Today on Fix-A-Leak Week, we’re looking at accidental household water wastage in a slightly different way. If you’ve been following our daily posts this week, you’re basically experts yourself on the kind of damage that leaks can cause, both environmentally and fiscally. We’ve been introduced to different types of household leaks and how to manage them. We’ve discovered the impact of our daily usage and undetected leaks on global water supply. We’ve even heard about little Johnny Slaphandle and visualized leaks with some fun (and surprising) comparisons. As we’ve mentioned before, a leaking toilet is one of the leading causes of unintentional water usage in the household. But now, it’s time to talk about the real enemy: a running toilet.

That’s right! That innocent-looking toilet sitting right in your bathroom can do even more damage than we’ve discussed. To put it into perspective, the average leaking toilet wastes around 200 gallons a day. The average running toilet can waste – wait for it! – 200 gallons in a single hour. Don’t believe us?

Let’s investigate the math.

According to Water Management Inc., if we’re dealing with a standard 1.5-gallon toilet that refills in about 30 seconds, each minute opens the gates for at least 3 gallons. Here at nth Solutions, after years of experimental testing and experience, we believe that number is actually closer to 5 gallons a minute. Nonetheless, even the minimal 3 gallons can do the trick: at least 180 gallons an hour means more than 4300 gallons in a day.

And we can even consider the extremes for a second. What if the toilet in question was in that one extra household bathroom in the deep corner of your house that only gets used once in a blue moon, or in this case – once in a month? Listen folks, we know it’s hard to believe – but let’s face it: all catastrophes usually are. And with this hypothetical catastrophe? You could waste almost 130,000 gallons in one month, enough to fill a water tank with a 30-foot diameter and a 25-foot height.

We may have gotten ahead of ourselves, but it’s something to consider. Either way, let’s take a step back from the extreme and answer a very valid question. How does this even happen? A running toilet occurs when the flapper in the tank stays wide open, as opposed to a leaking toilet, in which the flapper is either decaying or only partially closed. To help understand just how those circumstances can occur, we’ve outlined 7 reasons how the flapper in the toilet tank might not close properly.

 

 

Now, although you know how the nightmare of a running toilet can start, there’s still a whole other side that leads to the overall problem: how can it possibly go unnoticed for so long? It may seem unbelievable to think that you wouldn’t detect an open flood of water freely flowing through your toilet within the first few minutes, but once again circumstances can be surprising!

Here are a few reasons why a wide-open flapper could go undetected for a long time:

 

 

Imagine picking up 4320 gallon-jugs of water from the store and pouring them down the toilet, one at a time. Well, your toilet can do the equivalent with much more ease in little time! And while that kind of water waste may be unfathomable coming from such a small-sized culprit, we’ve shown that it most definitely is possible. So, if there’s one thing we learned with our investigation today, it’s that assumptions aren’t always true when it comes to the damage that a running toilet can do.

Dye Tablets

5 Reasons why dye tablets are not accurate:

The LeakAlertor takes away the frustration of high water bills, and saves you money! Unlike dye tablets, the LeakAlertor is constantly at work checking for silent leaks, wide-open flappers, and faulty fill valves. It alerts you before you leave the bathroom with a “beep” and blinking LED during the flush cycle.

1) Errors are made in using dye tablets.
Often times, dye tablets are used incorrectly. Some people have mistakenly put the tablet in the toilet bowl rather than the toilet tank…test ruined! Some have put the tablet in the tank, and flushed the toilet immediately…test ruined! Some people drop the tablet in the tank, but then walk away and forget…again, test ruined!

2) Not all toilet leaks are caught by dye tablets.
Dye tablets can only detect one type of leak – a leaking flapper – and only if it’s leaking at the time of the test. However, stuck flush valves, wide-open flappers, phantom flushes, and running toilets are all common leaks not detected by dye tablets.

3) By the time you use a dye tablet your toilet may have already been leaking for weeks, or even months.
Often times, homeowners don’t realize a toilet is leaking because they think a leak should mean there is water on the floor. However, the most common leaks occur either at the flapper, or where the tank and bowl connect. These leaks occur inside the toilet, and are almost always invisible.

4) Intermittent leaks are often missed by dye tablets.
Just because your toilet isn’t leaking at the moment of testing doesn’t mean it wasn’t leaking an hour ago, or won’t be leaking an hour from now. Also, when a flapper first begins to leak, the amount may be too small for dye tablets to detect.

5) It’s not easy to get dye tablets.
Few hardware stores actually sell them, and it’s a hassle to contact your water utility for free tablets. You can buy them on-line, but you have to pay for shipping and wait for them to arrive. Meanwhile, your toilet continues to leak, and your water bill gets even higher!

7 Reasons why the flapper/flush-valve won't close:

1)  The flapper is “stuck” to the overflow pipe.
One observable symptom: it is not bobbing or floating in the water, regardless of the water height, and appears to be partially or fully upright.

2)  The chain is tangled.
A chain link can get stuck on the metal clip or loop over the top of the lever arm. Although an improper chain length causes many of these problems, “slapping” the flush handle can also cause the chain to hang up.

3)  A clogged drain/obstructed pipe produces back pressure through the flush valve seat.
The obstruction doesn’t allow the water level inside the tank to drop low enough for the flapper to seat properly. In this instance, the flapper appears to “hover” in the water above the flush valve seat. A clogged or obstructed drain pipe is the most common reason for toilets to overflow the bowl.

4)  A “universal” replacement flapper is purchased.
When a “universal” replacement flapper is purchased, it does not seat properly on the flush valve. Flappers should be purchased according to the type of flush valve used because universal flappers can leak and/or fail to seat up to 50% of the time.

5)  The flush handle/lever is old, defective, or “sticking” to the inside of the toilet tank.
Old or defective equipment can result in the flapper being held open.

6)  The flapper hinges are weakened and/or degraded.
This allows the flapper to slide to the side and not seat properly on the flush valve. (Note: the water flow from the fill valve can also push the flapper to one side if it is above 60 PSI.)

7)  A flapper’s buoyancy doesn’t become “negative” until the tank completely evacuates.
This does not allow the flapper to seat properly. Although there are several known causes (including toilet design), the most common is a clogged or obstructed drain pipe, which creates back pressure into the tank through the flush valve.


5 Common reasons why wide-open flappers often go undetected:

1)  No one is home to hear it running.
Often times, a person will use the bathroom before they leave their home (or business). In this case, a wide-open flapper would not be detected until the person returned home and realized the problem. This could be hours, or even the following day.

2)  The bathroom is not used frequently.
A wide-open flapper in secondary bathrooms (a finished basement or guest bathroom) can go undetected for days or weeks, wasting a tremendous amount of water and resulting in a high water bill.

3)  Hearing impaired/challenged people may fail to recognize a problem exists.
People with moderate to severe hearing loss may be unable to hear the running water. People afflicted with tinnitus may be unable to distinguish the sound of the running water from their tinnitus.

4)  The sound of the toilet tank refilling is a muted hum.
The initial flush of a toilet is loud, brief, and occurs while the user is still in the bathroom. However, the refilling of the toilet is quieter, prolonged, and typically finishes after the user has left the bathroom. Therefore, the user is unaware when the flapper remains wide-open.

5)  Background noise can easily mask the sound of a wide-open flapper or flush valve.
Examples include central air conditioners and HVAC systems (while the fan is operating); ceiling and window fans; music and/or TV; etc.