Saving Water in Seattle: Local Business Conservation Efforts

Water is one of our most valuable resources on the planet. And, though the earth holds around 332.5 million cubic miles of water, less than four percent of it is fit for consumption. In honor of Earth Day we salute the local Seattle businesses that have made great efforts in water conservation.

In an effort to reduce our fresh water consumption, many Seattle companies have been making water conservation a top priority.

Image Courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives Online

Fred Hutchinson Image Courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives Online

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Like every medical facility, sterile water is vital to ensuring the safety of patients and staff alike. Because the traditional process of creating purified water by reverse osmosis resulted in a loss of half the water supply, another solution was sought out resulting in a fifty percent reduction in waste water. This $300 solution paid for itself in within weeks of implementation.

In 2002, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center won the Mayor’s Environmental Leadership award for their progress in water conservation and waste recycling.

W Hotel Courtesy Flickr User Payton Chung

W Hotel Courtesy Flickr User Payton Chung

The W Hotel

With over 400 guest rooms, the W Hotel requires an abundance of water for laundry services alone. By installing a laundry water reclaim system, they were able to capture hot water condensate thus reducing (and nearly eliminating) the need for potable water in the laundry room. In addition, the facility was able to significantly reduce their utility bills by producing less waste water and electrical bills by requiring less energy to heat the water.

The results of this transformation, courtesy of AquaRecycle, have gone above and beyond expectations proving that we can reduce the need for fresh water without compromising standards.

Dining Establishments

Some restaurants like the Pink Door or Toscana Pizzaria have replaced their refrigeration units with air-cooled models.

Seattle Municipal Tower Image Courtesy City of Seattle

Seattle Municipal Tower Image Courtesy City of Seattle

Rather than use the standard water-cooling systems than many restaurants use in their walk-in coolers or ice chests, these air-cooled systems have successfully reduced water consumption by 50% over the last few years. When considering the Seattle Public Utility rebate, the conversion to an air-cooled refrigeration system has paid for itself within a single year and continues to use as much as one-third less water than before.

Seattle Municipal Tower Hybrid Cooling Tower

The Seattle Municipal Hybrid cooling tower is the first of its kind to function with or without water. Composed of two different chambers, this cooling tower can sufficiently cool water and condense steam using less energy and about 45 percent less water than previous towers.

The Seattle Times

In 2001, the Seattle Times updated its irrigation system from a standard timer operation to a “smart” design, complete with weather sensors and an advanced leak detection system.

By detecting leaks, shutting the area down and sending an alert about the leak, this smart irrigation has been able to save about 6,000 gallons of water each day.

University of Washington

Over the last decade, the University of Washington has gone to great lengths to conserve water, including leak repairs, updates to toilets, faucets and shower heads, and the installation of a trap cooling kit. Over the years, these water-conserving improvements have saved the school $19 million.

High Performance Car Wash

Seattle residents are proud of their vehicles and want to keep them clean. But the process of washing cars consumes a large amount of water. That’s why High Performance Car Wash has undergone renovations to reduce the amount of water waste created by patrons of their facility, specifically the installation of a new water reclaim system.

The new bioreclaim water system now cleans water drain-off to be used again. They have reduced the use of dangerous chemicals which makes the clean-up process easier resulting in a savings of about 1.5 million gallons of water annually.

Water is a valuable resource that should not be taken for granted. Many Seattle companies realize this and have been making great strides to protect it by implementing innovative water conservation strategies. By focusing on leak detection, over consumption and water recycling options, these Seattle businesses have saved billions of gallons of water each year and that number continues to increase.

Celebrate Earth Day by focusing on the areas of your home that use the most water. Faucets, shower heads, and toilets can be upgraded to low-flow versions. Find and fix water leaks around the home to save money and the integrity of your property. Conservation efforts are important to the environment and can save you money too.

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Wally: The Newest Tech in Leak Detection

Ever had a pricey water leak in your home?  One of the most common and expensive home insurance claims is water damage.

Who is Wally?

