Very unusual water meter reading

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Bearman731

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Ok here's another test that I did.

Yesterday evening when the meter was slowly spinning, I turned the garage shutoff off. Then I noticed the triangle continue to spin for a couple hours, showing 1 cubic foot of water usage in 2 hours. Then I had to turn the garage valve back on because family needed to use water. This seems pretty damning for a meter-to-house leak somewhere.

Two questions:
1. Why would it start and stop at random times? Soil issue? Temperature? Fluctuations in city-side water pressure?
2. Can it be an intermittent leak?
3. What can causes those?

I suppose the next step would be to call a leak detection specialist, but I'm a bit wary doing that for a couple reasons: what if he comes at a time when the meter is stopped? What if he comes and the sensitivity of his instruments isn't enough to pick up a leak? Also wary about potential false positives too. It's also not an inexpensive service here (~$350-400 for single visit)

I'm kind of at my wits end with all this and don't know how to proceed.

Should I just stop looking at the meter and as long as my bill doesn't significantly jump, not worry about a leak that isn't there? Or should I open up this can of worms and dig up my whole yard?

Thanks for all the guidance and support!
 

Jeff H Young

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Bearman I forgot to send message below a few days ago. As for latest results I had exact same thing happen on a job I installed a new shut off to the sprinkler system and a 50 50 chance leak coulda been elsewhere under ground but that stopped the leak homeowner chose not to pay me to look further.


Bearman, the 2 valves out at curb one is going to meter the other is after the meter called a customer valve if the customer valve is broken and leaks water you r meter will spin and you pay for it, if its the other valve it wont effect your meter.
I thought you said the meter moves with the water valve closed in garage? if true you've got a leak outside the home unless as tuttles mentioned the shutoff is letting water by.
you could have an issue with some creep from PR. shouldn't really have that wosh. put pressure gage on the hosebib when you close that valve, you could have a little water leaking through the toilet fill valve you could have a r/o unit undersink etc etc.
another thing you could try is put water pressure gage on hose bib open bib walk out to meter and close the valve that works monitor gauge if it doesn't drop there is no leak
Last verify your irrigation shuts off
 

Reach4

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Two questions:
1. Why would it start and stop at random times? Soil issue? Temperature? Fluctuations in city-side water pressure?
2. Can it be an intermittent leak?
3. What can causes those?

Deep mystery. I don't have good model to explain this.

I would like to have a pressure gauge before the PRV. If this were pressure related, that is the only way I could find out or discard that theory.

Could it be a quirk of the mechanical water meter? It is almost as if that indicator had angular momentum keeping that thing going, but I really find that implausible.

I have had this theory that doctors are generally not that intellectually curious... "Never seen that before", and then move on. I suspected medical schools promoted speed over understanding unexplained possible minutia. So I was suspecting that medical schools train against curiosity. Probably an unfair generalization.
 

Jeff H Young

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Deep mystery. I don't have good model to explain this.

I would like to have a pressure gauge before the PRV. If this were pressure related, that is the only way I could find out or discard that theory.

Could it be a quirk of the mechanical water meter? It is almost as if that indicator had angular momentum keeping that thing going, but I really find that implausible.

I have had this theory that doctors are generally not that intellectually curious... "Never seen that before", and then move on. I suspected medical schools promoted speed over understanding unexplained possible minutia. So I was suspecting that medical schools train against curiosity. Probably an unfair generalization.
He didn't say he was a medical doctor? Could be a PHD or JD
the Dr just isn't that interested or have the time for you to waste their day on unimportant stuff. so they have to be practical not that they aren't curious about medicine,
 

Bearman731

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Bearman I forgot to send message below a few days ago. As for latest results I had exact same thing happen on a job I installed a new shut off to the sprinkler system and a 50 50 chance leak coulda been elsewhere under ground but that stopped the leak homeowner chose not to pay me to look further.


Bearman, the 2 valves out at curb one is going to meter the other is after the meter called a customer valve if the customer valve is broken and leaks water you r meter will spin and you pay for it, if its the other valve it wont effect your meter.
I thought you said the meter moves with the water valve closed in garage? if true you've got a leak outside the home unless as tuttles mentioned the shutoff is letting water by.
you could have an issue with some creep from PR. shouldn't really have that wosh. put pressure gage on the hosebib when you close that valve, you could have a little water leaking through the toilet fill valve you could have a r/o unit undersink etc etc.
another thing you could try is put water pressure gage on hose bib open bib walk out to meter and close the valve that works monitor gauge if it doesn't drop there is no leak
Last verify your irrigation shuts off
Hi Jeff,

So it is true when the meter decides to run (usually in the afternoon/evening), it'll turn slowly even if the garage shutoff is turned off. But it'll always stop by the morning. Furthermore, my average water use has not changed, bills are roughly the same, and usage is actually less when compared to people in my area.

