may not always know how or when to replace leaking equipment, but these issues are best managed proactively, not reactively.
HydroPoint is your partner in eliminating water waste. Contact us today to find out how we can determine if you have a leak.