Arthur and Elaine Knight pay the Metropolitan District Commission about $150 every billing cycle for water in a home they don’t live in. That home, in Bloomfield, has been vacant for a year and a half, yet sometimes it shows more water usage than the Knights’ primary home in Windsor.
“There’s no one here to use the water,” Elaine told us.
She wanted to know why she and her husband are being charged so much, so she reached out to the MDC. They offered to send an inspector out to run tests on the home’s toilets and to check if the meter was working correctly.
All the MDC’s tests came back negative, which led them to believe there must be a leak somewhere in the home.
“At that point in time, I pose the question, ‘How many gallons do you pose [were] leaking?’” said Elaine. “And that’s when I was told by MDC approximately 21,000 gallons of water is being leaked somewhere in or around the home.”
For perspective, 21,000 gallons of water is enough to fill some in-ground swimming pools. A leaky faucet that drips every second would take 10 years to fill that same volume. And the Knights say the 21,000 gallons was from just a three week period.
“If it was that type of water, you’re going to see some signs,” said Elaine.
But the house doesn’t show any signs of leaks, and the Knights still had so many unanswered questions. That prompted them to contact the Troubleshooters.
We reached out to the MDC. They declined to comment on the Knights' situation specifically but told the Troubleshooters they are looking into solving the issue. So far they have offered to replace the meter and run further tests to see if the meter has been working properly.
It might take a while before Arthur and Elaine know what caused the problem, but since the MDC hasn’t ruled out the possibility of the house having a leak, we asked Dan Allen from Newington’s AAA Plumbing to help explain the vacant home’s situation.
He said that since homes here in New England are much older, homeowners need to understand the red flags that come in up in a house with leaks.
“Check inside the toilet tank,” said Allen. “You’ll want to look for the water level. Has there been a change in water line?”
If so, that could mean water from the tank is leaking into the toilet bowl. The MDC ran a test to see if this problem applied to the Knights, but it came back negative.
However, as Allen points out, leaks could come from various sources and unless homeowners know where to look, they can be very difficult to spot.
“Check whether you see copper piping through a concrete slab,” said Allen. “There’s a material in the concrete that affects the copper tubing, and after about 40 or 50 years, it’ll put a pinhole leak.”
He added that a simple way to find out if you have a leak is to make sure no one in your house is using any water, then watch the water meter.
There you’ll usually find a little blue knob, which you should keep a close eye on. You’ll probably need to watch it for several minutes, and if the blue knob starts spinning, it means you’ve used water and might have a leak.
“So there’s no leak at this moment,” said Allen. “Which means we have a problem that we need to find. That little blue knob should be spinning if there was any sort of leak.”
Regardless of the knob not spinning and the toilet leak testing negative, the Knights can’t understand how so much water can run through the meter and not show up anywhere else in the house.
“I can’t think of a logical explanation,” said Elaine.