During the hottest parts of the year the phone calls increase with concerns from people asking if they have a water leak, or maybe their neighbor is using their water to fill up their pool. There's just no way they had used that much water this past month. Or the meter reader must have read the meter wrong! Or the meter is just wrong, or the water lines are crossed because the neighbor waters every day and I don't and my bill is higher... I think I've heard it all! Rarely do we find anything more than leaks or an irrigation system that is using more water than the homeowner realizes. Nothing too exciting in the grand scheme of things.
If you think you may have a water leak, then there are simple steps you can take to figure out if you have one, before calling a plumber. The first thing to do is to locate your water meter. It is outside, typically near the front property line on one of the sides of your house, near the sidewalk. The box is rectangular and either has a metal lid or black plastic lid. If you can, open it up. Inside the meter box are typically two water meters. I keep saying usually, because there are always exceptions! Anyway, your meter is closer to your house, and the other meter is your neighbor's.
Looking at the face of the meter, there is a hand that sweeps around the face, much like the hands of a clock. When that hand moves one time around the face that means 10 gallons have been used, or have gone through the meter. If the hand is moving when you open up the meter, then that means water is currently going through the meter and is being used at your property. When no water to your knowledge is on at your house, that hand should be perfectly still.
There's also a small star- or triangle-shaped feature on the face that we commonly call the "leak detector." It moves when we often can't see the hand moving, because it's a little more sensitive to lower flow water. If this is perfectly still too, then good, no leak. If it's moving, then again, something is using water. You can see the difference between water meters brands in the pictures--one has a triangle leak detector, the other has a silver center star piece.
There is also numbers on the face of the meter, like an odometer in a vehicle. This is the number that gets read every month to calculate how many gallons have gone through the meter. At the end of the day, before going to bed, you can write down these numbers. In the morning, before water is used at the house, go read the numbers again. If they are the same, great, no leak. If they have changed, then water has been used on the property. To find out how much water was used, subtract the morning number from the night number. The answer you get is the gallons that were used. (i.e. the meter read 58673 in the morning and 55492 at night. So 58673 - 55492 = 3181 gallons were used overnight!) Oh yes, that's right, my irrigation system went off; that's how much water it used.
Watch our latest video to see how to perform this meter check yourself. Good luck!