When do you have to push the panic button!? Maybe not at all… Having a high water bill is generally not good, and can be an indication of something much worse, but sometimes might be a simple fix. In this article, we will be reviewing what can cause a high water bill, some possible culprits, and how to get some money back from your gigantic bill!
What can cause a high water bill?
Things to check before assuming the worst.
Maybe you do have a slab leak, now what.
Getting credit back on your water bill.
What can cause a high water bill?
Pretty straightforward here… high water usage causes a high water bill. Every city and or local water municipality will install a water meter, which is a smart valve that can track your water usage, typically in cubic feet consumed. Naturally, this is a must so they can bill you accurately for the amount of water you are consuming.
The first thing you need to know is there are two types of plumbing pipes within your home. There are supply lines, and drain lines. Supply lines bring water to your water fixtures. They are also known as pressurized pipes, because as the name indicates… they are under pretty high pressure. This way, when you turn a sink on, water comes shooting right out when you need it. The drain lines however are the exact opposite. They are the pipes that carry the used water out of your home and to the city sewage. They are also known as sewer lines. Sewer lines work through gravity and thus are not under pressure. When you turn your faucet on, water flows naturally down the drain and goes under your home, where the pipes must be slightly pitched in order to allow the water to naturally flow downhill and towards the city sewer lines. If you have a high water bill, the issue must be within your pressurized plumbing system, not your sewage system.
You might be assuming that you have a leak of some sort. A hole, crack or even a broken pipe using up all that additional water causes your bill to skyrocket. However, this is not always the case. There are different reasons your bill could spike. Yes… you could have a broken or leaky pipe somewhere which would undoubtedly cause a higher water bill. As we know, those pipes are under constant pressure, so the moment you have a leak, water will constantly be leaking until you get that leak fixed, but it could also just be a fixture that is broken or not operating properly and can also cause your bill to spike.
Things to check before assuming the worst.
Fixtures oftentimes are the culprit of that high water bill you received, thus checking each one could save you some time and money.. Here is a list of a few fixtures that can cause a tremendous amount of water usage without you even knowing.
- Water Filtering Systems
There are two different issues you could have with a toilet. Have you ever heard of the invisible flush? This might potentially be the most common issue when dealing with that higher than normal bill. This issue is dubbed the invisible flush as many homes deal with this, yet the homeowner is unaware of its presence. Within your toilet tank lies a two-part system, the flushing mechanism, which consists of the handle and flapper, as well as the fill valve, which fills the toilet tank full of water ready to be flushed at any moment.
Our first issue, the invisible flush, deals with your flushing mechanism. Right now, if you lift up the lid on your toilet tank and look inside the tank, it will be full of water. The toilet flapper is the seal keeping the water in the tank from entering the bowl. When you use the handle to flush the toilet, the handle lifts a flapper which allows the water to enter into the bowl thus flushing the toilet. That little finicky flapper can potentially be the main source of your problems. If the flapper isn’t sealed perfectly anymore, water from the tank will slowly enter the toilet bowl. If this is the case and water is leaking from the tank to the bowl, eventually the water level in the tank will have dropped enough to kick the fill valve into action causing the tank to once again fill up with water. This is what’s known as the invisible flush. All throughout the day, your toilet is draining itself from the tank to the bowl and constantly filling up with water over and over. This can cause a massive amount of water loss throughout the day, let alone the month… and can certainly cause a spike in your water bill.
The second issue you could be dealing with within your toilet is the fill valve itself. When you flush the toilet, the fill valve has two jobs. First, it is pouring water down a line in the tank that is directly connected to your drain. This aids the sewage in flowing down the drain pipes. Second, the fill valve refills the toilet tank again allowing you to flush when you need to. The issue comes when the fill valve breaks and is constantly pouring water down the line connected to your drain. This, although not as common as the invisible flush, will cause even more water usage as water is constantly flowing down your drain!
Your pool plumbing can sometimes be a closed circuit, not connected to your home plumbing in any way… and other times it can be directly connected to your home’s plumbing system. It all depends on how the contractor built the pool
It’s pretty easy to tell if your pool is connected to your home plumbing or not. The question you need to answer is, how do you fill your pool? A very common way to fill your pool is to turn a hose on and put the hose in the pool until it fills to the desired level. Another way is to simply turn on a valve, and there is a dedicated pipe running underground that will fill your pool. Lastly, some homes even have an auto-fill feature which is so nice! If you have to fill your pool manually with a hose, your pool is not the source of your high water bill. However, if your pool has a dedicated underground line or an auto-fill feature, your high water bill could be caused by your pool.
If you fill your pool by turning on a valve and letting that underground pipe fill the pool, a very common issue is that the valve itself is broken… broken in the sense that it isn’t shutting off 100%. Sometimes the valve seems to be off, but there’s just a little bit of water squeaking through, which is happening all day and night, will add up to a jump in your bill.