NODE RAW WHITE

The Insurance Information Institute estimated that nearly 14 million home owners were financially stricken from damage due to water, freezing, and mold in 2011, which caused $11 billion in property loss. In an effort to decrease these recent numbers and help homeowners become more educated, aware, and preventive-centric regarding these disasters, Sensor Nodes Utilizing Power-line Infrastructure technologies (SNUPI), a Seattle based company, has developed Wally ~ a device that is designed to detect leaks and moisture in residential structures.
What began as a University of Washington research project, the idea of SNUPI is that wireless communication power ingestion is the biggest blockade to faster and more useful computers. There is too much energy required for constant communication to be established between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections.

SYSTEM

How It Works

Wally stands apart since it doesn’t require  frequent battery replacement to operate, using a coin cell battery, the system is set to work constantly for 10 years. This is possible by avoiding dated Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections, instead creating an antenna by using ultra-low–power technology. Positioned in various areas where water could leak ~ such as directly beneath a property’s sink, near an area where laundry is washed, around a structure’s water heater, or simply in a basement ~ are the “small, clam-shaped wireless nodes”.
An email or text alerts the home owner when something has been detected by the sensors so that an investigation into the potential problem can be immediately launched before any damage is done. The end result of this process is a network of communication. Wireless communication and remote monitoring can advance far beyond leak detection with the power issue under control. The leak detection sensors are only the first in a chain of anticipated “Wally home sensors”. Currently Wally is available through the Wally website or at home shows for $299.

Installation

Installation is simple. The Wally hub plugs into any electrical outlet and comes with six sensors which can be placed anywhere in the property. For landlords, detection of water leaks can be detected before the tenant even knows that a problem has occurred. Installation must first be initiated by setting up a Wally account and naming the positions where you are going to designate your sensors. Next, the hub is plugged to your network and then you download the iPhone or Android app to use while activating the sensors. Reportedly a Windows Phone app is also being developed. The sensors are unnoticeable and inconspicuous. It should be understood that in order for the device to detect water in the first place, either the vertical or horizontal metal contact points need to be touching a surface that could get wet.

photo 1
When it comes down it, the $299 price tag and always free monitoring that comes with this device is something that is hard to pass up. Wally is innovative, easy to arrange and simple to use as well. Having such a system in place will clearly help watch out for water leaks, and facilitate fast treatment of any problems detected. Products like Nest Thermostat may be useful in the day to day plans but these systems are becoming dated and are eventually more costly. SNUPI could eventually find itself challenging Nest, the well-financed Silicon Valley Company known for its linked thermostats and smoke detectors.

For home owners looking to be proactive rather than reactive, the Wally leak detection device is clearly something to look into.

Images and video courtesy of Wally. Visit official Wally site for more information.

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National Fix a Leak Week

Water-conservation-stamp-1960

Wikimedia Commons image of US postage stamp issued 1960.

National Fix a Leak Week is March 17-23, 2014. According to the EPA, “household leaks can waste more than 1 trillion gallons of water annually nationwide.

Learn about the facts on leaks and the importance of leak detection and timely fixes.

Quick Facts on Water Leaks

From www.epa.gov:

  • An average household leaks can waste 10,000 gallons of water every year.
  • Ten percent of homes have leaks of at least 90 gallons of water per day.
  • Common leaks include toilet flappers, drippy faucets, and leaking valves.
  • Fixing leaks usually saves homeowners 10 % on water bills.
  • A showerhead leaking at 10 drips per minute will waste 500 gallons of water/year.
  • Older toilets can use 13,000 more gallons of water/year than a WaterSense model.
  • A 1/32nd of an inch sprinkler system leak can waste 6,300 gallons/month.

Learn more about water efficiency in this educational video here.

Local Events

Here are some local events going on for Fix a Leak Week Seattle.

Cascade Water Alliance

cascadeThe Cascade Water Alliance is bringing leak detection to Seattle classrooms and gardens. Students will get free shower timers and adults will leave gardening classes with free leak detection dye kits. Find local classes online.

Seattle Public Utilities

spuSeattle Public Utilites is working with Shoreline Public Schools with educational classes and leak detection challenges. Students who test for leaks at home can win pizza parties. Learn more about reducing water usage online.

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Effects of Untreated Water Damage : Lesson Learned from the Viaduct

What started as a peaceful day in February quickly turned into one of stress and panic as the Nisqually earthquake shook the state of Washington. Suddenly, roads trembled and broke apart, buildings crumbled and fell to the ground and thousands of Seattle residents found themselves scrambling to mend broken homes and roadways.