The customer valve at the curb actually I realized isn't broken. It's just in the wrong position. So the lever being perpendicular is opened and straight is closed. But it works fine. And shut offs the water completely with the meter stopping completely too.

A couple questions for you:

If my automatic sprinkler system is completely disconnected (wires and all), and the sprinklers are all capped, then the meter being completely still at nighttime would argue against a leak here right? Because there's nothing programming the sprinklers.

Can my garage shutoff valve be leaky? That might explain why it runs even when the garage shutoff is turned in the off position? I will have to do Tuttles experiment. To clarify, after turning off the highest, if the water system has pressurized again, would water be flowing the second time I opened the fixture? So this would indicate that water is creeping past the main garage shutoff? How long should I wait to open the fixture the second time? Because if it's a very slow leak, wouldn't it take forever to fill the system again? Or am I misunderstanding how this experiment works?




Just so I understand the last part, I would put a pressure gauge on the hosebib (which is downstream of the PRV), and after turning water off at the street, if there's no drop in pressure (over what period of time?) that would indicate there is no leak? Could you conceptually explain how this works? If the leak is as slow as my meter would suggest (1 cubic foot in 1 hour), wouldn't it take ages for the pressure to drop from the system?
 
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Bearman731

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I think first I would verify that your main works 100% by shutting off your main, relieving pressure at the highest fixture in the house, turning that fixture off, wait a period of time, then open that fixture again and see if the water system has pressurized again. If not, then I would move on to verifying whether there is a leak in the water main between the main shutoff and the meter.

By shutting off your main in the house and the shut off at the meter. Wait a period of time. turn on the meter and see if water rushes in. If there is a leak, it will depressurize that section and refill when you turn the meter back on.

(removed redundant info)
Hi Tuttles,

To clarify,

If the water system has pressurized again, would water be flowing the second time I opened the fixture? So this would indicate that water is creeping past the main garage shutoff? How long should I wait to open the fixture the second time? Because if it's a very slow leak, wouldn't it take forever to fill the system again? Or am I misunderstanding how this experiment works?
 
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Tuttles Revenge

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The amount of time that is required is dependent on how large the suspected leak is. The faster a large volume leaks out the shorter the period of time required from shut down to filling that voided water.

However, I'm beginning to suspect hot water expansion and contraction. A water system leak is going to happen 24/7/365... it will not be intermittent. What can cause an intermittent reading of the dial and increase a water bill, is when the hot water volume expands and sends water backwards through the meter which will not run backwards (Think Bueller... Bueller...) but when the water expansion ceases and begins to cool, that shrinkage draws water in past the meter and moves it a tiny bit. Just enough to notice if you're watching closely.

I've never had to do this level of sluething on this type of problem, but one of our service techs did after installing a new water heater in someones home and their water bill shot up drastically.

Just one more possibility before you start digging.
 

Bearman731

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The amount of time that is required is dependent on how large the suspected leak is. The faster a large volume leaks out the shorter the period of time required from shut down to filling that voided water.

However, I'm beginning to suspect hot water expansion and contraction. A water system leak is going to happen 24/7/365... it will not be intermittent. What can cause an intermittent reading of the dial and increase a water bill, is when the hot water volume expands and sends water backwards through the meter which will not run backwards (Think Bueller... Bueller...) but when the water expansion ceases and begins to cool, that shrinkage draws water in past the meter and moves it a tiny bit. Just enough to notice if you're watching closely.

I've never had to do this level of sluething on this type of problem, but one of our service techs did after installing a new water heater in someones home and their water bill shot up drastically.

Just one more possibility before you start digging.
Wouldn't having an expansion tank nullify this issue?
 

Bearman731

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Wouldn't having an expansion tank nullify this issue?

Also, during normal periods when I turn a faucet on in the house, is it normal to hear a constant rushing sound at the main shutoff in the garage that lasts as long as water is being used, and then becomes silent onces faucet is turned off?
 

Bearman731

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The amount of time that is required is dependent on how large the suspected leak is. The faster a large volume leaks out the shorter the period of time required from shut down to filling that voided water.

However, I'm beginning to suspect hot water expansion and contraction. A water system leak is going to happen 24/7/365... it will not be intermittent. What can cause an intermittent reading of the dial and increase a water bill, is when the hot water volume expands and sends water backwards through the meter which will not run backwards (Think Bueller... Bueller...) but when the water expansion ceases and begins to cool, that shrinkage draws water in past the meter and moves it a tiny bit. Just enough to notice if you're watching closely.

