4 Things to know about leak detection

“Beware the little expenses. A small leak can sink a great ship.” – Benjamin Franklin

By no means is leak detection a straight forward exercise. Though it can be essential when the signs point to the fact that you need one. Some signs that you have a leak could be:

Here are some things to home-owners might need to know about leak detection to make it a pain-free experience for all parties.

Leak found

1. Not an exact science

We all wish like Popeye, our plumbers can just come ‘tie up a leak’. Chances are that won’t be happening. Ever been out to a really busy place, started looking for your keys and realized you don’t have them? You trace your steps and slowly panic begins to set in. Later that evening you go through your clothes and you find out you had it all day in the back pocket of your pants that no one ever really uses.

Leak detection is a lot like that. locating a leak can be done by various means including thermal imagining, tracer gas or acoustic methods. Just like finding your keys in your back pocket, a leak can be in the least expected place. While experience often counts in a technician’s ability to find a leak, there is strictly speaking no science to finding a leak. This means that you need to be patient during the process and allow him to do his work, after all, why did you call if ‘it is just a small leak I can find it myself’? 

2. Understanding water

Ever seen a Tsunami? That water is ridiculously strong. Water can be really lazy too and takes the easiest route. This often means that where you see the water is not where the leak is. Surprise! Yes, water will run along the pipe underground where there are soft spots or voids in the soil and ground. It will also flow under where there might be concrete above, and flow to where the ground is more permeable. Meaning you have to follow the water to the leak. If the flow is not visible it means that the technician has to calculate and use the specialised equipment to trace this leak or predict it’s the course. It is known that predictions can be well, a bit off sometimes to say the least.

3. Acoustics requires quiet

While this may seem like common sense until you have the Stethosphone’s headphones on and Sarah screams at Johnny for taking her high heels. That is when you’ll appreciate it. A Stethosphone is essentially a highly sensitive device which allows the technician to hear the water flowing underground and in walls. Read that carefully, ‘hear the water flowing underground and in walls’. So you can understand that a sound as loud as a screech could do some damage to his ears. The technician might mention it. If he forgets to tell you do remember that these instruments are highly sensitive and so are his ears.

4. Tracer gas

The gas used is usually a combination of oxygen and nitrogen and is safe to have in water supply lines. Free free to ask the technician about the specific gas compound they use. By pressurising the system with gas and using the appropriate detector the gas can be picked up where it leaves the system (where the leak is). Just like water though, it too can run along the pipe to permeable locations for escape.

Closing thoughts

 Leak detection is not an exact science and often a process of elimination has to be followed. If one leak is found and another exists can not in many cases find both in one go as the water will be exiting at different locations. While this is not a details guide to the process of leak detection which you can expect, these are some things about leak detection to keep mind. In the next article in the homeowners series, we will cover the process of leak detection a bit more. Keeping these points in mind will make the process a lot easier for your technician and less stressful for yourself.

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