WATER LEAK DETECTION

It may not be something you seriously consider when you’re paying your water bills, but a water leak can spiral from a minor inconvenience to reeking potentially devastating effects on your business and your finances, when you take into account escalating bills and serious property damage.

When you bear in mind the potential consequences of bad plumbing or faulty pipes, it soon becomes obvious that it’s not one of those things that you can afford to ignore. Overpaying for wasted water can be the least of it, when you consider other potential effects, such as ceilings or walls caving in and serious structural damage to your property.

Sometimes, you’ll be aware of the problem straight away, with water marks on your walls or ceilings or damp patches alerting you that’s something’s wrong. However, sometimes it’s a problem that can go unnoticed until it’s too late, with the only obvious signs of anything wrong rising water bills and, with water bills a list of confusing payments and costs that you may not fully understand or analyse, any rising costs can still potentially go unnoticed.

Luckily, there are plenty of services that, at little cost to your business, can identify any water leaks and address and solve the problem before there’s any damage to your property. You can even relinquish control of your water bills and have both your usage and costs monitored so any potential problems are caught and addressed right away, saving you hassle and money.

So when it comes to water leaks and how to solve the problem, here’s what you need to know.

waterleakdetection

What Is a Water Leak?

Whether it’s caused by a faulty plumbing system or a combination of age and weather causing pipes to corrode, a water leak is a simple enough problem that causes water to escape from the tank or pipes. As pipes can deteriorate with age or be affected by anything as simple as the weather or even heavy vibration from the traffic outside your property, it’s a common problem and can happen to anyone. As most of the pipes are located either inside walls or under the flooring, any leak can cause huge problems with the water causing everything from mould to grow to structural damage. Thus, if you think you have a leak, it’s important to identify and fix it straight away before too much damage can be caused.

Where Can a Water Leak Occur?

One of the main problems with water leaks is that they can occur in any piping system. As pipes are often found in the walls, under the floors or buried underground outside of our properties, it can be difficult to locate the exact location of a leak without having the right equipment. On top of that, fixing the problem without excavating the property is also going to require the right tools and experts to do so efficiently with minimal damage to the property. If you also take into consideration how easy it can be to miss a leak if there aren’t any noticeable signs given the potential location of the leak, you get more of an idea about how this could easily escalate.

How Does It Affect Business Costs?

As most water is metered, our water bills and the costs incurred are thus determined by the amount of water we use. A water leak can cause a huge wastage that will then translate into bigger bills. It’s not uncommon for people to spot a problem when they suddenly see a spike in their water bills. A water leak can cause you to waste a huge amount of water without even realising, which will be reflected in your bills. And as our utility bills can often include a vast number of costs and standing payments we accept and pay without fully understanding, the added cost of a water leak can easily go unnoticed without us realising what it is we’re paying out for.

On top of that, costs can go way beyond your monthly utility payments when you take into consideration the possible damages to your property a water leak can cause. Hopefully, if you do spring a leak, it will be discovered and dealt with before it can do any more damage than causing some of your paint to peel in damp spots or cause a bit of an odour from your drains from the collection of stagnant water.

This kind of damage is minimal and shouldn’t be overly expensive to fix. However, it can also cause problems that may go unnoticed and cause serious problems and expenses down the line. They may not even be things you would necessarily have thought of or associated with a leak, but can cause lasting damage. For example, it can cause fungal growth to develop and fester, which in turn can be incredibly bad for you to breathe in, so can cause lasting health issues down the line. If this occurs on a business property where you have employees working, it can cause issues for a number of people.

On top of that, there’s the damage to your property to consider. This could be on a small-scale, superficial basis, such as damage to your paintwork or damp patches appearing on your ceilings or walls. However, the ramifications can also be more far-reaching than that. A water leak can result in serious structural damage being caused to your property. For example, it’s not uncommon for more extreme cases to result in anything from a ceiling caving in to the walls collapsing. In such circumstance when the structural damage is too far gone, the costs to repair the damage can be astronomical and totally unforeseen.

In other words, the potential business costs of a water leak go far beyond higher utility bills!

How to Detect a Water Leak

For the most part, this is something you’re going to need to call in professional help for. As mentioned already, the pipes that often spring a leak are usually located in areas that you may not be able to reach yourself without utilising a sledgehammer and doing some serious damage along the way. For the least non-invasive work possible that will provide a long lasting solution, calling in professional help is going to be a necessity.