Over a decade later, the effects of Nisqually are still being seen. And, though we have come far in our plight to protect our city from future damage, we still have a long way to go.

Seattle Municipal Archives.

Alaska Viaduct under construction 1951. Image Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives

The Nisqually Earthquake and the Damage it Caused

Over ten years ago, the Nisqually earthquake shook Washington and parts of Oregon in ways that the area hadn’t experienced in centuries. The 6.8 magnitude quake injured over 400 people and caused over $ 4 billion in damage.

The city of Seattle was put on hold directly following the Nisqually earthquake so that necessary repairs could be made to transit ways, specifically the Seattle viaduct, the Magnolia bridge and the runway at Boeing Field. And, though these roadways have since been deemed safe, damage caused by the quake continues to corrode the areas.

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The Alaska Viaduct today. Image Courtesy Flickr User: Cliff

Over a Decade Later, the Damage is Still Present

According to the Seattle Times, new cracks have been found and existing ones have lengthened and widened. This indicates that damage from the quake is still present below the surface. If allowed to go unaddressed, the damage get worse with time. Though the city plans to rectify the damage, the need to reinforce and protect against future disasters remains prevalent.

Long-Term Effects of Untreated Damage

Water is especially troublesome when it comes to structure stability because water seeks to level itself off, filling every nook and cranny it can find until it is level with underground water resources. If a burst water main goes undetected, it will continue to saturate the ground until it either has leveled off or run into the ocean.

For buildings, this means that if water penetrates the ground near foundations, it will likely find its way inside. It also means that, as more and more water saturates the area, the building’s foundation will become weaker and more susceptible to future damage. Unfortunately, the longer a leak goes undetected or unrepaired, the higher the final price tag will be to get it fixed. The Alaska Way viaduct is an example of high repair costs.

The viaduct has sagged more than about 5 1/2 inches since Nisqually, and has settled even more during this last winter showing multiple cracks. While it is unknown exactly what is causing this damage, it is well known what water does to loose soil and foundation cracks area that is regularly exposed to water erosion. The Seattle waterfront is exposed to both ocean elements from Puget Sound and the frequent Pacific Northwest rains.

Bertha the tunnel borer getting ready for construction for the viaduct repairs. Image Courtesy Flickr User: Ben Brooks

Bertha the tunnel borer getting ready for construction for the viaduct repairs. Image Courtesy Flickr User: Ben Brooks

Repairing the Damage Caused by Niqually

Despite the eventual replacement of the viaduct roadway with a newer passthrough, the area must be safely maintained until construction can be finished. To repair the viaduct, the entire area will have to be excavated to reach the root of the damage. This will result in the closing of the viaduct in order to assess the extent of the damage, but could result in more time-consuming repairs depending on the results of the tests. While the official cause of the damage is still under debate, it is believed to not be due to tunnel work being conducted half a mile southwest. Possible repairs could include sealing the cracks with epoxy which will require a longer closing.

Repairing water damaged buildings is also a complicated process. When the foundation of a building is compromised — resulting in cracks and leaks — this damage must be either be repaired or rebuilt. To do this, new footings must be installed at a depth much greater than the originals then anchored to existing footings. Afterwards, new walls will need to be built. This is a necessary process if the property is to remain secure but unfortunately can get rather pricey.

Additional interior repairs include wall braces, epoxy injections and the installation of drain tiles. Repairs to the exterior of a building may require excavation of the area, leveling of the home and waterproofing of all materials used. It has also become standard practice to replace clay fill with a mixture of at least fifty percent sand to avoid the sponge-like effect of clay.

Protecting Structures Against Future Damage

There are many things that can be done to increase the longevity of a structure’s foundation. Some of the most important things one can do is to waterproof the building’s foundation is by adding a sealant to the concrete and by installing drainage systems and sump pumps.

All gutters and drainage systems should also remain clean and water should always flow away from a building’s foundation. Adding additional grading can also be effective, but must always be performed by a licensed professional.

We cannot avoid natural disasters, but we can help protect structures against their damage. Detecting and repairing issues as soon as possible is of the utmost importance. Because, if Nisqually has taught us anything, it is that water damage that goes uncorrected can have very costly consequences in the future.

