Friday, January 17, 2014

Homestead Reboot Series: Evaluating the Water Bill

Pipe fixed in front yard
Now that we've moved into our new rental home, I have to start re-evaluating everything all over again. We lived in OUR home in the Valley for over 13 years so I knew that house and all it's workings intimately. This rental house however, not a clue. I've already replaced the dryer and oven with my own. The dishwasher was replaced by the owner a few weeks ago...but I digress.

So I am systematically assessing every aspect of the property starting with the basic utilities: water, electric, sewage and gas. (I checked the fence line prior to move-in for the dogs' sake). Particularly right now, I'm assessing the water supply. There are pipes and valves in the front and back yards to evaluate. Pipes inside the house as well as leaky faucets in just about every room.

The master bath, for example, has a leaking sink faucet, leaking shower head and an ever-so-slightly running toilet. Usually you leave these issues for the Landlord to address but as a Git R Dun kinda fella, I don't like waiting for whenever the Landlord might have time to come investigate. Every day that slips by I'm spending more cash on lost utilities.

The leaky Master Bath shower head (this is the new one!)
Luckily, and I use that term lightly, the county stopped by to check the valves in the front yard. They noticed an ice accumulation in a pipe that lead down to a water valve, most likely indicating a leak. Knowing this required digging, plumbing and potential for main pipe water damage, I actually DID notify the Landlord on this one. Several days later, a hole was dug and sure enough, I've been paying for water to slowly leak out of a pipe in the front yard.

Luckily, yet again, I had an old bicycle rubber inner tube and c-clamp with which the Landlord's husband performed a quick fix until the county could intervene and fix it properly. Several days later, most of the dirt was placed back into the hole and (hopefully) that problem is fixed. Haven't decided yet what to do with the excess dirt left in the front yard.

The leaky, corroded shower head was replaced including new plumbers tape to create a nice, tight seal. To our surprise, the new shower heads leaks as well (see above video.) This means there's a leak further up the line at the on/off shower valve.The running toilet was fixed by adjusting the plunger chain and all that remains is a new sink faucet coming next week.

The irrigation system has been blown out with air and shut off so there should be no problems there. 

Now to figure out the charges...

I just called and got the breakdown from the small town water company. I say "small town" because they don't have a way to pay the bill or see the bill online. You get a bill in the mail and have to mail a check back. I haven't done that in years.

Sympathizing with Tom Hanks in The Money Pit
Our current bill for three adults and six daughters is 10,400 gallons of usage. That usage includes all leaks so our next bill should be reduced. I'll keep an eye on the next few months bills to monitor usage and start working on our rain barrel runoff system. I brought at least ten of our 55 gallon water drums up from the Valley with us to catch rain. All that I'm waiting on is the time to build a rack to set them on and plumb them in-line. Having never stored rain water in cold climate before, I'm curious if my barrels will freeze.

After I make sure we have no leaky faucets or running toilets, I'll check the clothes washer, all other outside faucets and the central heat/air conditioner. Back home, we had a drip pan that was too small to catch all leaks and ended up doing some drywall repair until we could address the leak from the air conditioner. I hope there's no issue like that here. Once I get all the water sources shored up, I'll start evaluating the electrical system. I plan on using a Kill-a-Watt tool to gauge usage from each outlet and size up all our appliances since, as renters, I don't know just how well these major appliances are working.



  1. well dang....sounds like you are staying busy out there....
    That orange jeep been replaced yet?

    1. Busy is right. No replacement in site for the Orange Jeep. I haven't given up hope though. Some day....

  2. Ice will form on the top of your water barrels first. If it stays cold long enough the whole barrel will freeze and depending on the shape of the barrel, may burst.

    1. well, I guess I have something new to Google. I thought about wrapping some black hose around the outside of the barrels and hooking it up to a solar powered water pump. I think the Black Codes would conduct even keep that circulating water warm but I do not know if it would be enough to keep the whole barrel from freezing. I'm sure somebody has already solve this problem I just need to look it up.

  3. I will be watching your power issues very closely. In our new home half of the outlets inside don't work. We have old style screw in type fuses. Not sure how to trouble shoot them. Our park manger will come inside to check them out but I would rather do it myself.

  4. Replacing the washers in all the faucets (including bathtub/shower) should take care of any drips. The toilet may be a different story. Sometimes it is just a chain adjustment, other times it may need a new "flapper" valve, but is easy to do. Note: if you need to have the water turned off to the house (bad design in my house requires this if I am going to change tub faucet) be sure to call your provider first. They may want to do it. If you do it and it breaks, you are libel for any damage it causes. If they break it, then they fix it on their dime. That's how it works in my neighborhood anyway.

    Also, you may not want to fix the drips until you know how well your pipes are protected from freezing. That little drip may prevent a pipe from bursting if they freeze.

  5. Hope the leaks in your A/C gets dealt with in due time, because those tend to take out its ability to keep the room cool. Maybe something to do with the Freon. In any case, good luck.

    Terry @ Action

  6. Very well said, and having leaking freon from your AC is very dangerous. Time to fix as soonest as possible.

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