Water meter shows flow

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by kd, Jul 2, 2011.

  1. kd

    kd New Member

    Messages:
    207
    Water bill is $250 per month, used to be $100. Can not find any leaks, both toilets have no leaks. With no one using water in the house, the little flow triangle on my water meter is stationary for about 5 seconds, then it moves forward, then backwards, then it bounces to a stop. 5 sec. later it does it again. sometimes it rotates in reverse first.
    1. If I shut off the main supply valve at the house, the triangle stops moving.
    2. I am thinking of installing a one way check valve in the line after the shut off valve.
    3. I am thinking of installing a 2.1 gal. expansion tank at the 40 gal.water heater.
    4. T and P valve is not discharging any water.
    5. I do not know if the water meter has a check valve built into it.
    6. This is a duplex with 8 people living there.
  2. plumber2011

    plumber2011 Expert Plumber

    Messages:
    70
    Location:
    Boston, Massachusetts
    Hi Mink,

    Can you tell us exactly how you are sure the toilets aren't leaking? Did you perform a DYE test at each toilet in the house? If you haven't performed a dye test at all toilets then I recommend that you get some dark food coloring and drip about 10-15 drops of food coloring into each toilet TANK. Let the toilets sit undisturbed for 1 hour or so and then check each toilet BOWL. If color shows up in any toilet bowl then you have fiund at least one of the sources of the leak(s) and the toilet tank flapper or flush valve assembly will need to be replaced to resolve the issue (s).

    Back to you...
  3. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    The meter does not have a check valve. I do not like the fact that it possibly goes backward....but if the water bill is high...it must mostly be going forward.

    Are both units on the one meter? Does the pipe go underground from the meter to the house? If so look for wet spots in the yard. Is there a yard irrigation system which could be leaking or running too long?? If nothing obvious comes up, then call in a leak detector company.

    At the very least, somehow you may be paying for water going to someone else.
  4. kd

    kd New Member

    Messages:
    207
    One toilet is pressure assist. The other I have tested with food coloring. But your focus on toilet leaking is well taken. About 25% of toilets i use in locations other than my house, leak and waste lots of water. Our city gave out free installed 1.6 gallon flush toilets-a year later all of mine were leaking into the bowl and needed adjustment.

    I thought that in older areas all houses have flow into the water system because the water heaters add pressure to the water in the house and when water is not being used, it flows into the city pipes to prevent chronic flow out the T and P valve.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 2, 2011
  5. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    14,763
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    It's not the water heater that is losing the water. If no water is coming from the T&P, you're fine there.
    If the meter stops after the main is shut off, then the leak is after that.

    One other way to check the toilets is to shut the water supply to them and see if the tank drains.
  6. kd

    kd New Member

    Messages:
    207
    I am thinking that the water meter does not register reverse flow, but each time there is a reverse flow, there is along with it a forward flow that does register -the result is the high bill. Do water meters work like that?
  7. plumber2011

    plumber2011 Expert Plumber

    Messages:
    70
    Location:
    Boston, Massachusetts
    Meters don't work like that...something else is up here.

    Check the pressure-assist toilet again. Here, turn the shutoff to the pressure-assist toilet OFF and see if the arrow stops pulsing at the water meter. If the water stops pulsing then you will need to order a repair kit for your particular pressure-assist model to fix the issue.

    If the toilet shut off leaks when you turn it back on after the test then take two pliers and use one to hold the shutoff stable while using the other pair of pliers to tighten the packing nut behind the stem an 1/8th turn or so.

    Let us know what you find/think...

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jul 2, 2011
  8. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,252
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    The meter dial is a geared device. If the flow meter is moving forward it adds to the water usage, if it move backwards it subtracts from it. Bouncing back and forth is caused by pressure changes in the water main. When it drops, (The main may be undersized so that usage in your neighborhood causes it. Similar to opening a faucet while someone is taking a shower.), the pressure in the house causes the dial to "bump" backwards momentarily until the pressure equalizes.
  9. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,826
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    Without any air volume tank, the volume of water that could reverse flow would be very small. Certainly not enough to more than double the metered volume. Expansion and mains pressure fluctuation probably was also happening when the bill was $100 so I would look elsewhere for the increase.
  10. dlarrivee

    dlarrivee New Member

    Messages:
    1,172
    Location:
    Canada
    I don't get it.