 

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How Much Water Do I Use? What you Need to Know About Water Consumption

Do you suspect that your water bill is a little higher than it should be? If so, you might have an undetected leak somewhere on your property. Understanding normal water consumption rates per person will help you understand what your household likely uses, thereby allowing you to judge your water bill accordingly. Plus, these surprising facts might inspire you to change your water usage and save on water bills in the future!

Understanding the Water Use Efficiency Rule in Washington

Before discussing water consumption rates, it’s important to understand the Water Use Efficiency Rule in the state of Washington. When the 2003 Municipal Water Law (MWL) was passed, it impacted consumers and their communities alike. The law accomplished two primary goals:

  1. To give municipalities the flexibility needed to grow their communities without forfeiting rights to the state
  2. In exchange for increased flexibility, municipalities must showcase and document efficient water usage

Not only does this result in water saving goals for consumers, but it also protects against water service interruption, contamination, and limited water supply. The state of Washington has specific water use efficiency considerations because of its geographic location in the Pacific Northwest. Aside from providing drinking water for its booming population, the state must also provide water for agriculture, recreation, industry, and conserve enough water for fish. Through these implemented efficiency programs, the state of Washington is able to meet current and projected needs. How is your household contributing to water efficiency?

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Estimated Water Consumption for a Family of Four

A family of four should consume an average of 400 gallons of water a day, according to a report published by the EPA. The majority of this consumption occurs in the bathroom. Flushing the toilet accounts for approximately 27 percent of daily water consumption. Depending on the toilet used, each flush drains an estimated 3.5 to 7 gallons of water.

Other water stats from the bathroom include the shower, which composes nearly 17 percent of daily water consumption, as well as faucets, which constitute 16 percent of daily use. In general, a running faucet releases two gallons of water per minute. Washing machines account for 22 percent of water use. Though older models of washing machines use 40 gallons per load, the most innovative machines use 25 gallons per cycle.

In addition to these daily uses, water leaks account for an estimated 14 percent of water bills across the nation. For instance, a leaking toilet potentially wastes upwards of 200 gallons per day.  This is why it’s so important for homeowners to be aware of changes in the water bill – and call an expert if leaks are suspected.

Breaking Down Typical Water Use At Home

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Don’t run water when brushing your teeth to save up to 2 gallons per day.

These statistics highlight the fact that the bulk of water consumption at home occurs in the bathroom, but let’s break it down even further. If you want to conserve water and keep track of how much water your family is using, then it’s critical to understand how much water the average person consumes per day. Here are a few stats to consider:

  • Showers. Each time you take a shower, approximately 2 gallons of water is used per minute. If you have an older showerhead, the figure might be as high as 5 gallons per minute.
  • Shaving. Whether you’re shaving your face or legs, the estimated water consumption is the same: 1 gallon.
  • Teeth brushing. This is likely less than 1 gallon per day, assuming that you turn the water off while brushing your teeth. However, leaving the faucet on can result in 2 gallons of water being used throughout the day.
  • Dishwashing. Did you know that it’s more efficient to use the dishwasher than to wash the dishes by hand? Most dishwashers use anywhere from 4 to 10 gallons of water per load, while dishwashing by hand uses an estimated 20 gallons of water on average.
  • Outdoor watering. If you water any vegetation or plants outside your home, you’re probably using 5 to 10 gallons per minute.

These figures can help you gain a good perspective on how much water your household consumes on a daily basis. Keep in mind, of course, that consumption can vary based on your habits, age of the home, and the shower and faucet heads installed. Regardless of the efficiency of the equipment used, our lifestyle and habits are the greatest driving factors behind water consumption. If you need ideas to lessen your household’s daily water consumption, National Geographic offers useful tips on reducing water consumption without impacting your lifestyle.

If Your Water Bill Is Unusually High

There are a plethora of reasons why a high water bill can occur in any given month. A simple investigation can help make sure that your bill is accurate and that you don’t have a leak on your property. First, check the meter reading if it is accessible. If not, it’s still possible to estimate water consumption accurately. While you can certainly check for leaks on your own, it’s important to consider hiring a professional team to check for leaks around your property. Though most leaks are easy to find, many can go undetected. Consider the cost of these hidden leaks:

  • Toilets. A leaking toilet often results in 100 gallons of water lost per week.
  • Faucets. A dripping faucet generally wastes 15 gallons of water a day. A 1/8th inch sized leak can cause you to use more than 3,500 gallons of water per day.
  • Sprinkler systems and washing machines are known for expensive leaks as well.
spokane toilet leak

Water leak at the base of a toilet.

