The importance of leak detection in Durban plumbing systems cannot be overstated. By understanding the causes and signs of leaks, employing effective detection methods, and engaging experienced plumbers, one can mitigate the damaging consequences.
We take a look at the various types of leaks in this article and how to detect and prevent these water leaks from occurring.
Understanding Leak detection
Ranging from visible drips from a faucet or pipe to silent leaks hidden behind walls, beneath floors, or under the ground water leaks can be caused by a variety of factors, such as…
Corroded pipes are a common source of leaks in plumbing systems. Rust, gradual wear and tear or chemical reactions can weaken the structural integrity of pipes over time, leading to leakage.
Detecting leaks in corroded pipes can be challenging due to the subtle signs they often present. In some cases, changes in water colour or pressure might be the first indicators of a problem. Rusty or discoloured water suggests corrosion inside the pipes, while an unexpected drop in water pressure could signify a leak.
Despite these signs, many leaks remain hidden until significant damage has occurred. Therefore, regular professional inspections are vital for early detection. Advanced techniques such as infrared technology and acoustic detection are often used to locate leaks in corroded pipes.
Infrared technology involves using thermal imaging to detect variations in temperature caused by water leaks. This method is especially useful in identifying leaks behind walls or underground where traditional inspection methods might fail.
Acoustic detection, on the other hand, utilizes specialized sound equipment to identify the noise of water escaping from the pipe. This method is particularly effective in detecting leaks in underground or concealed pipes.
Proactive maintenance is crucial in preventing leaks from corroded pipes. This includes periodic checks, prompt repairs, and pipe replacements when necessary. Regularly flushing the system and using corrosion inhibitors can also help extend the life of the pipes, preventing leaks and conserving water.
High water pressure
Water leaks caused by high pressure are a common, yet often overlooked problem in residential and commercial plumbing systems. High water pressure, while providing a strong, satisfying shower or quick-filling tub, can be damaging to your plumbing system over time, leading to wastage of water and costly repairs.
When the water pressure is excessively high, it places constant stress on your pipes and fixtures. It’s similar to over-inflating a balloon; the extra pressure stretches the material and, over time, can lead to failure. Similarly, high water pressure can cause pipes to crack or rupture, leading to leaks. Additionally, it can wear down the inner workings of appliances like dishwashers and washing machines, causing them to leak, reducing their lifespan.
High water pressure symptoms include banging noises in the pipes (also known as water hammer), leaky valves, running toilets, and a reduction in the lifespan of appliances that use water.
One of the most effective ways to detect high water pressure is by using a pressure gauge.
You can attach this simple device to a hose bib or washing machine outlet to get an accurate reading of your water pressure. Most residential systems should ideally have a water pressure between 40-60 psi (pounds per square inch). A reading consistently above 80 psi is considered high and could be the cause of leaks.
To mitigate the risks associated with high water pressure, plumbers install pressure reducing valves (PRVs). These devices lower the pressure of the water entering your home or building, preventing potential leaks and other related issues.
Temperature fluctuations can be a significant contributing factor to water leaks in plumbing systems. Both extreme heat and freezing temperatures pose distinct challenges to the integrity of pipes and fixtures, potentially leading to leaks and subsequent water damage.
In colder climates, the risk of pipe bursts due to freezing is high. When water freezes inside pipes, it expands, causing an increase in pressure within the pipe. This pressure can exceed the pipe’s capacity, leading to cracks or even ruptures, resulting in water leaks once the ice thaws. This is particularly common in pipes that are exposed to the outside elements or are poorly insulated, such as pipes in basements, garages, or exterior walls.
On the other end of the spectrum, extreme heat can also lead to leaks. High temperatures can cause pipes, particularly those made of PVC or other plastics, to soften or warp. This compromises the pipe’s structural integrity, making it susceptible to leaks. Additionally, hot temperatures can cause thermal expansion of water, which can increase pressure in the plumbing system, potentially causing weak points in the pipes or fixtures to fail.
Leak detection caused by temperature fluctuations involves regular inspection of the plumbing system, particularly during times of extreme cold or heat. Visible signs of leaks include damp spots, discolouration, or water pooling. However, many leaks may be hidden within walls or underground, requiring professional leak detection services to locate.
The primary strategy to prevent temperature-related leaks is prevention. This includes properly insulating pipes in colder climates to protect them from freezing temperatures and using materials that can withstand the heat in warmer areas. Pressure relief valves can also be installed to alleviate pressure build-up due to thermal expansion. Regular inspection and maintenance of the plumbing system can further help prevent leaks and related damage.
Wear and tear over time
Pipes are the circulatory system of any building, constantly channeling water to various points of use. Over time, these pipes give in to wear and tear, a gradual process of deterioration that can ultimately result in leaks.
Wear and tear in pipes can stem from a variety of factors. Constant water flow, chemical interactions between the water and type of pipe, temperature changes, and high water pressure all contribute to gradual weakening. The age of the pipes is also a significant factor, with older pipes more likely to have wear-induced leaks.
Pipes made from different materials have varying lifespan. For example, galvanized steel pipes can last between 20 to 50 years, while brass, cast iron, and copper pipes can last up to 100 years. However, these estimates can vary greatly based on factors such as water quality, location of the pipe, and maintenance.
Leakage from worn-out pipes often starts as a slow drip, making it hard to detect until significant damage has occurred. Regular inspections are crucial to identify early signs of wear and tear. These signs can include discolouration, dimpling, flaking, or stains on pipes, and reduced water pressure.
Addressing leaks caused by wear and tear often involves repairing or replacing the damaged pipes. While you can patch minor leaks, typically, replacing older pipes showing signs of widespread wear is the best long-term solution.
Professionals regularly inspecting the plumbing system can catch early signs of wear, and they can take corrective measures before a leak develops.
Preventing water leaks
We cannot overstate the importance of leak detection in plumbing systems. Understanding the causes and signs of leaks, employing effective detection methods, and engaging professional plumbers to maintain plumbing systems, can prevent some of the unnecessary damage water leaks can cause.
Read also our introductory article about our plumbers in Durban.