However, there are a few warning signs you can pick up on if you think you may have a water leak. Some of the most common ones are:
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  • A permanently leaking toilet.
  • A bad smell coming from the floor or near a drain. This is caused by stagnant water that is collecting as a result of the leak and is unable to flow away.
  • Damp or darker patches on your walls or ceilings.
  • Cracks or spots on your walls.
  • Paintwork peeling or bubbling.
  • A constant sound of dripping or running water.
  • A sudden surge in your utility bill.

Methods of Water Leak Detection

Aside from the aforementioned warning signs that you might have sprung a leak, there are a number of techniques that can be utilised by professionals in order to detect a water leak.

The equipment used will be able to locate a water leak through walls or floorboards without excavating the pipes, so you can rest assured that the exact location of the leaky pipe will be discovered with minimal damage done to your property finding it. From here, it can then also be fixed in the least invasive way possible, minimising any other potential further damage that could occur.

Most importantly, this initial process can be done at minimal cost to your business and potentially save you a fortune on any future repairs you may otherwise have to do down the line. Early detection of the leak is therefore crucial to saving you money, time and a huge amount of hassle, so if you think you might have a leak, it’s well worth calling in specialist help before it develops into something more serious. At the very least, you might make a saving on your water bills, which is no bad thing.

Some of the forms of water leak detection include the following:

Water Leak Detection Equipment and Techniques

Ground Microphones

Ground microphones are the most common equipment used to detect and locate a water leak. As mentioned before, if you do have a water leak, there’s often an audible sign of it, whether you can hear water running or simply a drip. The ground microphones work to amplify this sound, making it much easier to ascertain whether or not there is a problem. Not only this, but they are then able to use the noise to identify the exact location of the leak so it can be efficiently repaired without having to destroy the surrounding area trying to pinpoint it.

The technology involved with ground microphones is so advanced that it can even be used through thick walls or floorboards, with its wide range allowing for large areas to be examined at once. Something that just can’t be said for pressing your ear against the wall in the vague direction of the drip.

L.N.C – Leak Noise Correlation

The Leak Noise Correlation (or L.N.C.) technique, as the name suggests, once again uses the sound of the leak to find its exact location, with the correlators used to pinpoint the exact location. These correlators use sensors that mark out the area the leak is thought to be in; the technology can then be calibrated to commute all the possible variables that need to be taken into consideration, including the size of the pipe and the material it’s made from and the distance between the sensors. Once they have located the sound of the leak, they will then transmit all the information gathered onto a screen and calculate the exact location of the leak. This method can then be used to find multiple leaks on a single pipe, scanning a huge amount of space.

Water Leak Detection Tracer Gas Techniques

It’s also possible to use gas to help identify any potential problems. In these cases, a combination of nitrogen and hydrogen gas is injected into the mains. If there is a leak, the gas will then escape from the faulty areas of the pipe. A gas detector is then used to help identify the source of the problem and locate the exact places that the gas is leaking from. This process can be repeated in a number of different areas until all the potential sources of leaks have been properly identified.

Water Leak Repairs

When you discover a water leak on your property, it can be tempting to attempt to deal with it yourself as a DIY project or get help from a handyman for the work. However, please don’t try and take this on yourself; in situations like these, it really is a time when you need to call in a specialist to help in order to ensure the work is done properly and won’t cause further problems in the future.

Though you may think the leak is easily located and accessible, they can often be hard to pinpoint and the damage then done to the property trying to get to the faulty pipe can be extensive.

A specialist will be able to excavate the problem area properly and efficiently, causing minimal damage to your property and take care of the problem. In cases such as when pipes are located underground or in the structure of your property, the peace of mind of knowing you’ve had the job done properly is essential.

When you call in specialist help to deal with the water leak, the repair process will usually take place in stages.

First, you’ll need to supply your water bills so the company get can an idea of your water usage and how much has been wasted, in order to ensure that a water leak is definitely the problem. From here, it will also be possible for them to work out the money you have lost from the leak, with a report on the findings then sent to you.