In fact, your household could be using more than 10,000 gallons of water per year from undetected leaks. Aside from a high water bill, this is water wasted that makes conservation efforts more challenging to sustain. Investing in leak detection is critical to not only keep your water bill in check, but to ensure your water consumption is reasonable.

These statistics will give you a good barometer on how much water your household is likely consuming. By staying aware of water consumption trends, you can ensure that your family is only using the water it needs and that your water bill is charging you accordingly.

Image Credits: Leaky toilet by Leakmasters, Brushing Teeth by Flickr User Dominic Sayers, Family of Four by Flickr User Liz West

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The Bus Terminal: A Seattle Leak Detection Story

History

Leakmasters was recently called to a bus terminal for their Leak Detection Seattle services of an underground water leak. The bus terminal has been in operation along the waterfront area for over 20 years. The facility does complete bus repairs and also washing of buses. While they realized they had a break, they did not know where in the 1000 foot long line this break occurred. The pipe involved did not have a tracer wire on it, so there were no records indicating it’s progress underneath the parking lot.

cold-water-leak-under-parking-lot

The infrared camera located the underground leak, shown as the area in dark blue.

Finding the Problem

Leakmasters has over 40 years of experience in finding and detecting the precise location of leaks. Using ultra sonic listening devices and infrared cameras, we were able to give the owners a location so that with one dig of the parking lot they found the broken 4 inch PVC pipe. The PVC had separated at one of the many glue fittings along the line and had likely been leaking for months. The blue is a leak under a parking lot. The leak would surface under the asphalt and pool water over a large area. The infrared camera would locate the cold area where the main water line was broken, as seen above.

How Seattle Gets its Water

The City of Seattle established a water municipality shortly after the Great Fire of June 6, 1889. Prior to this time, water was supplied by private wells and springs. Water is drawn from the Cedar River Watershed and treated at facilities along the way. The water provides the basis of hydro electric power for Seattle City Light. Additionally the watershed area is important to a diverse range of wildlife, including important salmon spawning areas. Water then flows through large lines connecting to 1,700 miles of water mains, which are propelled by gravity and pumping stations straight to your door.

Quantifying the Water Loss

The main line coming in from the City of Seattle where the break occurred was 1000 feet long and 4 inches in diameter. A pipe this size makes this leak a very difficult job. Water loss was drastic – at a rate of 10 gallons per minute, far more than a smaller line or internal pipe. To put this loss in other terms:

  1. 10 gallons per minute is equal to 5,259,490 gallons per year according to Google’s calculations.
  2. At Seattle’s commercial water rates, that would cost an average of $5.44 per 100 cubic feet year round.
  3. 100 cubic feet equals 748 gallons, so 5259490 gallons = 7031 x 100 cubic feet
  4. Water loss alone would cost $38,250.84 per year.

Without leak detection, a repair of this size would have cost the business an estimated $35000. The company would have been forced to install an entire new water main. That’s $38,250 in loss plus $35,000 in repairs, which means this water leak would have totaled $73,250 in one year.

In addition to saving on repairs, the City of Seattle will usually credit the owners the overage of the usage once the leak has been located. The owners were able to save money not only in repair costs, but also in water cost credit. Leakmasters can provide Seattle Leak Detection, in addition to service in the greater Puget Sound area including Bellevue, Everett, Issaquah, Redmond, Bremerton, Burien, Whidbey Island, Camano Island, Olympia, Auburn, Bainbridge Island, Port Angeles, and Renton.

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Consequences of Slab Leaks

Leaks that are found in your home can cause serious problems if they aren’t dealt with quickly. Even the smallest leak can lead to substantial issues as the problem worsens over time. Leaks can lead to water damage to the structure of your home as well as to any of your home’s possessions. They can also lead to the growth of mold or mildew throughout your home, which can not only cause physical damage but be a health issue, as well. When it comes to leaks, one of the most difficult types to deal with is the slab leak.

A house slab being prepared.

