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So you think you have a leak. Maybe it’s obvious, maybe it isn’t. Are you just being paranoid? Let’s try to find out.

If you’ve noticed disturbed dust patterns that look suspiciously like a dirty car after the rain has dried, we would agree that there’s been water disturbing that dust at some point. Whether the water was from an open window during the rain, a leaky supply line, or a kid with a spray bottle… well, that’s harder to tell.

3016623514_4767b8c91b_bNaturally if you see water, just follow the drips, turn off the nearest shutoff valve, and either fix it or call your plumber. But if there’s no water now – just dusty evidence – you still might be able to find the leak.

Water follows the path of least resistance. There’s a pretty good chance if you found evidence of a leak (and it hasn’t been fixed), that water will travel that way again. One trick to help find where the drips are dropping from calls for a paper towel or paper bag. This is a useful trick in rental homes, especially when you’ve just moved in (since a leak may have been fixed, but the cleanup job may not have been too great). Grab a paper towel, a paper bag, or even a newspaper and put it under where you suspect dripping. If a drip falls, it will leave a spot, which should help you find where the drip originated. You can also try making an ink grid on the paper using some sort of non-permanent marker to make any drips more obvious.

If there are supply lines or appliances around the suspect area, check them carefully for rips or splits, unattached hoses, or anything else that looks like it could cause a leak. If all looks right, turn on the water (or water-using appliance), making sure you can turn if off again quickly just in case. Check for leaks (you may need to wait a few minutes), and turn everything back off. If you see drips on your paper, put a bowl or bucket to catch the water, then trace that drip back to where it came from. Once you know what’s leaking, you can fix it yourself or call your landlord and/or plumber and let them know what you found (and how you found it).

If you see nothing at the time, it might just be a really slow leak. Check on it daily or more often to see if drips fall when you’re not looking. If you have no drips after a week or so, the leak might have been taken care of, or it might have been that kid after all. Or maybe it only appears when it rains. We offer a terrific assortment of water alarms if you want to be notified exactly when the leak reappears. Either way, still check every so often, and mention it to the professionals the next time you see them.

Please keep in mind that just because you cannot identify a leak yourself, doesn’t 16210157_eafc4ed950_zalways mean you don’t have one. Listen to your gut and look at the evidence. If you feel something isn’t right, your water bill suddenly shoots up, your water meter seems to be running a marathon, or you hear running water when nothing is on and can’t find the reason, don’t wait, call your trusted local plumber right away! Not all leaks are easily visible, or leave obvious clues. Some leaks, like ones under a home, may manifest as a warm spot under your feet that hasn’t been there before, or a yard that suddenly has squishy places (possibly broken sprinkler pipe, but also a potential septic issue). These sort of leaks require a licensed plumber quickly.

Your turn: what’s the best/worst false alarm or weirdest leak you’ve seen?

If you’ve installed a new fill valve, and are certain that everything else in the toilet is working properly, leaks could very well be high water pressure. If your water pressure is so high that it leaks past a Fluidmaster 400A or another new ballcock (aka: “toilet fill valve”) – then you NEED a pressure reducing valve. Other water pipes, connectors, clothes washing machine hoses and your water heater could leak or break. Best to get a water pressure regulator if your pressure to the house is more than 60 pounds (80 is code throughout most of the U.S.).

As many parts of the country either face or experience another drought year ahead, water conservation tips abound. Overall, many water saving efforts focus on using less, but there are plenty of ways to collect water that would otherwise run down the drain – like putting a bucket in the shower or a basin in the sink. But what do you do with all that leftover water? Especially if you don’t have plants or a lawn to water?

Using it to flush your toilet will both reduce consumption and save all that “leftover” water from being sacrificed needlessly. The best part? It’s fairly easy to do. You’ll need at least a gallon to effectively move the waste from the bowl, possibly more if there’s solid waste.

Start slowly and simply pour the leftover water into the bowl. No need to remove the tank lid or flush the handle. The extra water and gravity will do all the work, and you get the satisfaction of knowing that you’re saving literally gallons of clean water every day.

Yes and no. A toilet with no vent may not flush the contents out of the bowl, but any other drain will work without a vent. (NOTE: the code is that all fixtures shall be vented). In my experience, only twice in 15 years has a vent been the cause of a drain backup. In one case it was roofers who stuffed the old roofing material down the vents and the other was just a stray piece of wood. In both cases the material made its way down into the drain pipe and had to be removed. No amount of vent cleaning would have done any good.

It is illegal (and not a very environmentally or plumbing friendly practice) to connect any rain or ground water to the sewer or a septic tank. IF, however, you do hookup – at the very least put a trap in the line to keep sewer gas out of the house.

Gas hot water heaters have to be at least 18″ off the floor because combustible fumes sink, and to provide adequate air intake.

This question depends largely on what you feel most comfortable with in your home. Most families will set their thermostat to 68 degrees in the winter. Businesses often set theirs as high as 72 degrees to make customers who have been out in the cold more comfortable. Keep in mind that maintaining good humidity can reduce the need for heat and allow you to maintain a lower thermostat setting.

Never use a non–heating appliance to heat your home. If you have electric heat, the risk of someone getting burned or a fire starting is high. If you have gas, you may even risk a gas leak or the possibility of a fire. If you do not have heat, call a professional immediately for emergency service on your heating system. If your lack of heat is due to electricity or gas outage, call your utility provider and then leave your home to find somewhere safe with heat.

A furnace operates by heating air within the furnace unit and then circulating it through your home through a blower via ducts. The warm air is transported through vents in the rooms of your house to keep you warm.

A boiler is different in that it heats water to just short of boiling (about 180 degrees) and then circulates the hot water throughout your home through pipes in radiators or baseboard heaters. There are also steam boilers that will heat the water beyond boiling and use the resulting steam to heat your home via radiators.

If you have a stove or fireplace, in a den or living room, it can help to reduce your heating costs in that room. However, it will only work if the thermostat reading is taken in the vicinity of the fireplace. If there are thermostats in bedrooms or the kitchen where the heat is not fully circulated, your heater may still turn on and use energy.

If you use a fireplace in the winter, make sure you have it properly cleaned and maintained at least once a year. A dirty fireplace or clogged flue can result in carbon monoxide buildup or the spread of fire in your home.

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