Ring, ring! Is your toilet running? Well, you better go catch it!

Especially if you want to save your water bill. Although you may think that faulty meters, cracked water pipes, or mistakes by the water utility are the most likely contributors to a spike in your water bill, they’re all overshadowed by something much closer to home: a running toilet.

Before we get into the dollars and cents, to really understand the impact of a running toilet on your water bill, it’s important to understand how your bill is calculated by your water company in the first place. Each water utility calculates monthly totals in different ways based on different factors. However, there’s a basic billing philosophy that holds true for all: water in, water out.

Let’s look into it. Each month, your bill typically consists of three parts: a service fee, a usage fee, and taxes. However, what often comes as a surprise, is that you actually pay for all of these parts – twice: for water coming into your home (for drinking, showering, cooking, etc.) and for the water that exits, so that the utilities can cover the treatment and transportation on both ends.

This water in, water out billing philosophy is part of the reason why leaking, and especially, running toilets have a much larger-than-expected impact on a monthly water bill. Since we are not consciously using the water and aren’t aware of it coming into or going out of the home, it becomes difficult to truly gauge how much water and money is going straight down the drain – literally. And the bad news is: it can be way more than expected and can double – or even triple – your water bill.

Don’t believe it? Let’s take a look at a hypothetical family of four: The Slaphandles.

Last month, they used 3,000 gallons of water, so their utility charged them for “30 billing units.”  Their bill has a water service charge (water in) of $16.50, and a wastewater service charge (water out) of $10.00. Their water usage charge is 30 units at $1.22 each ($36.60,) and their waste water usage charge was 30 units at $1.51 each ($45.30.) Remember, this is only 3000 gallons of water.

This month, they unknowingly had a leaking flapper in one of their toilets, silently wasting 50 gallons of water every day. On top of that, they had a couple common toilet mishaps occur as well. Earlier in the month, when they left for work and school, the Slaphandles didn’t realize that one of their toilets was running! And although they found out and fixed it as soon as they got home, they didn’t think much more of it for the rest of the month. The second time it happened, Dad said something to the family about being more careful.

What will these toilet problems do to their water bill?

The leaking toilet will waste around 1500 gallons over the month. The running toilet, at a rate of 3 gallons per minute, running for 8 hours is also nearly 1500 gallons of water – and it happened twice. That’s a total of 4500 gallons of water wasted by just one toilet this month! Since their combined water in/water out billing rate is $2.73, and they used an extra 45 units, their next bill will skyrocket by more than $120: double what they normally pay.

And what’s worse? Both of these problems (the leaking flapper and the wide-open flapper,) are only going to get worse with time.

But what can we do? Schedules get hectic, accidents happen, and sometimes, those sneaky wide-open flappers fly right over our heads. We can’t always prevent them. But we can detect them – preferably, as early as possible. That’s exactly where the LeakAlertor comes in. LeakAlertor constantly monitors your toilet for leaks, running toilets, and overflows so you don’t have to. And the best part? It notifies you both audibly and visually before you even leave the bathroom. So in honor of Fix-A-Leak Week, check out the LeakAlertor!

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.