Is there a leak with my water main entering my house????

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by m_masaschi, Mar 9, 2010.

  1. m_masaschi

    m_masaschi New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Baltimore, MD
    I moved to a new house in the city last year. My first water bill came and it was around $65. My next bill came and it was $645!! The cosumption was about 1100 gallons/day according to the bill. I have been fighting with the city to come out and reinspect the meter. I checked all of the pipes in the house and toilets for leaks - none were found. I turned the water off coming into my house in the basement, and took note of the meter reading. I came back about 3 hours later, and the meter hadn't moved so I turned the water back on. I do not have any water appearing in my basement and so far my 25' long front yard hasn't sunk in. I have normal water pressure through out the house. Is it possible for a pipe to leak only when I turn on my faucet in the house??? While I've been fighting the beuracracy of the City of Baltimore, I thought I might check on here to get some expert opions before consulting with a contractor to come out to the house if one is not needed. Thanks!!
  2. asktom

    asktom Member

    Messages:
    575
    Location:
    Victor, MT
    I suspect a toilet leak, they can be subtle. Try turning off the stops under the toilets and see if the meter moves, or put a little dye in the tanks and see if it shows up in the bowls.
  3. m_masaschi

    m_masaschi New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Baltimore, MD
    Putting dye in the tank was my first step in trying to ID a potential leak. After about an hour there was no dye that had showed up in the bowl. I am not sure if there is a leak in the water main b/w the meter and my house or a faulty meter. Until I hear from the city, I am preparing for the worst case scenerio. It seems that if there were 1100 gals/day leaking it would show up somewhere in the house or make for a swampy front yard. Since our recent 3 feet of snow has begun to melt, it is tough to ID the front yard as being wet from an underground leak.
  4. Akpsdvan

    Akpsdvan In the Trades

    Messages:
    1,486
    Location:
    Alaska
    Take notes on the meter reading every 12 hours for the next week..
    Also ask them to make sure that they did not change a number or two from some one else's meter to yours..

    Years ago I was in apartment and the elect meter number that was for my apartment had gotten changed for another in the building.. so the company was charging me for that one and that one for mine.... In the end the elect company ate the difference because when I gave them the number it was for the one that was labled for mine, the mistake was not mine..

    It is possible that the numbers where changed some place... make sure the right numbers are on the right people.....or street address....
  5. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,133
    Location:
    New England
    The thing to check is ensure everything is shut off in the house, and while the main valve is open, monitor the meter to see if it is moving. The toilets are the most likely, but it's possible there could be a leak under the slab, if your pipes happen to run there. If it is leaking, and it isn't there, it must be going down the drain, or you'd have a swamp somewhere unless the ground is very sandy and it could easily drain away without major notice.
  6. Basement_Lurker

    Basement_Lurker One who lurks

    Messages:
    668
    Location:
    Victoria, BC
    It doesn't sound like you have a problem from the meter to the house from what you've described. You sure you don't have a trap primer or anything odd like that which is running? The water company should come take a look at their meter, and you should definitely have them verify that they are recording the proper meter for your house as Akpsdvan suggested.
  7. Cookie

    Cookie .

    Messages:
    5,658
    Location:
    .
    This may or may not help you now, but I have through our gas company & electric company a Home Repair Program. It is cheap per month and I have used it, especially the electric a few times. You might want to check to see if yours offer this, like Dominion Gas does.

    http://www.dom.com/products/home-repair-programs/index.jsp
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2010
  8. Nate R

    Nate R New Member

    Messages:
    472
    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    Was your first bill an estimate, and the 2nd an actual read?

    When we bought our house, the previous owner hadn't paid the water bill in a while, and had put the billing on hold as the house was vacant. Well, plenty of water got used in that time by some squatters, repair men, etc. Our first bill was based on the last read from over a year prior, so we had to pay for about 10 times the water usage that we usually did. Then the water works came out and checked the meter because they thought there was a leak, as the high usage got billed as if it happened over 3 months. We got screwed, and it should've been taken care of at the closing, apparently. We ended up paying an extra $150 for that bill, so it wasn't so hard to swallow.

    But some sort of carryover from the last occupant is maybe another possibility?
  9. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,815
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    Faulty water meters typically slow down and read LESS water than is being used, rather than more. There are a few places where the water could be wasted, such as toilets, drain trap primers, or cracked pipes, but only a plumber at the site can evaluate the entire system to determine where the problem is.
  10. m_masaschi

    m_masaschi New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Baltimore, MD
    They have been supposedly reading the correct meter, but with the City of Baltimore, anything is possible. I checked into the home repair service, but unfortunately it doesn't appear that we have that available. Is there a way to check the trap primers for leakage? I may have to call a plumber out to do a professional once over for their opinion. Can any plumber do these types of checks or should I find a specialty plumber for their service? Thank you for your help!
  11. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,133
    Location:
    New England
    You pay for what the meter indicates, so if there was a leak before the meter, it would normally be the supplier's problem, not yours (except for the swamp it might create). When nobody is using any water, is the meter moving? If so, try turning off the shutoffs for various things: toilets, sinks, washing machine, etc. Have someone monitor the meter. If anyone of those stop the meter from moving, you've isolated the faulty item. As noted way back, the typical culprits are toilets. If you take th elide off the toilet(s), is the water up to the overflow? Or, if you shut the water off, does the tank water level drop overnight? Either of those point to a toilet using water when it shouldn't. Unless the house is floating on all of the water running, that water needs to be going down the drain. That limits it to things that have their own drain, like a toilet. If your sinks or shower were leaking, you'd probably notice it. Some whole-house humidifiers have a drain line for overflow, and that could be running all of the time as well. If you have floor drains, sometimes the put in trap primers...this dumps some water to keep the trap from drying out and allowing sewer gasses into the house. If one of those failed, it could be running and you may not see it, but often might hear it. It certainly would show up in the meter moving! Some logic and close inspection should find the problem. If you've exhausted all of the visible items, IF the pipes run under the slab after going through the meter, it could be leaking under the house somewhere. That would be harder to pinpoint, but fixing would normally involve either breaking up the floor, or redoing the piping so it is above ground. Does the WH run a lot? It could be a leak in the hot water line. This might show up as some area that is warm that wasn't before.

    None of this is magic. Finding the problem should be straightforward. Fixing it, might be easy, or it may be difficult. Some things, like a leaking toilet flapper valve is within the capabilities of probably 90% of homeowners. Some others, can take more skill and tools. the least expensive option is to isolate the problem, then decide. It might take a plumber less time, but unless you get paid more than he does, it's worth it to find the problem yourself. Whether you can fix it or not is another question.
  12. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,133
    Location:
    New England
    Depending on where you live, the meter could be installed near the street, or in the house. Generally, you own the stuff between the meter and the rest of the house. The supplier owns the stuff before and up to the meter.
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