Then, using the technology already mentioned, they’ll carefully survey your property to locate the exact area of the leak, whilst causing minimal damage. Once the leak has been found and identified, it can then be quickly and expertly repaired. By the end of the process, you shouldn’t even be able to see any damage or difference to your property as a result of the work, saving you further money on repairs.

So when it comes to seeking professional and expert help, the results will end up saving you money and giving you the peace of mind that quality work has been done, that won’t need redoing a few months down the line.

Environmental Impacts

Depending on your priorities, the environmental impacts of the water wasted during a water leak may not even feature on your radar when you first spring a leak. And given this could lead to your ceiling falling in and/or astronomical costs, you’d be forgiven for letting this slide to the bottom of the list.

However, water as a fundamental and finite resource and the implications of this is something we all need to wake up to and gain a better understanding of, in order to help maintain a planet for us and future generations. Running out of water is not something we tend to think about in the same scale as say, using up the earth’s supply of oil. But the planet only has a limited source of water and, with rapid population growth and increasing life expectancy putting a strain on the planet’s resources, the supply of water the planet has is already being heavily drawn on to the point where an end of this resource is a realistic and worrying prospect. In fact, to put this into context, experts suggest that, over the past 50 years, our water usage has doubled. If we keep using it at this rate, it is thought that by 2030, our requirements for water will stand at a whopping 40% above what is currently available to us. With drought becoming an ever increasing problem for countries across the world, the implications are only becoming ever more dire.

WaterconsumptionInfographicOf course, with horror stories of freak weather storms causing homes to be flooded and evacuated across the country, it’s easy to forget that water isn’t an infinite resource, but one we need to take care of. But the truth is, if we don’t all accept a greater responsibility for it soon, we’re going to find ourselves without. The impetus is on us not only as individuals, but as companies and corporations. If anything, it’s up to businesses to take more of a responsibility for water usage and ensure that it’s used efficiently and environmentally.

So, when you take into consideration of the water being wasted by a leak, without you even benefiting from it, it becomes suddenly more important on a different scale.

Other Alternatives To Keeping On Top Of Your Water Usage And Potential Leaks

Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to give you a look at the worst possibilities arising from a dodgy pipe you may not even be aware of and not give you alternatives to calling in a potential faulty leak every couple of months on the off chance you’re plumbing’s off and about to incur you huge costs.

Luckily for everyone, there are services available that can keep on top of your water usage and wastage for you, identifying where you’re overusing and overspending and reporting back to you on where you can afford to use less and save money. Not only will this help you keep the costs and water wastage down, but it will also help identify any possible leak before it becomes an issue for you or your business.

Here are some of the other services available to help you out when it comes to your water usage.

Water Audits

A water audit may not necessarily immediately conjure the greatest implications, but in reality, it’s a simple and easy process that will incur you little time or cost and could, in the long run, end up saving you a lot of money. Not only will this service ensure you’re not paying out for costs you shouldn’t be, but it will also help spot and alert you to any potential water leaks you might have that have so far gone unnoticed, so it’s a service that’s well worth considering.

A water audit works by analysing your current usage, standing fees and costs you’re paying out for. It will analyse the charges from the following areas that you could be paying excess fees on that you don’t owe:

  • Site area
  • Property drainage
  • Highways drainage
  • Band
  • Surface water
  • Meter standing charges
  • Water volumetric tariffs
  • High water consumption issues
  • Trade effluent discharge rate
  • Environmental charges for surface water discharge

From this, the auditors can work out how efficiently you’re using your water, giving you a full report detailing the outgoings and how you can use water more efficiently so you pay less. They can then offer tips and advice on how to do so, so you end up using less and saving money on your bills.

The process will also identify any unusual costs or expenditures, to help ensure you’re not paying out when you shouldn’t be. Either due to a faulty water meter showing the wrong readings or your water company miscalculating the amount you owe, it could be that you’re paying out when you shouldn’t be. A water audit can help identify these excess costs and ensure you’re not paying for costs that you shouldn’t be. As well as this, if there are any miscellaneous charges identified, they can then ensure that you are remunerated for the money you paid out unnecessarily, which means that not only will you be making savings in the future, but you could also potentially receive a sum of money once the process is complete. If you’re paying out what you think are unnecessarily high costs, it’s likely that there’s a problem there that is beyond your control and so it’s a service that is well worth considering for you and your business.

All that is required from you is that you supply the auditors with the past six months of your water bills and, from here, they will detail a thorough analysis which could result in you making huge savings.

