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Thread: Water meter shows flow

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member mlnk's Avatar
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    Default Water meter shows flow

    Water bill is $250 per month, used to be $100. Can not find any leaks, both toilets have no leaks. With no one using water in the house, the little flow triangle on my water meter is stationary for about 5 seconds, then it moves forward, then backwards, then it bounces to a stop. 5 sec. later it does it again. sometimes it rotates in reverse first.
    1. If I shut off the main supply valve at the house, the triangle stops moving.
    2. I am thinking of installing a one way check valve in the line after the shut off valve.
    3. I am thinking of installing a 2.1 gal. expansion tank at the 40 gal.water heater.
    4. T and P valve is not discharging any water.
    5. I do not know if the water meter has a check valve built into it.
    6. This is a duplex with 8 people living there.

  2. #2
    Expert Plumber plumber2011's Avatar
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    Hi Mink,

    Can you tell us exactly how you are sure the toilets aren't leaking? Did you perform a DYE test at each toilet in the house? If you haven't performed a dye test at all toilets then I recommend that you get some dark food coloring and drip about 10-15 drops of food coloring into each toilet TANK. Let the toilets sit undisturbed for 1 hour or so and then check each toilet BOWL. If color shows up in any toilet bowl then you have fiund at least one of the sources of the leak(s) and the toilet tank flapper or flush valve assembly will need to be replaced to resolve the issue (s).

    Back to you...

  3. #3
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    The meter does not have a check valve. I do not like the fact that it possibly goes backward....but if the water bill is high...it must mostly be going forward.

    Are both units on the one meter? Does the pipe go underground from the meter to the house? If so look for wet spots in the yard. Is there a yard irrigation system which could be leaking or running too long?? If nothing obvious comes up, then call in a leak detector company.

    At the very least, somehow you may be paying for water going to someone else.

  4. #4
    DIY Junior Member mlnk's Avatar
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    One toilet is pressure assist. The other I have tested with food coloring. But your focus on toilet leaking is well taken. About 25% of toilets i use in locations other than my house, leak and waste lots of water. Our city gave out free installed 1.6 gallon flush toilets-a year later all of mine were leaking into the bowl and needed adjustment.

    I thought that in older areas all houses have flow into the water system because the water heaters add pressure to the water in the house and when water is not being used, it flows into the city pipes to prevent chronic flow out the T and P valve.
    Last edited by mlnk; 07-02-2011 at 05:52 AM.

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    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    It's not the water heater that is losing the water. If no water is coming from the T&P, you're fine there.
    If the meter stops after the main is shut off, then the leak is after that.

    One other way to check the toilets is to shut the water supply to them and see if the tank drains.

  6. #6
    DIY Junior Member mlnk's Avatar
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    I am thinking that the water meter does not register reverse flow, but each time there is a reverse flow, there is along with it a forward flow that does register -the result is the high bill. Do water meters work like that?

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    Expert Plumber plumber2011's Avatar
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    Meters don't work like that...something else is up here.

    Check the pressure-assist toilet again. Here, turn the shutoff to the pressure-assist toilet OFF and see if the arrow stops pulsing at the water meter. If the water stops pulsing then you will need to order a repair kit for your particular pressure-assist model to fix the issue.

    If the toilet shut off leaks when you turn it back on after the test then take two pliers and use one to hold the shutoff stable while using the other pair of pliers to tighten the packing nut behind the stem an 1/8th turn or so.

    Let us know what you find/think...
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    Last edited by plumber2011; 07-02-2011 at 08:12 AM.

  8. #8
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    The meter dial is a geared device. If the flow meter is moving forward it adds to the water usage, if it move backwards it subtracts from it. Bouncing back and forth is caused by pressure changes in the water main. When it drops, (The main may be undersized so that usage in your neighborhood causes it. Similar to opening a faucet while someone is taking a shower.), the pressure in the house causes the dial to "bump" backwards momentarily until the pressure equalizes.

  9. #9
    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    Without any air volume tank, the volume of water that could reverse flow would be very small. Certainly not enough to more than double the metered volume. Expansion and mains pressure fluctuation probably was also happening when the bill was $100 so I would look elsewhere for the increase.

  10. #10
    DIY Senior Member dlarrivee's Avatar
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    I don't get it.

    You have a leak so you want to install a bunch of devices...

  11. #11
    Plumbing Contractor for 49 years johnjh2o1's Avatar
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    To see if you are losing water, turn it off at the meter wait for 5 min. then turn it back on and see if the meter moves. If it dose then you are losing water. It could be from a leak or toilet losing water.

    John

  12. #12
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    The most likely is toilet leakage. A bad flapper would do it. Maybe something else, but my first inspection would be the toilets. Forget the check valve, and since you apparently do not have a pressure regulator valve and the T/P is not discharging, you don't need a thermal expansion tank. Even if you did have a closed system, the T/P would not leak that much water out unless it was jammed open in which case, there would be no question.

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    Jack of all trades DonL's Avatar
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    Don't rule out a bad meter.

    There was a bunch of bad meters put in the city of Houston, people were getting $1000 water bills.

    The Meter should never run backwards.

    Around here there is no way that you can feed water down the line in the opposite direction.
    If you could then people that got annexed into city water would be using their water well to do it.


    DonL
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  14. #14
    Plumbing Contractor for 49 years johnjh2o1's Avatar
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    Take a second look at hj's reply. I have seen this happen very often when there is a large draw on under sized water mains the meter will run backwards.

    John

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    Jack of all trades DonL's Avatar
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    I agree John, hj is correct it can and does happen.

    But that is the water providers problem, an not the homeowners. Nor should it be at the homeowners expense.

    I do believe.


    DonL
    Theory only works perfect in a vacuum.

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