How to Determine the Cause of that Unusually High Water Bill

How to Determine the Cause of that Unusually High Water Bill

Most people love having routines, particularly when it comes to paying their utility bills on time; dealing with water, gas, and electric companies is a necessary evil, one that helps to keep our households in working order all year round. So when an unexpectedly large bill comes in the mail, it can be a huge shock that sends ripples throughout an entire home.

Here in Chicago, homeowners are occasionally dismayed by a large discrepancy in their water bill, particularly when there are no obvious leaking faucets or pipes in the house. What could be behind this unexpectedly hefty bill? And how can you stop it before it sends your bill skyrocketing even higher?

Here's how to find - and fight - the unseen source of that high water bill:

1.) Check the "Usual Suspects"

First and foremost, you’re going to want to check some of the usual offenders when it comes to home water waste. Start by investigating your big-ticket appliances, including the five that most commonly lead to house floods:

  • Dishwasher
  • Washing Machine
  • Toilet
  • Water Heater
  • Refrigerator

If you notice damp spots or pooling water around any of these appliances or fixtures, that leak may well be one of the factors driving up your bill; you’ll likely want to call in a plumbing professional to investigate the problem, which could have to do with your water lines, connections, drains, or even something within the appliance itself.

If you don’t notice any standing water or dampness around your home, turn next to your faucets, toilets, and shower heads. Examine all of the units around your house with a keen eye and an open ear. Take note of any dripping faucets or heads, as even a tiny drip can add a hefty sum to your water bill if left unchecked; similarly, listen and look for any signs of a running toilet, as one of these can amount to hundreds of gallons of wasted water every year.

If, after close monitoring, all of your systems appear to be in full working order, the issue is probably an invisible leak deeper in your system.

Here's how to troubleshoot for a hidden leak:

2.) Turn Off All Appliances in the House that Use Water

To find a hidden problem, the first step is to turn off every appliance in your home that uses water. Turn off every faucet, and get everyone out of the shower. Don't forget your dishwasher, icemaker, and water heater! All of them must be off in order for troubleshooting to go off properly. 

3.) Look at Your Water Meter

Now that you have everything turned off, go and take a look at your water meter. One of the dials should have a cubic foot dial (i.e., "1 cu ft"). Take note of this reading, then wait and see if there is any change over 20-30 minutes. If there is a change, you either missed an appliance or faucet; if you haven't run any water at all but your reading changes, you may have a leak somewhere.

4.) Listen to Your Faucets

To verify if you have a leak, turn on one faucet and use a mechanic's stethoscope to listen to what your plumbing system sounds like when water is running through it (you may able to tell by ear, too). Follow the same procedure at your water main (the point where your water comes into the house from the outside).

Then, turn off that faucet, and once again make sure that all of your other appliances, faucets, and fixtures are turned off. Now, turn the main valve of your water main off, making sure there is no water flow to your house.

Now, use the stethoscope again to listen to how your water main sounds (or rather, how you can't hear anything) when there is no water being run. Turn the main valve back on and listen once again.  If you can hear any flow and you are certain no faucets or appliances are being run, then you likely have a leak - and it's time to call a plumber.

Are you experiencing a mysterious leak?  Need the help of a professional plumber?  Send us an e-mail or give us a call and we'll be happy to help.