Leaks in American homes account for, on average, 10,000 gallons of wasted water per home every year, according to WaterSense, a division of the Environmental Protection Agency. The DIY Network offers a helpful list of the Top 10 things homeowners should know of about plumbing leaks.
- Wrap your pipes. Pipes, especially exterior piping should be wrapped in insulation. If the cold-water pipes touch the exterior portion of the building, when the water isn't being used and the temperature is very cold, most likely the pipes will freeze. The only time water won't freeze is when it's moving, so it's is a good idea to leave all the faucets open while you're away from home for any length of time during cold weather. The best thing you can do, however, is insulate the whole space.
- Even a non-plumbing expert can spot a problem. Check any visible plumbing in your home, just to keep on top of it. Homeowners often don't routinely check; then a puddle of water appears in the basement, damaging their valuables, and they had no inkling that anything was amiss. You can look at the pipes in your basement and have no idea what you're looking at, but if you see rust, buckling or drops of water, you'll definitely know something's wrong.
- Clutter under your sink can hide a leak. Under your kitchen sink, just take a peek every once in a while and see if there are any drips. It's always a good idea to take a look.
- Set back the spigot valve. In some cases, a frost-free hose bib should be installed, especially if the pipe is going through a cement foundation. The hose bib allows you to shut off the water closer to the inside of the home to help prevent freezing.
- Radiators need a good level and an open valve. The first thing you have to do is check the pitch of the radiator: it should always be pitched back toward the source of the steam. That way, when that water condenses, it can drain back to the boiler.
- Leaky water heater = dead water heater. The biggest problem is that the lining wears away and you get water dripping from the base. If a lot of water is dripping, call the manufacturer and provide the model number; you may get lucky and find that the product is still under warranty. When you do change the water heater, try to install a pan under it.
- Don't blow a gasket — replace it. If you have water dripping from the shower spout, most of the time the cause is a defective washer or defective seat within its body. As long as you have isolation valves to isolate water to that area, it should be a relatively easy fix. Isolate the water to that shower, disassemble the handles and take out the stem where the washer is; then replace, reinstall and observe it.
- Trace the trap leak back to the wall. When you have a leak, often it may be on the back side, where it actually connects to the wall, in which case you'll have to disassemble the drain work. Oftentimes you can even tighten it with your hands to see whether the leaking stops. If it doesn't, just use a wrench to tighten it up a little.
- Washers and o-rings are much cheaper than a new fixture. If a washer is worn, even though you squeeze it, you may still get a drip if it's defective. You have to remove what's defective, put in a new washer, retighten it, put the handle back on and test it out.
- Mechanical faucets never last forever. A faucet is a mechanical thing, so eventually it's going to leak. Some people like the faucet that's already there, even if it's older; others prefer to install a new one. There's a point at which the faucet is so old and corroded that it will be difficult to get parts for it. A lot of the time it's simply cheaper to install a new one.
“10 Things You Must Know: Plumbing Leaks,” http://www.diynetwork.com/plumbing/10-things-you-must-know-plumbing-leaks/pictures/index.html