Water Bill Validation

Water bill validation is a step on from a water audit that helps to make sure that you consistently pay the right amount for your water usage. With experts estimating that 1 in 10 water bills is incorrect, it’s entirely possible that more of us are paying out for charges that we shouldn’t be without realising and it becomes important to gain control over the situation.

As it is not uncommon for water companies to overcharge, customers often now end up paying more than they should without even realising. With many of the standard fees and charges that you find on your water bill a mass of payments most of us tend to accept without questioning or understanding, having an expert monitor and control the payments that you see on your bill can be a great way of making sure that you don’t pay out any more than you should be, or see a sudden spike in money coming out of your account. This means that it is also a great way to keep an eye on any potential water leaks, as should a sudden increase in water use occur, there will be someone immediately on hand to assess the situation on your behalf and report back.

The process works by professionals monitoring and analysing your water bills so they know how much you’re paying out and what on. From here, they can then identify any areas that you’re paying excess amounts on.

All future bills can then be examined and monitored before they are sent to you, so you can be confident that the bills you are seeing are exacting the correct fees from you. Any miscellaneous charges will be dealt with on your behalf.

You don’t need to enter into a long contract and won’t see any annual fee for the service. You will also be able to access information on any water or waste water issue you may have and, as well as this, your billing history, past and present, will be available to you via email, so you will no longer have to dig through filings of old paper copies, saving you room, time and effort.

The on-going process will help to make sure that you’re paying out only for the water you’re using, so you can be confident it’s always the right amount and that you’re not seeing unwarranted excess charges.

Switch Water Supplier

You wouldn’t necessarily think that switching your water supplier would help in situations such as a water leak or helping to prevent one, but this is another option available that can do just that. If you live in Scotland, this applies to you.

More reading about the Scottish Water Industry – http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Business-Industry/waterindustryscot

Since the motion was passed in 2008 that non-household consumers would be able to switch from their water suppliers, it has turned the Scottish water service into a competitive market, which directly equates into a better service for cheaper prices for the customers ¬- how does between 10-18% savings sound?

What this competitive market has meant for water suppliers is that new priorities are being ranked; cheaper prices and better customer service is at the forefront. This goes beyond the simple fact that you could be paying inflated costs with your current supplier. With new weight being lent to environmental concerns, the impacts of wasting water and greater investment in how to efficiently use and save water being concentrated on by water suppliers, switching should help ensure these same values are translated to the customer, with help and advice on how best to ensure you’re not overusing and wasting your water, which will in turn translate to greater savings. It will also put you in a far better position to notice any water being wasted, which will directly impact on how you will deal with the situation should a water leak occur.

If you’re in doubt, the best thing to do is to seek the advice of a professional. By supplying your water bills from the past year, your usage and expenses can be analysed so that you can then be helped to find the best supplier for you. Only taking a month or less to complete and only for a very small fee, it’s a service that’s well worth bearing in mind.

Water Consultants

If you’re concerned about your water usage, whether it’s because of a potential water leak or simply to keep on top of you water efficiency, hiring a water consultant is an excellent way to keep track of how much you’re using, how efficiently you’re using it, the money you spend on your water bills and any potential wastage or water leaks as soon as they come up.

Water consultants effectively cover all the possible areas mentioned above, to give you the most inclusive service possible that will cover every base.

Their services include the following:

  • Just as if you have spotted a potential leak, they will conduct a full site survey and provide a written report on the water usage and how you might feasibly cut down on your water bills and expenditure.
  • Any water leaks will be identified and fixed early on, to help prevent the issue from spiralling and causing further problems down the line that were entirely avoidable. Your water usage and flow data will then be logged and analysed to monitor the situation.
  • On top of this, they can supply and install technology that will help better monitor and control the water you’re using. New water meters can be installed to make sure you’re always getting the correct reading and not overpaying for what you’re using. Faulty water meters showing the wrong calculations can often be behind businesses paying out more than they should be for their water, so it’s important to make sure yours is working properly.

