Did you know the third week of every March is Fix a Leak Week?
Yep, that’s right! The Environmental Protection Agency founded the campaign as a way to remind Americans to check their properties for common water leaks.
Not only are these leaks bad for the environment—California, Texas and several other states, have weathered serious droughts over the past decade—but they’re also bad for your pocketbook. Leaks account for more than 1 trillion gallons of water wasted per year. We’ve seen savings of up to 40 percent on multi-family building utilities after fixing leaks and employing specific water conservation methods!
In this article, we’ll reveal exactly how you can capture those savings by effectively identifying and fixing water leakage without wasting a lot of time. But first, an important question:
What’s With All The Leaks?
Worn toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and leaky valves are all small mechanisms that can easily go unseen or unreported by residents. If an estimated 10 percent of U.S. households remain unaware of conspicuous leaks that waste more than 90 gallons of water per day (according to the EPA), just imagine how much water you could be losing in a multi-family building.
Most building owners discover, regardless of quality of renters or size of deposit, they do not take care of the units as if they were their own. There is very little incentive for residents to report something as minute as a leaky faucet. As a matter of fact, tenants will often ignore dripping faucets and small leaks simply because of the inconvenience of getting it fixed.
Factor in all those “hidden leaks” and you might as well be flushing dollar bills down the drain (it would be a lot more entertaining). So, how does a landlord go about detecting leaks and conserving water usage?
As always, there’s the DIY-Method and the DFY Method (Done For You). Here we’ll outline the merits of both:
DIY Water Management
As a landlord, you absolutely have the power to educate your tenants and maintenance staff on the benefits of leak identification and water maintenance. Your biggest challenge? Compliance.
As previously mentioned, you’re going to have to communicate with tenants in a way that makes themwant to report leaks. And you’ll need to get maintenance on a consistent schedule for thoroughly inspecting and remedying leaks on the property. Additionally, you’ll want to ensure they’re trained in tracking important metrics that determine water lost and saved over time (if you want to know how much money you’re actually saving).
Here are the main areas your team needs to check:
1. Faucets and Shower Heads
By far the most obvious culprit, a leaky faucet that drips once per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year—that’s enough water to take 180 showers! Check faucet washers and gaskets for wear. If you find one that does need to be replaced, look for a WaterSense label. Most leaky showerheads can be fixed by ensuring a tight connection using pipe tape and a wrench.
Most toilet leaks are caused by worn toilet flappers. The flapper is the rubber mechanism located inside the tank. Over time, it begins to corrode due to mineral exposure in the tank. Unfortunately, many maintenance crews stop there.
In reality, you can also induce significant savings by calibrating the water flow of your toilets so that a pre-designated amount leaves per flush. A bit more time consuming? Sure, but 100 percent worth it. The Water Scrooge can not only ensure your toilets are leak-free, but that they are calibrated at the otpimal flush rate.
3. Irrigation Systems
Frost, freezing, and extremely cold temperatures can all put a strain on irrigation systems. A system with a leak as small as a dime can waste as much as 6,300 gallons of water per month. Since irrigation leaks can be minuscule in size, it’s important to engage a systematic approach when checking for leaks.
Once you’ve found your leak, you’ll need to install coupling inserts into the pipe before securing it with an outer adjustable band. You can find several videos on Youtube that illustrate exactly what to do. You’ll also want to check your garden hoses for spigot connection leaks. If sound, simply replace the nylon or rubber hose washer before ensuring a tight connection using pipe tape and a wrench.
4. Meter Detection
Finally, no leak check would be complete without monitoring meters for water usage. While there are many variables for indicating leakage, a simple one is to check your meters before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used (this can be arranged with tenants in advance so they will not be inconvenienced). If the meter does not read exactly the same when the time’s up, you probably have leakage.
Again, you may initially save some money with a DIY approach, but you’ll have to weigh that benefit against the savings potentially lost by residents NOT reporting leaks, as well as time spent training staff on how to correctly identify and remedy leakage.
DFY Water Management
The alternative? Get all of the above done for you by an expert. If you’re thinking "all of that" would be out of budget, think again. At The Water Scrooge, we’ve made it our mission to save precious resources by promoting effective and affordable conservation practices.
While our primary method of contribution is The Water Scrooge itself—a tamper-proof shower regulator with spa-like pressure—we also provide complete property leak inspections along with our White Glove installations. Translation: If you have a leak, our professionally trained team will find it.
In the months that follow, we’ll continue to monitor usage to ensure you’re still reaping savings benefits (an average of $500 per unit, per year for our clients).
So, as you can see, multi-family unit water leaks can significantly "drain finances" if left unchecked. Whether you decide to DIY, or partner with someone like The Water Scrooge, we hope you’ll take advantage of this month's annual Fix a Leak Week. The environment—and your pocketbook—will thank you.