The incessant drip…drip…drip…of your faucet is more than just annoying – it’s wasting water!
The plumbing issue might not seem like a big deal, especially since it might only be a few drips per minute. But the water waste adds up faster than you’d think over the days, weeks, and months, contributing to the lofty number on your water bill.
So, how much does a dripping faucet actually waste? It depends on a couple of factors, but let’s find out!
Water Waste And A Leaky Faucet
A leaky faucet contributes to water waste – there’s no doubt about that. The water dripping from the faucet splashes into the sink and down the drain, gone before you can use it.
The drips might not seem like much, especially if the tiny droplets are inconsistent, only splashing into the drain every few seconds or so.
But if you look at the bigger picture, you’ll realize just how significant those leaks can be. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that a leaky faucet can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year! That’s a little over eight gallons of water daily, which may seem pretty minimal.
However, after a year of incessant dripping, the total volume loss is staggering. After all, 3,000 gallons of water is plenty for more than 180 showers!
But if the drip is more serious than one drip every second or so, you’ll lose considerably more water each day, week, month, and year. If a few dozen drips per minute waste a few thousand gallons of water annually, imagine what a more incessant drip can do.
In the grand scheme of things, the daily water loss may contribute minimally to your water bill, especially if the drip rate is low. It might be as little as $1 per day. But after a year of dripping, that’s an extra $365 you could’ve saved by repairing the faucet.
If you have multiple faucets prone to dripping, a leaky toilet, or a dripping showerhead, the number on your water bill will continue to climb. But luckily, remedying the leak is usually relatively simple.
Sometimes, it’s as easy as swapping an old, worn-out component for a shiny, new replacement. First things first, though, you’ll need to identify the problem.
Culprits Behind A Dripping Faucet
There are a handful of common causes that result in a dripping faucet.
The most common culprits behind this issue include:
- Worn-out O-rings or gaskets: These rubber components inside your faucet are the driving force behind a watertight seal. Water can slip through the cracks when they wear out, causing a nonstop drip.
- Corroded valve seats: The valve seat is another integral part of the faucet’s inner workings. When corrosion or hard water deposits build up in the valve seat, it can’t do its job properly, resulting in a leaky spout.
- Damaged cartridges: The cartridge inside the faucet is responsible for controlling water to the spout, so when it is damaged or worn out, it can’t stop water from flowing to the tap, even when the handle is in the off position. Generally, the problem lies with the gaskets and O-rings in and on the cartridge, but sometimes, the cartridge itself requires a replacement.
- Unseated washers: An unseated washer or worn-down washer can also cause leaks, as divots, damage, and improper placement can allow water to slip by.
- Clogged aerator: Sometimes, a dripping faucet isn’t actually dripping because of a mechanical issue – it might be the aerator. This is the small screen at the spout of the tap, and when it clogs with mineral deposits, water can get caught behind the screen. Eventually, it may work its way out, creating the illusion of a leaky faucet.
How Do You Fix A Dripping Faucet?
Fixing a dripping faucet can be quick and easy, but this isn’t always true. Sometimes, repairs are more complicated and costly – it all depends on the culprit behind the leak. To start the repair process, you’ll need to identify the problem.
The easiest way to do this is by disassembling the faucet and examining each component for signs of damage. Work your way through the pieces, replacing worn-out parts as necessary.
After replacing old components, reassemble the faucet and check it for proper function.
Before you get too carried away, we recommend checking the aerator for buildup. If there’s a significant amount of mineral buildup, that might be your problem.
Soak the aerator in vinegar and water, then scrub the gunk out with an old toothbrush. Reinstall the aerator and check if it fixes the problem.
Sometimes, it might take some troubleshooting to pinpoint the issue. If you’re unsure how to troubleshoot problems with your faucet, we recommend consulting the owner’s manual that came with your faucet.
If you don’t have that, look up your faucet on the manufacturer’s website and consult the supporting documents for help. Alternatively, contact the manufacturer for assistance.
If you can’t remedy the issue after talking to customer service, consider hiring a plumber. While this can be a costly venture, it can be worth it if your faucet is new and/or expensive.
Should I Replace a Dripping Faucet?
Sometimes, repairing a dripping faucet is as simple as fixing a worn-out part. But how do you know if you should replace it?
As a general rule of thumb, we recommend completing repairs when the faucet is still in good condition and the repairs cost less than a new faucet comparable to the current model.
Many leading manufacturers offer free leak and drip warranties that allow you to get a replacement part to remedy the problem.
For example, if the cartridge is causing the problem, they’ll usually send you a new cartridge as long as the faucet is within warranty.
Of course, if repairing the faucet costs more than the faucet itself or the faucet has seen better days and is older than 15 to 20 years, replacing it might be your best bet.
This way, you won’t be pouring money into a tired faucet that doesn’t have many more years to give.
For a more in-depth take on the topic of repairs versus replacement, consult our detailed guide here.