Other technologies that can be supplied include:

  • Flow-Tec P.I.R urinal flush controls. Using infrared sensors, these help prevent the urinals from constantly flushing water -which results in massive waste- and will ensure that they only flush after they have been used, successfully limiting water used and wasted, for a more water and cost efficient method.
  • Pressure reducing valves. These work by limiting the water pressure so you’re not getting more than you should coming through, helping ensure you don’t waste any.
  • Aeroflow shower heads and low flow showers. Working in much the same way, these also help to regulate the water pressure that comes through from your shower. This then makes sure that you’re shower isn’t overusing unnecessary amounts of water, which is then easy to waste and can add up to bigger expenditures.

Beyond this, water consultants can also help ensure any potential water leaks are discovered and dealt with fast by looking at water distribution services beyond your property. By conducting risk assessment surveys and surveys on the conditions of pipelines, you’ll gain a better understanding of the potential of a water leak occurring in your grounds or the surrounding area. An awareness of any potential issues that could develop in the future could be crucial to saving you money in the long run.

Perhaps one of the most useful, on-going parts of hiring a water consultant is that you will then have access to a consultancy service that you will be able to consult as and when you need to. This will include a 24 hour monitoring and targeting service online, ensuring your water usage is completely regulated and anomalies are flagged up and dealt with then they arise.

Your bills can be monitored, so the charges you pay are exactly what you owe; you won’t be overpaying for anything that you shouldn’t be.

Finally, you can also receive training and support in water management, so not only will you know that you’re using water efficiently without excessive waste, but you’ll be paying less and only for water that you’ve actually used, making it a much more efficient process. Should you then see a sudden spike in your water bills, you’ll be better placed to understand and contest it and identify it for what it could potentially be: a water leak.

All in all, it’s an inclusive service that could in the long run help save you a lot of money, so it’s well worth considering for your business.

AMR – Automatic Meter Reading

If you’ve had a water leak identified and fixed, or you simply want to make sure that you’re on top of your water use, AMR (or Automatic Meter Reading, also known as Smart Metering) is well worth taking into consideration as a form of after care that will help monitor the situation and ensure that any further problems down the line are identified and dealt with quickly and efficiently.

AMR basically equates to online water management. It works by monitoring your water consumption, which is then sent back to a reporting service that is based on the web, so that any unusual or excess water use or water leaks can be spotted immediately. This is done via the use of data loggers, which oversee water use and take water meter readings remotely from different points on site, ensuring the area is fully covered.

The reporting system available on the internet will then be able to report back on areas such as flow rate and water consumption, so you’re aware of exactly how much water you’re using, with analysis on the findings. Any odd or excessive water consumption can then be highlighted and brought to your attention with an email or SMS message, so you’ll be immediately aware if you do have a water leak and, if this is the case, an engineer can be dispatched to deal with the problem.

This service then has the potential to save you a lot of money, not only by possibly identifying any costly problems like a water leak quickly before they can cause any further damage or expense. By taking water readings, you can ensure that you’re paying out the right amount for your water and not any inflated or miscalculated costs. The analysis of your water consumption also means that you are aware of how much you use, when and how, which means that it will be much easier for you to know where you can afford to cut down and save money in the process. Plus, you are expected to see a return on investment within 12 months.

So though it may not be one of those problems we take into consideration on a daily basis as something that could potentially have devastating effects on our business, or even just create a minor inconvenience, a water leak can be incredibly destructive with far reaching ramifications should it go unnoticed or without taking care of it properly.

This could mean anything from overpaying for your water bills, to finding your ceiling has caved in thanks to structural damage, to suffering from health problems from a fungal growth. For the environmentally minded, it’s a waste of a precious and finite resource that we all need to take a greater responsibility for.

Luckily, with the help and expertise of professionals, if it’s caught in time, a water leak need not have any lasting impact on your business or property. Instead, using the latest technologies, it can be found and fixed quickly and efficiently, with no signs of any damage to your property or even work done at the end of the process. And, with plenty of different services out there available to use, it’s easy to ensure you’re paying out the right amount and not wasting money or water unnecessarily.

It’s important to remember that whether it’s down to old or faulty pipes, or simply the weather or vibration from heavy traffic having a corrosive effect on plumbing systems, a water leak can easily develop and happen to anyone, so if you’re in any doubt about your plumbing system, make sure you get it checked out sooner rather than later.

Additional Reading

UK Water Industry Research – http://www.ukwir.org
Water Industry News – http://www.waterbriefing.org
Water UK – http://www.water.org.uk

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