Stop the Drain on Your Dollars!

Posted Monday, January 04, 2016

You may think those little leaks in your bathroom don't amount to a drop in the bucket. Not so. The sneakiest drip can be found in your bathroom toilet. Toilet tank leaks, almost undetectable to the naked eye, can add significantly to your monthly bill.

Toilets use about 26 percent of all of the water in the average home. Toilets are also one of the likeliest places to find leaks. According to WaterSense, a partnership program by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 10 percent of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more per day. If your toilet is running constantly, you could be wasting 200 gallons of water or more every day.

You can reduce your impact on the environment and save money and water by fixing some leaks yourself. Follow these easy steps for repairing common toilet leaks.

Step 1 – Find the leak
Sometimes it is easy to tell that your toilet is leaking—you hear the sound of running water or a faint hissing or trickling. But many times, water flows through the tank silently, which is why toilet leaks are often overlooked. To test your toilet, lift the lid off the toilet tank. Drop one Leak Detective dye tablet (free at Skagit PUD) or several drops of food coloring into the tank (do not flush). Wait at least 15 minutes and check the bowl of the toilet. If there is dye in the bowl, the toilet has a leak.

Step 2 – Check the chain
If you have to jiggle the handle to keep the toilet from running, it may be a misaligned flapper valve, a loose handle, or an incorrect length of chain.

To fix: Clean and adjust the chain. Make sure the chain is neither too long nor too short. Tighten the nut that holds the toilet handle to the tank. If that does not work, the handle may have to be replaced.

Step 3 – Check the flapper
The flapper valve may not be sitting properly on the valve seat, or it may need to be replaced. Over time, the flapper’s rubber material deteriorates. If you gently rub the flapper and get streaks on your fingers, you should replace it now.

To fix: Drain your toilet tank. Close the water inlet shut-off valve to turn it off. Flush the toilet to drain the tank. Check the valve seat for corrosion and clean it if necessary. Check the flapper valve to make sure it's lining up properly with the valve seat. If needed, replacement flappers can easily be purchased at hardware stores and some large grocery stores. Follow the instructions on the flapper valve packaging.
After installing the new flapper valve, open the water inlet shut-off valve and flush to test.

Step 4 – Check the overflow tube
If the water level in the tank is too high, it may continuously spill into the overflow tube, creating a large leak. The correct water level is about one-half to one inch below the top of the overflow tube.

To fix: Look for the fill level mark on the inside back of the tank and mark it on the overflow tube so you can see it more easily. If you can’t find it, measure down about one inch on the overflow tube and make a mark. Then flush the toilet and see if the water reaches and stops at that mark. If not, adjust the float up or down. If you have an old toilet, you’ll have to bend the brass rod that connects to the float ball to make adjustments. But with newer toilets you usually turn a screw or slide a clip along a rod. Flush the toilet after each adjustment.

If the water level is too low, you may not get an efficient flush. In that case, carefully bend the float arm upward, or, for newer toilets, pinch the clip and slide the float up or down on the rod. Keep adjusting the float until the water shuts off at the proper level.

Other problems
While some toilet repairs are easy, others are more complicated. Know your limitations—call a plumber if you have any concerns about how to make a repair. Skagit PUD will not be responsible for any damage to your home or toilet because of faulty repairs.