If you, on the other hand, have an auto-fill feature, a leak within your pool system can actually cause a high water bill. The auto full feature works much like a toilet fill valve. When the water level of the pool gets low, the autofill kicks on and fills the pool. If your pool is leaking and constantly losing water, the autofill will turn on and be constantly filling your pool. You’d never know you had a leak in your pool as the water level would remain relatively the same because as it’s losing water it’s getting it right back from the autofill. So this type of issue could be going on for quite some time before you even know, which could rack up quite the bill.
Irrigation leaks can also be a tough one to notice. Much like issues with your pool, an irrigation leak might be going on for a while before you notice. You have two types of irrigation lines. First is your pressurized lines, which bring water to the irrigation zone valves. They are under constant pressure and if they were leaking, could potentially cause significant damage quickly. Second you have your non pressurized lines, which are the pipes that are past the zone valves. They are the pipes that feed your sprinkler heads for instance. They are not under pressure until the zone turns on, then they fill with water and your sprinkler heads pop watering your lawn.
Sometimes your zone valves can break, causing a small amount of water to continuously flow into the non-pressurized lines. This will not be enough pressure to cause the sprinkler heads to pop, but water can still, ever so slowly, seep out of the sprinklers. You may notice your lawn looking extra wet at times, or water continuously coming out of the area drains at the curb. If this is the case, water is running 24/7 without there even being a hole or break in a pipe. The repair in this case would simply be to replace the faulty zone valve.
Water Filtering Systems
There are different types of water filtering systems, however, each can have a similar problem that can cause water to be running 24/7 without you knowing. One such system is the reverse osmosis system, which is installed to purify drinking water in your kitchen. Another system is the whole house water softening and or conditioning system. Both of these systems take in the city’s water, purify it, drain the excess impurities, and give you clean, filtered water for your home.
Reverse Osmosis systems, also called R/O systems, which are typically installed underneath your kitchen sink, are filter systems that give you purified drinking water. The filtering process for the R/O system isn’t instantaneous. For this reason, these systems have a storage tank kept underneath the sink, which can hold various amounts of purified water so it’s ready on command when you need it. R/O systems are connected directly to your drain line as well for when they purify the water, they need to dispose of the nonpure water elements. What can happen is the R/O system breaks and keeps taking in city water and dispensing it right down the drain. It’s not a ton of water, but it will be constant. Because the water is going right down the drain, you probably won’t notice it until you get your next water bill.
Much like the R/O system, water softening and conditioning systems work very similarly. City water flows through the softener and resin beads, which act like sponges to soak up all the unwanted calcium and magnesium in the water. Once these resin beads are full, the softener runs a salty water solution through the resin tank which releases the calcium and magnesium from the resin beads, then it flushes all that salty calcium and magnesium-filled water down the drain. Sometimes these softening systems break and continuously flush water down the drain. Again, because the water is going right down the drain, it’s not causing any damage and might go unnoticed for a while until you get that high water bill.
The good news
If any of these issues are causing your high water bill… believe it or not this is actually good news as the alternative is having a slab leak somewhere, which is much more costly, mentally and financially. These fixture leaks can sometimes be easily fixed.
Maybe you do have a slab leak
Well if you have checked each one of those systems and none of them are the source of your leaking… you might be dealing with a slab leak. If your pressurized line leak was above ground somewhere, you’d instantly see some damage, and assuming you don’t, it’s pretty safe to assume you have a slab leak. So now what?
Although slab leaks are always bad news… there can be glimmers of hope. It’s time to hire a leak detection company. Not only should they be able to find the leak, but they should also be able to tell you exactly what pipe the leak is in as well as where that pipe is coming from and going. This is extremely important as knowing exactly what pipe has the leak gives you the option to reroute the pipe overhead. When dealing with a slab leak, you can jackhammer the floor and repair the pipe in the ground, or bypass the leak and reroute the pipe overhead. Generally speaking, repairing a small piece of a bad pipe is not as good of a repair as getting a brand new pipe. Sometimes you can get lucky; not only is the reroute a better and longer-lasting repair, but it can also be the cheaper repair as well. It all depends on where the leak is, and where the pipe carrying the leak is. When searching for the right leak detection company, make sure to ask if they can not only locate the leak but if they are also able to give you a reroute option.
Getting credit back on your water bill
After you have dealt with whatever was causing your high water bill… there is still hope to get some money back. There are many water districts, municipalities, and cities that offer rebates on your sky-high water bill. It is normal to see them offering you credit back on future bills. It might be worth giving them a call and or searching online for a rebate form. Just make sure to take photos if one of your fixtures was causing your high bill, or get an invoice from your leak detection company if you had a slab leak just in case they need some sort of proof.
What was causing your high water bill and how’d you find out? Let us know in the comments!