It’s happened to the best of us. The water bill comes in the mail, you rip it open, and suddenly the theme song from the “Twilight Zone” starts to play in your head.
“Why is my water bill so high?!”
There’s no way your family has doubled the amount of water they’ve used in the last month. Even your husband’s 20-minute showers can’t possibly have pushed your bill’s total up that much. It’s frustrating to receive an unexpectedly high water bill in the mail, especially when you aren’t sure how it happened.
Your first reaction may be to call and complain to the water company. But before you call, try narrowing down the causes of a high water bill. Troubleshooting a high water bill is something any homeowner can do on their own with a little guidance — it just takes a bit of knowledge and a healthy dose of patience.
Learn More About Water Efficiency
Here are some tips and tricks to diagnosing your problem and taking steps to prevent high water bills in the future.
Table of Contents
- Common Causes of a High Water Bill
- How to Lower Your Water Bill
- Does Water Pressure Affect My Water Bill?
- Who Is Responsible for Paying a High Water Bill If There Was a Leak?
- Can You Get a Refund on Your Water Bill?
- Do Newer Sprinkler Systems Save Money on Water Bills?
Common Causes of a High Water Bill
The average American consumes 110 gallons of water in a day. But if your water bill reflects usage that’s out of the ordinary for your family, there may be more going on. A number of issues can cause a spike in your monthly water bill, including problems with appliances and fixtures around the house. If you’re certain that your bill doesn’t reflect your family’s daily water usage, it’s time to take a look around.
The most common causes of increased water usage include the following.
1. Leaking Appliances
Did you know a leaky faucet can cause a high water bill? Let’s do the math. If you have three faucets in your home and each of them drips once every minute, that’s a liter of water each day! One liter a day equals 104 gallons of water each year. And that’s just a faucet. A small toilet leak can waste up to 30 gallons of water each day.
It’s important to make a habit of checking your home’s plumbing, including faucets — indoor and outdoor — and toilets. Checking every couple of months will help you detect leaks quickly and prevent an unexpectedly high water bill.
2. Broken Pipes or Leaks in Plumbing
In addition to faucets and toilets, another potential source of excessive water consumption is a broken or leaky pipe. Even small leaks can add up to a lot of water and a higher water bill. Checking kitchen and bathroom pipes on a regular basis can prevent leaks from becoming a major expense. Make sure you’re also checking on your water heater or any outdoor irrigation systems.
Wondering what to do if a pipe is leaking? Call a professional to address the problem and have it taken care of as soon as possible. If left unchecked, a leaky pipe can damage anything around it, including floors, cabinets, walls and even support beams under the floor.
3. Water-Cooled Air Conditioners
Can an air conditioner cause a higher water bill? The short answer: yes. If your home is cooled by a water-cooled air conditioner, you may be using more water than you realize. These units are designed to cool the hot air that’s circulated through the unit and then pumped back out into your home. These units are not as common in residential buildings, but they do require water to function.
4. Running Water to Keep Pipes From Freezing
During the cold winter months, homeowners often prevent pipes from freezing by allowing cold water to drip through their faucets. If you live somewhere that’s cold for a significant portion of the year — like Omaha — this strategy can end up wasting a lot of water and costing you a lot of money.
What many people don’t realize is that there are other ways to prevent your pipes from freezing, including insulating pipes, opening cabinet doors to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes and properly insulating the attic, basement or any other space where your plumbing is housed.
5. Problems With the Water Softener
Water softeners use a lot of water because they need extra water to periodically flush the mineral buildup out of their filter. The harder the water is in your home, the more often one will need to flush the filter — and the more water it consumes doing so. Sometimes these systems can also get stuck in the flush cycle, meaning they keep cycling more and more water through, using more than you need.
6. Lawn Sprinkler and Irrigation Systems
If you have a lawn sprinkler and irrigation system, you should know that it’s naturally going to work harder during the warm summer months. If your irrigation system isn’t programmed correctly or it develops a leak, you might find your water bill creeping higher than usual. It’s also not uncommon for a sprinkler valve to get stuck in the on position and end up watering much longer than you intended. Regularly checking your system, especially during peak use times, can prevent a small issue from creating big problems.
How to Lower Your Water Bill
No one likes paying a high water bill. If you find yourself with a higher-than-average bill and can’t find an obvious leak or problem in your home, it’s time to evaluate your family’s water habits. Taking some time to do so can help you determine how to lower your water bill and save money down the road.
1. Use More Ice
There’s nothing better than cold water on a hot day, but running your faucet until the really cold water comes out can cost you. Rather than waiting for ice-cold tap water, rely on ice to cool down your drink fast. If you aren’t a fan of ice or your young child is at risk of choking, refrigerate water in bottles or a pitcher so that it’s cold when you need it.
2. Use the Dishwasher
Washing a full load of dishes in the dishwasher uses less water than washing that same load by hand. But make sure the dishwasher is full before you run it — washing smaller loads more frequently won’t end up saving any water or money.
3. Fix Leaks
Yes, life gets busy. It can be tempting to ignore a dripping faucet or a toilet that runs a little too long, but those small leaks can cost big bucks if you leave them unchecked. Setting aside time to investigate and repair leaks will prevent higher water bills — as well as big costs associated with replacing flooring or walls that might get damaged by unchecked leaks.