    You have a leak so you want to install a bunch of devices...
  11. johnjh2o1

    johnjh2o1 Plumbing Contractor for 49 years

    Messages:
    1,141
    Location:
    South*East
    To see if you are losing water, turn it off at the meter wait for 5 min. then turn it back on and see if the meter moves. If it dose then you are losing water. It could be from a leak or toilet losing water.

    John
  12. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,302
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    The most likely is toilet leakage. A bad flapper would do it. Maybe something else, but my first inspection would be the toilets. Forget the check valve, and since you apparently do not have a pressure regulator valve and the T/P is not discharging, you don't need a thermal expansion tank. Even if you did have a closed system, the T/P would not leak that much water out unless it was jammed open in which case, there would be no question.
  13. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades

    Messages:
    3,812
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    Don't rule out a bad meter.

    There was a bunch of bad meters put in the city of Houston, people were getting $1000 water bills.

    The Meter should never run backwards.

    Around here there is no way that you can feed water down the line in the opposite direction.
    If you could then people that got annexed into city water would be using their water well to do it.


    DonL
  14. johnjh2o1

    johnjh2o1 Plumbing Contractor for 49 years

    Messages:
    1,141
    Location:
    South*East
    Take a second look at hj's reply. I have seen this happen very often when there is a large draw on under sized water mains the meter will run backwards.

    John
  15. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades

    Messages:
    3,812
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    I agree John, hj is correct it can and does happen.

    But that is the water providers problem, an not the homeowners. Nor should it be at the homeowners expense.

    I do believe.


    DonL
  16. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,826
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    Just how much water would be stored in a home that could cause the meter to run backwards, short of opening a tap and draining the entire system replacing it with air? I'm guessing maybe somehere between a pint and a quart. Certainly not enough to more than double the normal usage.
  17. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades

    Messages:
    3,812
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    Being a duplex with 8 people living there. I am sure there is more to the formula than we will ever know.
  18. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    you have a defective meter. BEST BET.

    HJ is right, they are geared, and 98% are geared to run only ONE WAY thats to CHARGE you money.

    You got bounce in your meter, you got a goofey meter.

    If its private, on gebee bay you can get a good one for 50 bucks, that might pay for the unit in 2 weeks.

    OR you got a goofey renter that takes a 5 hour shower at 4 AM.

    Or he is running a water turbine to run his plasma TV at midnight to 5 AM.

    Check this meter at ODD hours!
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2011
  19. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,252
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    quote; Around here there is no way that you can feed water down the line in the opposite direction.
    If you could then people that got annexed into city water would be using their water well to do it.

    It can, and sometimes does. That is the reason buildings with city water and a private source MUST have precision secure backflow devices. One person in Phoenix pumped water from a "duck pond" to water his yard. He did not have a backflow device, just depended on turning the correct valves on and off. He DID pump a million gallons of "duck pond" water into the city main.

    qquote 2. HJ is right, they are geared, and 98% are geared to run only ONE WAY thats to CHARGE you money.

    The slight reverse flow does NOT affect the water bill at all. It reduces the meter by a fraction of a gallon, but as soon as you open a faucet it re-records it.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2011
  20. kd

    kd New Member

    Messages:
    207
    1. I will check the toilets again today by turning off each of their water supply valves- and check the flow triangle.
    2. Then I will turn off the cold water supply to the water heater and check the flow triangle.
    3. It turns out that I already have a 2.1 gal. expansion tank on the hot water side of the water heater. There is no flow out the T and P valve.
    4. There is no flow triangle movement when the main valve is shut off.
    4. If 98% of the water meters are one way meters, then this water movement could be increasing my bill.
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