How many times a day do you walk over to your bathroom or kitchen sink and turn on the faucet to wash your hands? Or how many times do you press a tiny button on your washing machine or dishwasher and get access to gallons of clean water to wash and sanitize your clothes and dishes? But where does all this water come from, and how does it get inside your home?
Unless you live in a rural area and get your water from a well, your water comes from the city or a local water district. The city or district is responsible for cleaning the water and transporting it to your home. Water is stored in large towers and connected to each home by an underground piping system. And these pipes are connected to the water main at your house. But before the water enters your home, it must be accounted for, which is why each home has a water meter that calculates the exact amount of water you use down to the last drop.
“The most important thing to know about water meters is that they are not the homeowners responsibility. It’s not a device that a plumber can work on, it is owned by the water district, MUD, or the City of Houston,” said John Moore Services Manager and Master Plumber Joe Bany. “But if a customer notices unreasonably high water bills there are certain tests that a licensed plumber can perform on water meters to help determine if there is a leak somewhere inside the home. It is very important that homeowners know how to read their water meter because that way they can check to see if they are working correctly and if they are being charged the correct amount for their water usage.”
How do water meters work?
Before you go out and read your water meter, you need to find its location. In most residential neighborhoods it is located near the curb in the front of your home. Because it is the property of the city or water district it needs to be in a place where workers can come and access it without having to contact the homeowner. This is why they are generally located in the front, but sometimes they are in the backyard, it all depends on where the main water line is in relation to your home.
Once you find the meter, reading it is pretty easy. Most of the water meters in Houston read like an odometer in your car. Water is measured by volume in gallons or cubic feet, and water charges are typically based on 100 cubic feet or on 1000-gallon units.
Why should I care about my water meter?
You might be wondering why you should bother to worry about your water meter if it is property of the city. And the answer to that is simple. The city only cares about the amount of water you are using. But if you have a leak in your home, you are being charged for a lot more water than you are using, which will increase your water bill. And knowing how to read your water meter and determine signs of internal leakage makes you proactive about saving money.
How do I know if there is a leak?
There are several external signs that you can look for around your water meter to determine if you have a leak:
Standing water: If you walk out to your water meter and notice the area around it is wet and soggy, or you see standing water and puddles, then you have a leak with the water from the main line coming into your home. It could be on the city side, and if that is the case then you won’t be charged. But if it is on your side, then immediate action is needed because you are paying for water that you aren’t using.
“The city runs a main line parallel with the street, and all that area is the city and water districts property,” said Bany. “You as a homeowner take responsibility from the connection point to your house. Generally, they break at the connection points.”
Box location is filled with debris: The water meter box is the connection point between you and the city. If you lift the box lid and notice it filled with debris or standing water, this means that an internal component is not working correctly and you are probably being charged for more water than you are actually using.
You have very high water bills: If you suddenly get a high water bill you should go out and look at your meter. Most water meters have a sensitive red dial, which will tell you if you have any water running inside your home. If you don’t have any water on inside your home and that dial is moving, then you have a leak somewhere in your home and should call a plumber.
According to Bany, if you learn how to read your water meter and can figure out for yourself that there is an internal leak, you will help speed up the process of fixing the problem.
“As plumbers, the more knowledge we have before entering a customer’s home the better the outcome will be for getting the problem fixed. And I think it’s important that homeowners know how different components of the homework together. It will help them and greatly help us.”
The next step is up to you. By figuring out where your water meter is located and learning how to read it, you are being proactive about saving money and fixing small leaks before they become expensive and destructive. If you have a leak or are having a hard time figuring out how your water meter works, give the expert plumbers at John Moore Services a call. We are only a phone call away and would love to help.