A house slab being prepared.

What are slab leaks?

A slab leak results when the pipes or plumbing below the foundation of your home are leaking. This tends to be a real issue due to the fact that not only is such a leak difficult to identify, it’s quite difficult to reach. Repairing the leak itself isn’t that difficult a task, but reaching the damaged water or sewer line is. Once you are able to locate the area of the leak, you’ll have to break your way through the concrete slab in order to make the repairs.

What are the symptoms of slab leaks?

So how exactly will you know if you have slab leaks in your home? There are actually a number of ways that you can identify a slab leak:

  • High water bills – An easy way to tell whether you may have a potential slab leak is if your water bills have suddenly gone up drastically over a short period of time. If you can’t spot any leaks above ground, then there’s a chance that your water bills are being negatively affected by a slab leak.
  • Water spots – One of the easiest ways to identify a slab leak is by looking for any water spots or damp areas that are showing up on your floor. These are usually caused by leaking hot water lines. In addition to being able to visibly see these spots or feel them underneath when walking barefoot, you may be able to hear the sound of rushing water underneath.
  • Swelling – If your sewer lines are leaking, then you’ll have more difficult spotting the leak visibly. This is because sewer line leaks don’t usually cause visible signs of damage to the foundation. However, areas that have expansive soil can be affected by heaving, which would cause your slab to swell. Look for sections of the floor that are raised for potential slab leaks.
  • Sounds – If no water spots or swelling are visible in your foundation, then the only other way to identify a slab leak is by using a specialized listening device. This involves a process in which the plumber will turn off the water to your home and pump air into your lines in order to force out any water that remains. The plumber will then use a special device in order to listen for the sounds that are made when air escapes from a damaged pipe.
Slab leaks can have many different causes, including faulting building.

Slab leaks can cause a ruined yard or foundation.

What type of damage can slab leaks cause?

If you aren’t able to detect a slab leak in time, or you don’t have the problem repaired as soon as you discover it, a slab leak can cause some serious and costly damage to your home. The following are just a few of the issues that can result due to slab leaks:

  • Ruined flooring – The longer water is allowed to seep in through your home’s slab, the more of a risk there is to some of your flooring being ruined. A slab leak can cause waterlogged carpeting, cracked tiles and saturated floors.
  • Damaged foundation – Because a slab leak can cause swelling, it could result in parts of your foundation to either move or even crack.
  • Damaged yard – A slab leak can end up rising up through your yard as well. This can result in your yard flooding, which would ruin your grass or landscaping. It can also lead to serious damage to any outdoor pools as well.
  • Odors – A slab leak that is left unrepaired will eventually lead to moldy or musty odors spreading throughout your home. Any leaks that originate from your property’s sewer lines will lead to the house smelling like sewage.
  • Mold – Slab leaks can spread from under your home’s floors into your drywall. Because drywall tends to soak up water, mold will begin growing rather quickly. Mold is not only unsightly, it can cause health issues to your family, especially for individuals that suffer from respiratory problems.

If you notice any signs of potential slab leaks in your home, then you need to call a professional immediately in order to avoid any further or potential damage to your house.

Image Credits: Building Slab by Flickr User karenandbrademerson, Uneven Slab by Flickr User Peg Syverson

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Infrared Leak Inspection

Inspecting your home or building on a regular basis is one of the most important things you can do in order to prevent costly and dangerous problems. Professional inspections will help you to discover any potential issues with your building, allowing you to make repairs before those issues get worse. They can also help to improve the efficiency of your building, thereby helping you to save on the costs of energy use over the long term. One of the most successful methods for a building inspection is through the use of infrared inspection.

What is infrared inspection?

Infrared_Camera

Infrared inspection is a process in which the surface temperatures of a building are read using a combination of infrared video and still cameras. This allows for a detailed view of the building’s different temperatures. This is helpful because it allows the inspector to see where the building may be leaking energy. For example, warmer temperatures are indicated by a range of brighter colors. If these colors appear nearby windows, there’s a good chance that energy is leaking outside. Once an infrared inspection is done, the professional inspector can make recommendations to the owner on how to improve the efficiency of the building.

What are the benefits of an infrared inspection?

