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Electronic leak detection seems like it would be a fairly straight forward process. You have a piece of equipment that is designed to find your water leak, you turn it on, and it finds your leak. “Badda bing – badda boom”, right?
Well, not quite. Finding a pin-hole leak, under a slab, in a 1,400+ square foot home, even with the latest and greatest equipment can be a real challenge. In fact, it is looked upon by professionals as, as much an art as a science.
Let’s take a look at what finding that small, but troublesome leak entails. For the sake of simplicity, we will be covering leak detection (and location) under slab homes, since that is the most common scenario. The leaks can be in hot or cold water lines, or even radiant heating pipes.
How Electronic Leak Detection Works
While there are many ways to narrow down the general area and source of a water leak (using a little detective work), the electronic equipment itself uses sound. More specifically, the equipment amplifies the sound, and uses different frequencies to help differentiate the sound of the leak from other sounds.
Usually, when you hear a “leak”, you are not actually hearing the leak itself. You are actually hearing the water traveling inside the pipes. That sound can be quite loud, and it can be very difficult to tell the different between that sound, and the sound of the leak itself (the water actually exiting the hole in the pipe).
One of the more popular methods for finding the actual leak is to turn the water flow to the house down, or completely off, and fill the line with compressed air. The combination of water and air, spitting out of the pipe, has a pretty distinct sound. That makes it much easier to adjust the frequency filters on the leak detector to focus on that specific sound.
Still, it takes an expert, trained and experienced in finding these leaks to be able to hear it. That’s because they know the exact sound they are looking for, and are used to the other sounds that may sound like the leak, but are actually not.
How to Find the Slab Leak
As I mentioned before, the first step is for the technician to use a little detective work. It takes much less time to find an exact location electronically if you have already narrowed down the area of the search.
The first step is to check, and completely turn off the water supply to as many fixtures as possible. Sometimes the “leak” sound can be a toilet that is just not turning off completely, or a small leak in a hose bib outside. You hear the water in the pipes, and it sounds like a leak. This is the first step to narrowing it down.
Once you have decided that the leak is indeed a “slab leak”, you will want to do everything you can to narrow down the search field. This includes turning off the water heater inlet to determine if it is a hot or cold water leak (as well as feeling around the floor). Checking for wet spots, listening at the angle stops, and even using line location to trace the water lines throughout the home are common “detective” strategies.
Once the general location is narrowed down, finding the leak becomes much easier. Still, even in the best of circumstances, electronic leak detection is not full proof. There are many factors that can throw off the results, such as:
- The plastic sleeves that are often around the pipes
- Pools of water underground cause by the leak
- The leak being incased in concrete and spitting out a few feet away
- The vapor barrier between the concrete and the soil
- Other factors such as cracks in the concrete, etc.
Keeping all this in mind, it is easy to understand why most plumbing companies choose to subcontract their leak detection work out. While this can cost you more money, at least it gets an expert out there to find the leak for them.
At Gogo Rooter, we have our own leak detection experts in house. That means that not only will you get a true leak detection expert, but you will save money at the same time. It also means that you only have to deal with one company to find your leak and fix it. That saves you not only money, but time!
If you need electronic leak detection and repair, call Gogo Rooter Plumbing. We are your “one stop shop” for all plumbing repairs and diagnostics.