How to Check for Leaks in Your Home

Leaks in your home — water, air, and gas — can cause anything from the slightly annoying dripping of a faucet to higher utility bills to life- and property-threatening explosions and fires.

Consider some of the costs associated with home leaks in the United States:

  • Roughly 900 billion gallons of water are wasted annually by household water leaks.
  • Homes that are not properly insulated and air sealed have approximately 15% higher energy costs.
  • More than 4,000 home structure fires begin with the ignition of natural gas, and $133 million in property damage is linked to natural gas incidents each year.

This is why it’s essential to know where to check for leaks in your home, and what to do when you find them.

Water Leaks

Water leaks can be detected when you notice a faster-growing area of grass above a leaking in-ground water line, bubbling or bulging paint or wallpaper, discolored drywall, a musty smell, or a dripping sound. Unusually high water bills can also indicate an unnoticed leak.

Where to Check

What to Do

  • Turn off the water supply valve.
  • Perform a water meter check (and record the results).
  • Document any damage.
  • Notify your insurance company.
  • Consult with the necessary professional (plumber, roofer, window specialist) to confirm the source and determine next steps.

Air Leaks

You can actually feel some air leaks — for example, around a drafty window. In other cases, leaks can be seen in the form of light penetrating around a door. For a more complete energy assessment, a technician can perform a blower door test as well visual inspections to locate leaks and areas where your home needs more insulation.

Where to Check

  • Windows, doors, ductwork, fireplaces, switch plates, and outlets
  • Penetrations including pipes, wires, and mail slots
  • Exterior corners, and the intersection of siding and chimneys or foundations

What to Do

  • Have a professional check ductwork for leaks.
  • Caulk or weatherstrip openings around windows and doors.
  • Apply foam sealant where appropriate.
  • Install foam gaskets behinds outlets and switch plates.

Gas Leaks

Natural gas contains an additive that produces a sulfur or rotten egg smell, which is frequently the first indication of a gas leak. Others include a hissing sound, or orange or red flames on your gas stove burner.

Where to Check

  • Stoves
  • Ovens
  • Fireplaces
  • Water heaters
  • Dryers

What to Do

  • Check any pilot lights.
  • Refrain from using lights and electronics on/off switches.
  • Avoid using lighters, matches, etc.
  • Call the gas company and/or fire department.
  • Consult an HVAC professional.

Don’t Let Leaks Linger

Whatever your leak issues, putting off remediation is rarely a good idea. Water leaks can threaten the structural integrity of your home, increase your water costs in the short-term, and potentially bring expensive problems down the road.

Air leaks can make for uncomfortable living conditions and higher heating and cooling costs. Gas leaks are simply dangerous.

The best practice is to seek out expert advice. Don’t delay calling a professional to address your home leak problems. For additional information on checking for leaks, please see the accompanying resource.

Infographic created by Conway Services, an air conditioning company

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