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When I was doing ride alongs a few years back, one little tip I was given was to always check the water meter. Not just for leaks, but to see if it is running. I was told, a good hint of a water leak in the house (i.e. running toilet or such) was if the little triangle was moving back and forth which indicated water flow. Well, this has turned out to be one of the better little tips I received and has proven mostly to pan out.

Until today. Now the simple answer could be a broken meter but I thought I would ask anyways. In another thread "Brave or just stupid", I talked about a flooded crawlspace. I did a re-inspect today and there has been some good work done. But in the front corner of the home, where no work has been done yet, I found a rather large water leak. If I had to guess, I would say 2-3 gallons per hour. It was coming out of a spliced in T-joint and shooting out maybe 3-4 feet. There was a large pool of water again in this area about 2-3inches deep. No way to tell if the leak is what helped cause the initial flooding or was brokenby one of the repair guys? And that's not my question.

When done in the crawlspace, I went and checked the meter again. ZERO movement. Nothing, nada, zip.

So, first, do you use this "tip" and how effective of a tool do you find it.

Second, I would think a leak that size would cause movement of the meter triangle. Would you comment that the meter may be broken?

This isn't the actual meter, but same style.

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. . . So, first, do you use this "tip" and how effective of a tool do you find it.

I've been doing it since '92. I've found it to be very effective for finding small leaks. I once used it to predict a crawlspace leak that was only releasing a few drops per second.

Second, I would think a leak that size would cause movement of the meter triangle. Would you comment that the meter may be broken?

Before I did that, I'd confirm that I was looking at the right meter. Then I'd ask someone to run the kitchen sink while I looked at the meter. If the dial still didin't spin, I'd tell them that it was their lucky day. I imagine that they wouldn't want to fix a thing.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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If the water isn't spinning at all, water is not moving, at least through a functional meter. That little triangle doesn't take much to spin it. If I am concerned at all, I will check the exact setting of the numbers and come back in say half an hour. If nothings moved, water is not running.

2-3 gal. an hour leak is pretty significant, and I would think you would see movement. A little test would be to go turn on a sink faucet for a split second (say 4-8 ounces)-- has the meter moved? I would guess so.

I'm sure you thought of this, but did you run water in the house and check to make sure the meter spun? You could have been looking at the wrong meter by chance?

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I'll second the others that prove the meter works. I usually will uncover the meter to make sure it is visible and still and then turn on a hose bibb and go back to the meter to ensure the minor movement dial is spinning. I figure a complete revolution is about a cup of water so it does not take much to spin it around.

One other tip is that the "rocking" does not indicate water usage but simply pressure fluctuations in the main which can cause water to move back and forth through the meter (unless there is a check valve).

I tell clients this does not PROVE there is positively no leak but it is a good indicator.

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I would check with the city water department and check if they are using meters with check valves. Many cities in this area have gone to this system to protect their water supply from back flow and back pressure. A water leak of "just" 2 or 3 gallons an hour would probably not cause enough system displacement for the meter to move; it would be more like just bleeding off pressure at first. Cities around here started meter change outs to this type about ten years ago. They do NOT notify residents of such a change in advance, generally speaking. This is also a good question to ask because if the system has the check valve at the meter the water heater now requires an expansion tank, as it is now a "closed system."

If the system does not have the check valve the triangle (or other ounce meter) would definitely be a good gauge of a leak.

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