The amount you pay for your water can fluctuate from time to time. Some people experience higher bills in the summer months, when they're washing their cars more and filling up backyard pools. Families use more water during the holidays, when out of town relatives visit and the guest bathroom gets more and more used. But at times, rising bills can seem to come out of nowhere. If you suspect that your water bill is too high, there are several steps to take to discover whether there is a problem and to pinpoint what it might be.

Analyze Your Water Usage

First, monitor your water bill month-to-month. It is important to know how much water you typically use so that you can compare your average usage with the periods you receive high bills. This can help you determine whether the increase is coming from higher usage or a leak.

Check to see when you use the most water within a billing cycle and then look for reasons why you might have used more during that time.

· Guests? If you had guests staying at your home who utilized the shower or toilet more often, that could explain a higher bill.

· Lots of Laundry? If you did more laundry than usual, after having a baby, coming home from vacation, or a child returning from college, that could cause your water bill to peak.

· Seasonal Activities? During the summer many people wash their vehicles more or use more water in a sprinkler or pool. In winter months, the holiday season can mean cooking bigger meals with more dishes to wash and more guests to accommodate. These activities would increase water usage for short periods.

If an increase in water usage corresponds with such an activity, then you probably do not need to look for a leak. You can, however, take steps to decrease your water usage and save money.

Update Your Equipment

Older homes may have plumbing equipment that uses more water. For example, toilets in older homes use 3.5 gallons per flush. Now, new toilets are required to use a maximum of 1.6 gallons per flush and some are even down to 1.28 gallons per flush. So by updating fixtures, you could save over 2 gallons of water for every use. Talk to your plumber if you have questions about upgrades that could help save you money.

Check Your Fixtures:

If you have studied your water bills and cannot find a reason that you might have used more water, then it is time to look for a leak. First, check all your fixtures and make sure that your flappers are sealing correctly and that there is no water dripping or running anywhere. Also, listen to make sure that your flush or fill valve is not running constantly. If you discover a problem, call your local plumber.

Examine Your Water Meter

Sometimes, a leak can go undetected because it's in the slab of your property. In a lot of older homes, those more than 30-40 years old perhaps, the copper piping can fail, or a faulty fitting can create a slow leak in the wall. These leaks can be hard to find because the water may just seep into the ground. If you have checked your fixtures and there is no apparent leak, then you should check to see if your water meter is running even when you are not using any water.

The best time to do this is early in the morning. 3:00 AM is a good time, for example. Shut off all the water in your house and cap off all your fixtures. If you don't feel comfortable doing this yourself, you can call a plumber to assist you. Once all the water is shut off, look to see whether the water meter is moving.

Your water meter will detect very small amounts of water usage, so if you're nut running a toilet or shower, washing your car, using a faucet, or operating any appliances that use water, then the meter should not move at all. If it does, then you might have a water leak and the best thing to do would be to call a reputable plumber.

When you have a high water bill, you can always call your water company as well. Some can help you analyze your water usage. They can also send in local emergency plumbers to check your meter to make sure that it is working properly.

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