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Q: How can I tell if my pool is leaking or if the water loss is just normal evaporation?

A: Try the bucket test to determine if water loss is due to evaporation or a leak.

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Q: How should I choose a leak detection specialist?

A: Technology that allows an experienced leak specialist to isolate the area of a leak can save an average consumer hundreds of dollars in needless hit and miss digging. Unfortunately, many consumers still have to bear costs associated with search and destroy methods when they call service men that have no modern leak detection equipment or no modern leak detection skills. To avoid needless damage to your property and other unnecessary costs, here are some things you should look for when choosing a leak detection company:

In the unfortunate event that you experience a leak problem, it can be critical to both your pocketbook and your long-term property value that you take the right steps to solve your problem. No one wants to pay excessive fees or incur the property damage that results from having the wrong people on the job.

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Q: Before I bring in a leak specialist to find a leak in my home, aren’t there some steps that I can take to try and find the problem myself?

A: The following list includes some pointers we often share with home and building owners who want to do some leak hunting of their own. These tidbits apply primarily to leak search areas that do not require advanced electronic leak detection tools and years of experience using them.

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Q: I recently noticed a consistent flow of bubbles coming through the return pipe to my pool. What is causing this to occur?

A: We receive a lot of phone calls asking the same question. In most cases, a pool or spa owner has checked all of his or her pool equipment and even had a pool service technician do the same. Even after tightening every visible screw and lubricating all of the obvious seals, the bubbles continue to flow through the return lines. So what might be happening?

In most cases, air is getting into the system at some point that just might not be discernable to most homeowners or even pool service men. For example, there may be a leak on an underground suction line. As the pump draws water from the pool through this line, it also draws air through the leak. Without x-ray vision, homeowners and most pool service companies cannot detect this kind of leak. It takes specialized testing with modern leak detection equipment, something a good leak detection company can perform.

Besides underground leaks that allow air intrusion into the system, there may even be leaks on above ground equipment that cannot be detected without modern leak detection methods.

There is one other possibility that is not leak related. Sometimes the impeller inside the pump becomes so worn that it actually spins too fast. As a result, the impeller can end up spinning fast enough to break apart water molecules and form air bubbles to be sent through the return lines.

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Q: I recently called on a service company to search for a leak in my hot and cold water lines. The technician came to my house and spent only about five minutes looking for the leak. Then he said I should have my home totally repiped instead of having the leak found and fixed. Apparently the plumbing is so corroded that it is not worth the headache of fixing. Is this good advice?

A: While it is true that plumbing can deteriorate with time, we do not generally recommend replacing all of the plumbing in your home due to the cost. When you talk about repiping a home, you have to consider that you will spend a considerable amount of money on the repipe work alone. In addition to the cost of the repipe, there is additional expense associated with the restoration work that is required on the walls that the pipes are plumbed in and through. Locating and repairing the leak is more typically around $1,000, much less than a repipe.

There are occasions when a full repipe is a good choice. For instance, we would strongly consider a repipe if there had been several leaks on the same line in a short period of time. The objective of quality leak detection is to identify the problem first and proceed to choose the best, most cost effective, and least destructive repair method.

If you want to make the best choice, you should have all of your options before you. What if the leak is outside the home? By taking incomplete advice, you might pay for a repipe of the indoor plumbing and still have the leak problem. If a company is not willing to provide you with accurate, valid information about the leak location and some reasonable repair offers, you should be concerned with the soundness of their advice.

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Q: I have a large pond in my back yard that I think is causing my high water bill. Can it be tested for leaks?

A: Absolutely. Modern leak detection technology has made it possible to test even large water holding structures such as ponds and fountains. Not every company is equipped or experienced enough to handle large pond leak detection work, but there are companies out there that specialize in this kind of work.

Depending on the amount of water loss, the size of the recirculating system, and the condition of the pond interior, a good leak detection company should be able to give you a summary of all the work involved and a reasonable estimate for the leak detection.

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Q: Over the past few days, I have noticed a ‘humming’ noise that seems to be coming from the pipes under my bathroom sink. Does this indicate a leak of some sort?

A: Usually yes. A ‘humming’ sound coming from a water pipe is often a good indication of water loss occurring somewhere along the piping system. This can occur in two ways: Loss through a fixture or outlet (i.e. faucet or leaky toilet) or loss through an actual leakage point along the line.

It is pretty easy to understand the way a running fixture makes noise on pipes. Water flows at a rapid rate through the line and causes the pipe to vibrate as the water leaves the outlet. Also, friction created by the water flow against the inside of the pipe sends vibrations that can be detected by the human ear.

The sound created by a leak in the pipe itself is a little more complex to understand. Essentially, the humming sound created by a leak in the pipe is driven by a pressure difference between the water inside the pipe and the ambient atmospheric pressure around the pipe.

When a leak develops in a pipe, a pressure loss occurs in the pipe at the leak site as the pressure in the pipe tries to equalize with the pressure outside the pipe. This pressure loss creates pressure waves that travel in both directions down the pipe and away from the leak. We call this ‘leak energy.’

In most cases, the human ear alone cannot hear this leak energy. It takes electronic leak detection tools that amplify selected sounds. If you can hear the leak energy without equipment, there is a good chance the leak is close by or has developed in size enough to be quite loud.

If the humming sound you hear is not from flow or a leak in the pipe, a contact point between the pipe and a vibrating appliance or machine such as a refrigerator or air conditioning unit could also cause it.

In any of the cases mentioned above, you can save some time and money by taking a look around your home for some obvious clues. Double-check all of your interior faucets and toilets. Check outside hose bibs and valves, too. If you don’t find anything, you may need to call a leak detection specialist to perform further investigation with specialized electronic equipment and professional experience.

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