I've never had to do this level of sluething on this type of problem, but one of our service techs did after installing a new water heater in someones home and their water bill shot up drastically.

Just one more possibility before you start digging.
Also, during normal periods when I turn a faucet on in the house, is it normal to hear a constant rushing sound at the main shutoff in the garage that lasts as long as water is being used, and then becomes silent onces faucet is turned off?
 

Tuttles Revenge

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Wouldn't having an expansion tank nullify this issue?
If there is no check valve between the water heater and the meter, then the expansion will go out to the street. I wasn't sure if you have a PRV that acts as a check valve.
Also, during normal periods when I turn a faucet on in the house, is it normal to hear a constant rushing sound at the main shutoff in the garage that lasts as long as water is being used, and then becomes silent onces faucet is turned off?
Could be that the main water shut off isn't fully open. Water that goes from a high pressure to a low pressure usually makes more noise.
 

Bearman731

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I think first I would verify that your main works 100% by shutting off your main, relieving pressure at the highest fixture in the house, turning that fixture off, wait a period of time, then open that fixture again and see if the water system has pressurized again. If not, then I would move on to verifying whether there is a leak in the water main between the main shutoff and the meter.

By shutting off your main in the house and the shut off at the meter. Wait a period of time. turn on the meter and see if water rushes in. If there is a leak, it will depressurize that section and refill when you turn the meter back on.

(removed redundant info)
Ok so I did the first test.

I shut off the main. Turned on the upstairs faucet until it completely drained out and stopped. Then waited a few mins and when I turned the faucet on, nothing happened.

Then I decided to turn on my hosebib that is immediately after the PRV (which is immediately after the main shutoff). This water drained for a bit until it shut off. Then I waited a few mins and opened the bib again and some more water drained out. I kept repeating this process until eventually opening the bib didn't do anything.

I then did another test

I attached a pressure gauge to the hosebib. I then turned off water at the curb while the main garage shutoff was open. I then noticed the pressure drop from 55psi continuously down to 20 psi before I ended the test. Probably would've kept on dropping had I not ended early. This all occured over the course of several mins. Interestingly during this time while pressure was dropping I heard a gurgling/dripping sound around the water pipes near the water tank/expansion tank area. This sound disappeared when I turned water back on at the curb.

Could the pressure drop be due to the water tank filling? Or expansion tank? Or does it mean there's a leak?

Again, the meter completely stops at night and occasionally well into the afternoon as well. It is not running constantly.
 

Bearman731

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If my water usage is staying the same, my bill hasn't gone up, the only thing that can contain several cubic feet of water without any evidence of visible leakage elsewhere would be the water tank. Unless there's an intermittent leak under my turf somewhere that I can't see? I also don't have any pipes underground otherwise. They all go above ground from the garage onwards into the house. So presumably I'd see evidence of a leakage in the house.
 

Bearman731

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Another thought I had. If the meter stops running at night, could it be that the concrete pathway contracts at night time stopping a small leak in the main waterline? And then as the day warms up, the concrete expands a little allowing a leak?
 

Jeff H Young

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Another thought I had. If the meter stops running at night, could it be that the concrete pathway contracts at night time stopping a small leak in the main waterline? And then as the day warms up, the concrete expands a little allowing a leak?
if it leaked during the day and not at night would that mean you were correct in your theory? I can only say I don't know.
I do remember you said when you closed valve in garage waited and re opened it you heard the woosh rush of water that has yet to be explained that could be a leak or someone opened a faucet??
you either need to perform better tests or forget about it .
when you use water in the house it isn't like you are emptying a tank and you have to wait minutes for it to refill forget that too
 

Reach4

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Since you are in California, your WH T&P valve likely drains outside. I would put a container under that output temporarily. That should stay dry.

Now would something going on with the T&P valve or WH explain things? Not really, but it is an easy check. For that to be involved at all, the garage valve would have to leak, which it probably does not. He, unexplainable things seem to be happening... so my idea for this is not at all probable. But still, seeing water would be enlightening.
 

Bearman731

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Hi all,

So I finally have some closure. I had a plumber come out. He's confident it's a very small water leak in the main line between the curb and the house. He said the reason the meter sometimes stops (especially at night) is because the city of San Diego changes it's water pressure at various times to adjust to the demands of particular times, so when there is lesser city side pressure at night, the leak is small enough that it's not moving any water. So now I'll be getting a main water line replacement. The joys of being a home owner...

Thanks to everyone for all your help and suggestions.
 

Fitter30

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Your water company writes + or - 10 lbs
Have u talk with them? Meter dept.?
 
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