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Huge water consumption - is it likely to be a leak or a faulty meter

(13 Posts)
stripytees Sat 07-Feb-15 16:54:19

Had a water meter installed in October 2014 and just had the first metered bill today - covering 29th Oct - 3rd Feb.

The usage is 152 m3! (Meter read by Thames Water and then checked by me so the reading is correct, and I know it's the correct meter because my outside stop tap is in the same little hole under a cover on the pavement.)

Thames Water is going to send someone to look at it in the next 20 days but in the meantime, I'm just worried about it being an internal leak which they mentioned as a possibility.

I have checked the toilet and there is definitely no water moving anywhere in the pan or in the cistern when it's not flushed. I'm 100% sure it's not leaking.

I have no water tank - hot water is supplied by a combi boiler I had fitted in September.

There is only running water downstairs in the house (downstairs bathroom and obviously kitchen).

No overflow pipes outside are dripping. I can't hear the sound of running water anywhere in the house.

Water pressure from taps etc. is excellent, so I'm thinking it's unlikely to be a leak from an internal supply pipe?

As the usage is so very high (it's about what a family of five would use in a year!) and I live by myself, it simply can't be from normal usage, even Thames Water immediately agreed about this.

Is there anywhere else to check for leaks? I'm having nightmares about huge amounts of water destroying the foundations of the house as we speak... but that's very unlikely, isn't it?

IDismyname Sat 07-Feb-15 16:59:44

We had something similar a few years ago. Our water meter is about 50 yards from the house, and it was the pipe from that to the house that was leaking. They're quite good at finding it.

Suggest you dont use ANY appliances that will draw water. The go and have a look at the 'clock' and see if its whirring around - indicating a leak.

Our water company made us mend the leak as the pipe belonged to us, and said they give a one off allowance for leaks. If it happens again, we have to pay the full amount.

CoffeeBeanie Sat 07-Feb-15 17:00:11

You can turn all the taps off, everything that uses water, washing machine, dishwasher etc and then check if the meter is running.

Chavaloy Sat 07-Feb-15 17:00:50

I once had a faulty water meter. New flat. Our first bill was for £1,441 (if I remember correctly) - can't remember the amount of water they said we'd used. I saw the figure and burst into tears thinking we couldn't afford our new flat if the water bill was going to be this high every six months!
Apparently we'd used as much water as a small factory! We were not made to pay as it was obvious a 2 bed flat couldn't use that much water and that the meter was faulty.

silverfingersandtoes Sat 07-Feb-15 18:26:53

Do you have an outside tap? Welsh Water have increased my D/D from £40 to £57 after a surprising high 6-monthly meter reading.
I know what caused it - I have builders in, and a hose attached to the outside tap was left running all night. I even heard it running as I went to sleep and thought it was the rain..blush

PigletJohn Sat 07-Feb-15 18:30:09

A leak in the ground is most likely. You might see a dip or hollow in the ground where the soil has subsided due to turning to mud and being washed away. Or your kitchen floor may be unusually damp.

Or you might have a garden tap or fountain.

Have you got an internal stopcock, e.g. under the sink?

Turn that off, then go and look at the meter with a torch. There is a bubble in the middle of the glass window that turns when water is being drawn. If it is still moving, water is flowing.

You may also see a plastic "T" handle, probably blue. This operates the stop cock on the meter housing. Screw it fully down. The bubble should now stop. Leave it off until you next need water. Observe if any of your neighbours complain they have no water.

If you leave a young person with sharp ears in the kitchen they may notice it gets quieter when you turn off the stopcock. The sound of an underground leak is just white noise, so you only notice it when it stops.

ShakyTheStork Sat 07-Feb-15 18:34:44

This happened to a friend of mine. They had a bill for £3000. It turned out that it was a leaking pipe somewhere. They had to have their drive dug up to repair it. The house insurance paid for it.

I agree with the others who say to go out and look at the water meter. If it is whizzing round take a video with your phone so you can show it to the water people.
Good luck. I hope you get it sorted soon.

PigletJohn Sat 07-Feb-15 18:45:34

If the house is old and the underground pipe might be lead, request a Lead Analysis on your drinking water from the water co. There may be a Lead Replacement Subsidy. They can be very slow at taking the sample, so get your request in fast. I had one where the new pipe was laid before they took the sample, so no lead found, so no subsidy.

They may also have a Leak Repair subsidy. Have a good look at the website.

If you do get a new pipe, have it run in 25mm plastic, or preferably 32mm, all the way from the pavement and into the house. It will give you very good flow, suitable in future for a big combi or an Unvented Cylinder such as a Megaflo, which gives unsurpassed hot water delivery. It can be laid by any builder or plumber, but the water co will want to inspect it before it is covered. The workload and cost is almost all in digging the trench. Plumbers will often prefer a labourer does it. It need not follow the same route as the old pipe.

stripytees Sun 08-Feb-15 08:11:15

How would an underground leak under the floor get fixed? What if it's under the kitchen units, under the concrete and tiled floor?!

The distance from the water meter to the house is also concrete and paving.

Really hoping it's a faulty meter instead...

TheWildRumpyPumpus Sun 08-Feb-15 08:39:25

Our house insurance covers the water bill if there is any leak, but not the cost of fixing anything that needs to be destroyed to fix it.

PigletJohn Sun 08-Feb-15 10:56:24

Unless it is a newish pipe with one faulty joint, you have to consider thst a pipe which is old enough to start leaking in one place is old enough to start leaking in another, so you are better off running a new one. Certainly when you consider the cost of damage and upheaval.

It is possible to use a moling machine to run a new pipe under a concrete drive, but you still have to dig a pit at each end and it costs more.

Look at like it like having a road dug up, it happens a hundred times an hour somewhere. If your house has solid concrete floors and the kitchen is at the back it will be tiresome unless you have access down the side. If you are lucky, some newer houses have the pipe in a duct, and you can pull the old one out and a new one in (plastic pipe is somewhat flexible).

It probably only needs doing once in 50 (steel) or a hundred (lead) years though it varies with water hardness, ground movement and luck.

I do encourage people to lay new, larger plastic pipes which give much better flow than old narrow pipes and a loft tank, and enable you to have an invented cylinder such as a Megaflo which gives unsurpassed hot water.

stripytees Sun 08-Feb-15 13:10:19

It's a Victorian terrace with carpet over floorboards except the kitchen which is has a concrete floor with tiles over. Although at least on one side of the kitchen the water pipe is above the floor but on the other side it's under the floor coming up where the sink is. I know because I had a new kitchen fitted last year.

I still doubt there can be a big leak anywhere as the water pressure would surely be affected and actually the pressure is better than anywhere else I've lived.

PigletJohn Sun 08-Feb-15 13:22:01

that's good. It will not be too difficult to run a new pipe under the wooden floors. If a Victorian terrace I expect there is not a very long distance between the house and the pavement.

In a Universal Plan house, it can often run under the front door, under the hall floor and possibly come up in the understairs cupboard.

It might be more convenient to bring the new pipe up in the kitchen without digging up the kitchen floor, it can probably run behind the kitchen units.

I imagine the old one will be a lead pipe.

The amount of water a leak loses is so big because it runs 24hrs x 365 days, so even if it is smaller than a running tap, it adds up to a vast amount.

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