4. Insulate Pipes
Head to your local hardware store and buy foam that’s shaped like pipes, then use it to cover your pipes. This insulation will help heat your water faster, which means less wasted water while you wait for the shower to warm up.
5. Wash Clothes in Cold Water
Opting to wash clothes on a cycle that uses cold water conserves both water and energy — double savings! Plus, cold water actually helps preserve the colors of your clothing, which means you won’t need to replace your clothes as often.
6. Use the Garbage Disposal Sparingly
Yes, it’s tempting to flush all your food waste down the drain, but fight the urge. Every time you use your disposal, you’re using water to aid the disposal in grinding and washing away all those food particles. Instead, opt for tossing food waste in the trash, or start a compost pile to handle those vegetable peels, fruit leftovers and eggshells.
7. Install Water-Efficient Appliances
If you’re really concerned about bringing down costs, consider installing a low-pressure toilet, water-heater controller or hot water recirculating system, which will send unused water left in your pipes back to your hot water heater instead of down the drain.
8. Reduce the Amount of Water It Takes to Flush
If you’re in the market for a new toilet, this is a good time to select one that uses less water per flush. But if your porcelain throne isn’t in need of a replacement, there’s no reason to spend the money on a new one. Instead, reduce the amount of water the toilet uses with each flush by adding weighted plastic water bottles to the toilet’s tank. Fill two bottles with 1-2 inches of sand or gravel, then place them inside of the tank to trick the toilet into using less water.
If you aren’t crazy about this homemade method, you can purchase a fill cycle diverter, which will divert water from the bowl and send it to the tank to make it fill up faster.
9. Make a Plan
It’s easy to use water without even noticing how much. Did you use your garden hose to fill up your child’s plastic pool five times in one weekend? Did you accidentally leave the sprinkler watering the lawn while you took a two-hour nap? Did your wife have a stressful week and take nightly baths in your whirlpool tub to ease her achy muscles? All those things use up a lot of water — and cost you when the water bill comes in the mail.
If you’re looking for ways to reduce your water bill, you’ll need to regulate your family’s water usage. Sit down together and discuss ways to combat high water bills. It may look different for each family, but when you commit to working together to make this change, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.
Does Water Pressure Affect My Water Bill?
After a long day, there’s nothing better than stepping into a hot shower and letting the stream of water massage your sore muscles. But that high water pressure may be costing more than you think. Higher water pressure uses more water, and it also puts more strain on your plumbing. Over time, you’ll use more water, and the life expectancy of your faucets, hot water heater, washing machine and anything else connected to your home’s plumbing system could drop.
By reducing your home’s water pressure, you’ll save money on your monthly water bill and preserve many of your home’s important appliances, ensuring they’re functioning the way you need them to each time you use them.
Who Is Responsible for Paying a High Water Bill If There Was a Leak?
In most cases, the person whose name is on the bill is the one responsible for paying it, regardless of the reason for the high total. Why? Whether you own your home or rent it, it’s your responsibility to keep an eye out for leaky faucets or pipes. Your landlord isn’t going to check in weekly to see if you’ve noticed a leaky faucet — and you really wouldn’t want them to anyway.
If you find that a leak or other issue has resulted in a high bill, pay the bill, then work with your landlord to make sure repairs happen in a timely fashion.
Can You Get a Refund on Your Water Bill?
Many water utility agencies offer their customers a water leak adjustment policy to help in those unfortunate times when a leak causes their bills to skyrocket. Customers who suspect that a leak or undetected problem is the source of their high water bill can contact their utility company to see if they offer this incentive. If they do, a customer can apply for the program, and the utility company can investigate their application to determine whether or not they qualify for a refund.
If you’re interested in applying for a refund on a high water bill, remember:
- There’s no guarantee that your application will be accepted: The utility company will investigate your claim to determine whether or not they should cough up money to cover your expenses.
- It probably won’t cover the whole bill: The odds are that if your application for a refund is accepted, your utility company will pay a portion of the cost associated with the leak — not the entire month’s bill.
- There’s a limit to their generosity: Each utility company chooses whether to offer this program and how generous they will be. Some offer it as a one-time incentive to their customers. Others will still entertain applications if it has happened more than once. Make sure you know your company’s policies up front.
- You still have to fix the problem: It’s great to find out that you’re eligible for a refund, but you’re still responsible for correcting the problem so that it doesn’t continue to impact your monthly bills. Don’t put off fixing a leaky toilet or faucet unless you want to continue to pay for a lot of wasted water.
Do Newer Sprinkler Systems Save Money on Water Bills?
An underground sprinkler system can be a great asset when it comes to maintaining a beautiful lawn, but if it breaks or isn’t maintained properly, it can quickly become a drain on your water bill. Modern sprinkler systems are designed to keep your lawn healthy and strong while minimizing water waste — which ultimately saves you money. If you’re in the market for a new system or you suspect that your existing sprinkler is leaking, it’s time to call Nature’s Helper.
While Omaha has been spared from a lot of the droughts that have hit other parts of the country in recent years, it’s still important to install a sprinkler system designed for results without sacrificing efficiency. For more than 20 years, Nature’s Helper has been helping Omaha residents turn their lawns from ordinary into extraordinary. Through designing and installing residential and commercial underground sprinkler systems, we’re committed to providing innovative solutions and outstanding customer service every single time.
To request service or schedule a free installation estimate, contact us online or call us at (402) 334-2625.