There are a number of issues that can be discovered via the use of an infrared inspection. The following are some of the more common things that professional technicians look for when making use of infrared:

    • 3282654458_c82fc7f530_nPoor Insulation – The use of infrared video allows an inspector to spot any damages in a building’s insulation. For example, during the winter, if there is a brighter colored visual cue located in the ceiling, then there’s a good chance that there might be a hole in the insulation in this area. By using infrared video, the inspector will be able to either locate damaged insulation or make recommendations for installing insulation in areas that need it. By repairing your insulation or adding insulation where there is none, you’ll help to keep the air produced by your heating and cooling systems from escaping your home, while at the same time helping prevent air from outside from leaking in.
    • Air Leaks – Insulation isn’t the only thing that prevents air from coming in and leaving the building. Sometimes there are air leaks throughout the building, especially older buildings, that cause a loss of energy. It doesn’t matter how small they may be, an air leak can still affect how much energy you are using. If you are losing warm air through an air leak, then your heating system is having to work even harder to replace it. Not only is it using more energy to do so, but it is also causing more wear and tear to your HVAC system, which can result in a shorter lifespan or the need for more repairs. Air leaks often occur around windows, doors, outlets and more and can be difficult to detect without infrared video.
    • Water Leaks – Infrared inspection can also be used in order to detect water leaks as well as issues with the building’s pipes, from erosion to deteriorated insulation. The inspector will be able to pinpoint these issues if there is a temperature difference within the pipes. These issues need to be fixed due to the fact that they can worsen over time, making repairing the problem a more costly expenditure. Not to mention that leaks can affect your water bills as well as your energy bills, since you are using energy to heat up your water. In addition to those issues, a water leak can result in water damage to the area, including the spread of mildew or mold throughout the building.

How to Prepare for an Infrared Inspection

4211232628_99e3e83fa5_nThe building must be prepared for an infrared inspection in the proper way for the inspection to be effective. This includes making sure that all of the building’s doors and windows are shut tightly in order to get a better reading of any present air leaks. Additionally, the readings work much better if there is a large temperature difference between the interior and exterior of the home. This means that if it is cold out, the heat should be on, and if it is warm out, then the air conditioner should be on. Other things you will have to do in order to prepare for an infrared inspection includes removing the drapes from your windows and clearing any furniture from your walls.

Having an infrared inspection conducted on your building is a great way to spot any issues that need to be repaired, help prevent further damage and reduce your energy use and costs. For questions about scheduling an infrared inspection to help detect water leaks, contact us at Leak Masters today.

 Image Credits: Camera by Minea Petratos (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons; Insulation by Flickr User mjtmail, Window by Flickr User Liz West

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Detecting Leaks During a Homebuyer’s Inspection

Buying a new home is a huge investment. In fact, research shows that it’s the biggest one most regular families make in their lives. So it makes sense to ensure that you aren’t being sold a doozy—especially in these days of lower house prices and sometimes-quick sales. Your house buying inspection is an essential part of this, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll pick up everything. One area you should focus on is leak detection, because anything you miss could cost you big-time down the line. Here are some of the ways to identify leaks before you finalize your purchase.

The M&Ms – Mold and Mildew

5716875706_30e272488c (1)These are the prime suspects you’ll find in a home that has water leaks, and guess what? It’s not really the home inspector’s job to identify them! Most inspectors will point mold out if they see it, and some include it in their report to avoid liability for problems relating to mold, but you can ask the inspector if he or she spotted any signs of it. Your best bet, however, is to do some sleuthing yourself and if you spot any signs of mold or mildew, get a leak detection specialist in to verify it for you.

 

Look for mold and mildew by:

  • Smell – these problems are caused by the growth of fungus that feeds off moisture, and the fungus has a musty, fairly distinctive odor. So take a “sniffing expedition” through the house and see if you smell anything that gives you food for thought.
  • Look – although mold and mildew are only readily visible when they reach an advanced stage, you can usually find them if you look carefully in the corners of rooms, both at floor and ceiling level, under stairs and inside bathroom closets.

You should be able to spot signs of mold and mildew even during warm, dry weather, especially if they are caused by leaking water pipes or drains.

