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Your tap may have been dripping for years or just for the last few weeks. You might have ignored the issue because a dripping tap can’t waste that much water, can it? It turns out, it can.
Solving the problem could save you a large amount of water each year, plus you’ll no longer have to listen to that irritating noise. Read on to find out what causes a dripping tap and how to fix the issue.
We’re going to calculate how much water you could be losing via your leaking tap. This will vary depending on a number of factors, but the calculation will give you a rough estimate.
We’ll say that your tap is dripping approximately every five seconds - this is equivalent to 12 drops of water per minute. Each drip will vary in size but for our calculation, each drip is around a quarter of a millilitre (ml). This means that your tap is letting out three mls of water per minute. In an hour, this could increase to 180 mls and, in a day, to 4,320 mls. This is equal to over two of the largest Coca Cola bottles you can buy.
In one year, a tap that drips approximately every five seconds could waste around 1,451 litres of water. This is equivalent to 18 baths, 121 dishwasher cycles or 241 flushes of the toilet.
So now that we’ve discovered how much water you could be wasting per year, why is your tap dripping?
It’s important to determine the potential cause of the dripping before you attempt to fix the problem.
Older taps tend to have rubber washers that are there to prevent dripping, however, over time, these washers can begin to seize, crack and even wear away, allowing water to leak through. Modern taps tend to use ceramic discs instead, as these are more reliable. If your tap has a rubber washer, you could replace it with another rubber washer or install a ceramic cartridge instead. We discuss how to do this later on in the article.
Alternatively, it may be that the tap has a corroded valve seat. This should be located just beneath the tap valve and is there to create a water-tight seal, but it may be ineffective, particularly if the tap is quite old.
If your tap is quite new and has only recently been installed, it may be that some dirt in the system has damaged the seal. This can occur if a system hasn’t been flushed properly before installation. When the dirt is forced through the small exit on the tap, it can cause the cartridge in the device to become chipped.
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Once you’ve determined why your tap is dripping, it should be much easier to fix the tap and stop the drip. Below, we’ve covered two ways you can fix a leaky tap.
As mentioned previously, it’s likely that the ceramic disc or rubber washer in the tap has cracked or worn away, allowing water to seep through.
Step 1: Turn off the water supply using the isolator valve or, if your tap doesn’t have one, the stopcock. After you’ve done this, turn the tap on to allow all the water in the pipes to drain. Once the flow has stopped, it’s a good idea to put the plug in the sink to ensure any small components from the tap won’t get lost.
Step 2: Locate the screws that fix the handles to the tap. Depending on your tap there may be one or two of these, and they’re generally positioned underneath the hot and cold caps on the tap handles or under the lever on a mixer tap. Unscrew them to dismantle.
Step 3: Now that the handles are removed, you should be able to see the top of the valve where the handles were. Use an adjustable spanner to remove the valve cover. As you take these pieces apart, lay them out on a flat surface in the order you’ve removed them so that it’s easier to put the tap back together when you’re done.
Step 4: Once the valve is removed, you can take out the old cartridge and put a new one in. Put the valve back on and tighten it. Then, replace the valve cover and screw the handles back on.
Step 5: Turn the water back on via the isolator valve or the stopcock and enjoy your non-leaking tap.
A corroded valve seat could be causing your tap to leak.
Step 1: Follow steps 1, 2 and 3 above.
Step 2: Now that you’ve isolated the water supply and taken your tap apart, you should try to locate the tap seat. If it’s corroded, you’ll be able to see grooves in the metal surface. These are the cause of the tap’s leak.
Step 3: You have two options. You can either use a grinder to make the surface of the seat smooth again or you can replace it entirely. Whichever method you choose will fix the problem.
Step 4: Place the seat back in the base of the tap and put it back together again.