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How can I prevent water leaks?

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Water leaks may seem harmless, but they can quickly escalate into one of the biggest problems around your home. Not only do leaks waste water, but they can also send utility bills sky-high, invite mold growth, and cause expensive damage to your house.

As you review your homeís efficiency this Earth Month, take these simple steps to get rid of water leaks.

1. Update your appliances

Older toilets can be some of the biggest water wasters in your house. Toilers installed before 1992 can use as many as seven gallons of water with every flush. However, all toilets sold since 1992 must use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush. And toilets that have earned the WaterSense label from the Environmental Protection Agency use 1.28 gallons per flush or less and provide the same performance as less-efficient toilets.

To avoid flushing your hard-earned money down the toilet, consider upgrading older toilets to new, high-efficient models like WaterSense toilets. The EPA says these water-saving latrines can save 13,000 gallons of water per year for an average annual savings of $140.

While toilets account for the most water usage, you shouldnít overlook other appliances. For instance, washing machines account for nearly a quarter of your water use. High-efficiency washing machines use less water, and many models let you adjust for the size of the laundry load. Similarly, newer dishwashers that carry the Energy Star logo use less water and consume less energy than older models.

2. Look out for leaks

Check indoor fixtures for the telltale signs of a leak. Low pressure from faucets, musty smells, ceiling stains, and water discoloration can mean you need to take a closer look.

For outdoor fixtures, pay attention to unexpected muddy spots and spongy grass. Turn faucets on and off again, then look for dripping or signs of leaks around the wall or faucet base. If you find soggy points away from the main water line, thereís a good chance they involve the sprinkler system.

If you think you might have a leak but canít find it on your own, call a plumber for help. Modern tools and miniature camera lines allow them to accurately pinpoint where water is coming from ó and where itís going.

3. Find the valves

Most plumbing fixtures have a shut-off valve that should be easily accessible near the floor or under cabinets. This offers a temporary solution if a fixture is leaking significant amounts of water. And if you have a significant leak on an internal line, you might need to shut off your homeís primary water supply to stop rushing water.

A house built on a slab usually has the valve near the water heater tank. If you have a basement, thatís where youíll likely find the valve. Your plumber can show you exactly where your valve is if you canít find it on your own.

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