Check the Water Meter

A standard method of leak detection is to check the water meter. It’s easy if the house is empty, but even if it isn’t you can go ahead by asking everyone to refrain from using faucets or flushing a toilet for a while. Turn off all water sources and wait for 15 minutes, then check the meter to see if it’s running. If it is, it’s usually an indication of a leak somewhere. You’ll need to examine all the toilets in the home to see if any tanks are leaking, and test the water pressure in the faucets to make sure nothing is draining away inside the walls.

Investigate the Basement and Crawl Space

infraredBasements and crawl spaces are notorious hiding places for water leaks. Take a close look at the walls and floor of the basement for any signs of dampness. If you see anything suspicious, you may need to get a leak detection professional out to investigate thoroughly using infra-red imaging equipment to check the foundations or conduct a camera inspection inside your drains.

Examine the Exterior and Yard

Sometimes, the problems are outdoors rather than indoors. Check the earth around the house for any signs of water pooling, or discoloration against the lower walls that could indicate dampness. Check that the ground slopes away from the building to encourage runoff, and examine the gutters and downspouts to see if they are in good condition and won’t need money spent on them if you buy. Look for any large trees growing well that may have roots sucking water out of the drainage system

Review the Roof, Gutters, and Downspouts

9951959944_93aa3097e9Checking the condition of the roof is a critical aspect of leak detection. Home inspectors don’t usually climb up onto roofs, so you might have to make a plan to do so. If you can’t get up on the roof yourself, hire a contractor who can verify that the shingles are all in place and in good condition. Examine the gutters and downspouts and make sure they are able to carry water away from the roof reliably, even during a heavy downpour.

Assess the Plumbing

Comprehensive leak detection includes a thorough assessment of the home’s water pipes. Even if your water meter check doesn’t indicate a leak, you should take a good look at all accessible pipes to see if you can identify moisture around connections, joints and valves. Wipe a fresh paper towel around each seal to see if you find any signs of water that could be the start of a new leak.

Don’t be fooled into bidding on a home without doing a full inspection. Leak detection costs less than you’ll fork out for major repairs, especially if you overlook anything potentially big.

Image Credits: Leakmasters – Infrared Detection, Aaron Volkening – Downspout, US Army Corps of Engineers – Inspector

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Mukilteo Police Department – Holiday Pipe Burst Causes over $100,000 Damage

A fire sprinkler pipe burst in the ceiling of the Mukilteo police department, causing a flood of 3,000 gallons of water on December 8th, 2013. A possible cold snap is considered the trigger of this flood, which pooled in the ceiling tiles until the pressure and weight buildup caused the water to release in a sudden damaging cascade.

Mukilteo PD

Damages from the water leak are estimated at around $100,000 in repair cost, and could take up to 6 weeks. Three police officers were on duty and out of the office at the time the pipe burst. The fire system is ten years old and was considered to be in good condition. The water leak was estimated to be running for about 40 minutes before it was discovered. The fire department was called and was able to turn the water off in 5 minutes – yet that was all the time needed for the damage to occur. Thousands of forms and a few days of case files were destroyed, but the department was lucky overall. Irreplaceable evidence and case files were spared. The office lobby was even back open three days later.

Cautions for Winter Weather

The issue with the Mukilteo system which was considered as relatively new and in good repair brings up additional concerns for winter weather. Cold temperatures can bring on a variety of issues, and leaks aren’t the only areas you need to check to ensure the health of your home. Here are some ways you can help prepare your water systems and prevent weather related damage.

Indoor tips for winterizing:

• Begin preparation before a freeze, because you often won’t notice the problem until it thaws.
• Leave faucets running at a trickle.
• Open cabinets that are near pipes to promote air flow.
• Keep your thermostat above 50.

Fire sprinkler winter tips:

• Check the coldest areas of your building, and make sure temperatures are staying above 40 degrees.
• Ensure your building shell is in good condition, with no holes, leaks, etc.
• Identify vulnerable areas such as crawl spaces and attics and provide extra heating.
• Set alarms at weak points to alert you before something becomes a bigger problem.
• Have pipes checked that appear altered or sagging in any way.

Outdoor and landscaping winterization:

• Remove outside hoses and attach
Styrofoam insulators.
• Have irrigation systems cleared and shut off.
• Clean downspouts and other drains to avoid water pooling.
• Use heat cables to keep exposed pipes warm.
• Know where the water shutoff to your house is located.

 

 

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