Your water bill doesn’t necessarily reflect your actual water consumption. Much of the water that’s piped into your Madison, WI home could be flowing down your drains unused. This is frequently the case in buildings with excessively high water pressure. Whenever taps are turned on, exorbitant amounts of water come gushing out. However, damaged plumbing fixtures can prove just as costly over time. If your water bill is suddenly much higher than it normally is, the maddening drip of a broken faucet could be the reason why.

You Might Be Paying for as Many as 180 Showers That You Aren’t Taking

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assesses water loss from leaky fixtures according to its annual impact. As per the EPA, letting a broken faucet fester for an entire year could lead to as much 3,000 gallons of water waste. At a rate of just one drip per second, one leaky fixture might leave you paying for the equivalent of 180 showers that you’ll never get the chance to take.

By some estimates, leaky toilets can waste 200 gallons of water per day. At this rate, in just one month, a single commode will rack up 6,000 gallons of water waste. Worse still, most modern homes have more than one toilet, and most of these commodes will reach the ends of their lifespans at the same time. With two or three leaking toilets in the building, you’ll be paying for tons of water that no one is using.

Establishing the Right Fixture Replacement Schedule

Among the most common causes of fixture leaks are wear and tear due to normal aging. Replacing plumbing fixtures before their integrity dramatically declines will prove much cheaper than paying for their cumulative water waste.

With moderate use and diligent care, many bathroom and kitchen faucets will last between 15 and 20 years. If you paid for high-end faucets and other high-end plumbing fixtures, some of these products could last five decades or more. During your next annual whole-house plumbing inspection, you can ask for an estimate of your fixtures’ remaining lifespans.

Much like the average lifespan of faucets, the average lifespan of toilets varies significantly. Some toilets last just 25 years while others might last 50 years or more. Toilets that are properly installed, made with enduring materials, and used on occasion tend to last the longest.

If you purchased existing construction with fixtures that are original to the building, you should have them inspected before using them. Not only will this allow your plumber to identify and resolve water-wasting leaks, but it will also provide the opportunity to spot slow and hidden leaks behind or around them, or within the pipes that service them.

Common Causes of Toilet Leaks and How to Prevent Them

There are several common reasons why toilets leak:

  • Broken or malfunctioning flappers
  • Loose connections
  • Cracked water supply lines
  • Broken gaskets and washers
  • Damaged wax rings or closet flanges

Together, these and many other toilet components should always provide watertight passage into your plumbing system for both wastewater and solid waste.

While poor installation, design flaws, damaged components, and substandard materials cause toilet leaks, there are also many catalysts for leaks that arise from how these fixtures are used. For instance, you can subject your toilets to undue wear by flushing large quantities of toilet paper at once, sending “flushable” wipes into your commodes, and using chemical drain cleaners for clogs.

Although chemical drain cleaners are readily available for many minor, do-it-yourself plumbing repairs, these products should never be placed in toilets. If you have a toilet clog that won’t respond to a plunger, putting drain cleaner into the bowl could cause it to crack.

Chemical drain cleaners “eat” through blockages of human waste, hair, and other organic materials by initiating a chemical reaction that heats them up. Their ultra-rapid heating upon contact with moisture doesn’t pair well with the cold porcelain that toilets are comprised of. Corrosive drain cleaning chemicals can also undermine the integrity of any metal or mechanical components within your toilet and any pipes that your toilet is connected to.

Manufacturer Warranties and Toilet Leaks

When you need them, manufacturer warranties definitely come in handy. Surprisingly, even toilets come with solid guarantees against problems caused by defective materials and substandard manufacturing. If your toilet was assembled incorrectly or if it has a defective flapper, fill valve connection, or other deformed, mechanical component, its manufacturer’s warranty should cover the costs of repairs or replacement.

Many manufacturer warranties for toilets guarantee all porcelain components for a lifetime, and all mechanical components for a period of one to five years. However, you’ll have to read through the terms of your warranty firsthand to know which protections are available to you.

Hard Water Build-ups and Fixture Leaks

In homes with hard water, hard water build-ups easily rank among the most common, preventable causes of fixture leaks. If you have visible hard water build-ups at the exterior of your faucets and showerheads, you can trust that they’re present at the interior of these fixtures too. These interior build-ups create high and unstable water pressure, and this in turn accelerates normal wear. The dissolved minerals in hard water can additionally corrode important fixture components like ball valves and O-rings.

If you have multiple fixture leaks throughout your home, it may be because all of your fixtures are reaching the ends of their lifespans at the same time. However, another very likely cause of this issues is hard water. Unfortunately, replacing your current fixtures won’t be enough to solve the problem and stave it off. If your water is excessively hard and no other mitigation strategies are in place, you may need to invest in water softening equipment.

Rough Faucet Use and Cartridge Valve Failure

How residents turn your faucets off and on also plays a hand in determining how long these features remain leak-free. If you have people living in your home who forcefully wrench your taps open and closed, you may have faucet leaks due to cartridge valve failure. This tiny piece of plastic controls the flow of water out of faucets. Forceful movements and frequent use can wear cartridge valves down and cause them to snap. Your faucet might have a failed or failing cartridge valve if it’s becoming increasingly difficult to turn it off completely. If you have to apply full force to prevent faucet leaks when turning a tap off, it’s time to have this fixture or its cartridge valve replaced.

Fixture Repairs and Their Impact on Residential Water Bills

Unlike in-wall pipe leaks, most fixture leaks don’t cause a tremendous amount of water damage. After all, your leaky taps and showerheads are probably dripping water directly down your drains. Although this is handy, it often makes homeowners lax in scheduling replacements or repairs. If the sounds that a dripping faucet makes aren’t loud or intrusive enough, some people will wait a year or more before fixing them.

As per the EPA, fixing even a single faucet or toilet leak could shave as much as 10% off your water bill. It will also save you money on hard water stain removal products and fixture replacements. Moreover, taking care of any plumbing leak in a timely fashion is always key for preventing indoor moisture problems and decreasing the likelihood of mildew and mold development.

Residents of Madison, WI can count on us for expert leak detection, water treatment, and fixture installation. We provide top-notch HVAC, plumbing, and indoor air quality (IAQ) services. If the time has come to replace or repair your plumbing fixtures, give Southport Home Services a call.

Meet the Author
Thomas Suchla
Thomas Suchla


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