A water meter can be really useful in helping you determine whether or not you have a leak, and it can also help you to measure the size of your leak.
Not all properties have water meters, but if yours does, a simple meter test can help you find out if your property has a leak on the water mains, a hot feed, a cold feed or any other pipework or water system in the property.
A leak will cause the meter to run continuously, even though all the taps are turned off and no water appliances are being used.
The only kind of leaks that a meter test won’t help you with is a leak on a heating system that runs off a Combi boiler (this would instead be revealed by your boiler losing pressure) or a leak on the waste systems in your property.
Please note, there is a wealth of information on locating and reading water meters on the Water Authority websites, we recommending using these, or contacting your Local Water Company directly for help locating and reading your meter, in conjunction with our guide below. We have a list of water boards so you know where to report a water leak.
How to carry out a meter test, a step-by-step guide
Step 1. Make sure no water is being used in or on the property
…so no taps running, no toilet cisterns filling up, no washing machines or dishwashers in use, etc.
Step 2. Locate your water meter!
Our water meter looks like this:
Your water meter will usually be on the boundary between your property and the nearest public footpath, road or walkway.
Depending on the type of property, it could be just a few feet away, or several hundred meters away, maybe even up to a mile.
Some properties don’t have them at all and some properties have a shared water supply with just one water meter measuring the total usage of several properties.
This is especially common with old terraced houses, large estates which have been divided up into several smaller dwellings, and industrial sites.
Check the serial number on the meter with the one on your water bill to make sure you’re taking the reading from the right meter!
If you don’t know where yours is or you’re not sure if you have one, contact your Local Water provider – they should be able to tell you.
If you’re on a shared supply, have a look at this article to find out how to prepare for your Leak Detection on a shared supply.
Step 3. Take a reading from your meter.
Please be careful when removing the plastic cover to take a reading! You may need to wedge a screwdriver down the side of the cover.
Underneath this there will be a polystyrene or foam disc that protects the meter from frost, please make sure you put this back in place when you have finished taking your meter reading.
If it is not obvious or easy to do so, please contact your local Water Company for assistance.
If you see any of the cogs or dials or rotating, this means you have a leak. Take a note of the meter reading and then wait a while.
Step 4. Take another reading from your meter
If you only see a tiny amount of movement, or the meter stops and starts this means you have a small leak. Wait an hour or so, then take another reading.
If you see fast movement, wait 1 minute or so, then take another reading.
Step 5. Calculate your Leak Rate
Working out the difference between the two readings will tell you your leak rate over 1 minute or 1 hour respectively, or for whatever fixed period of time you were monitoring the leakage rate.
It’s really helpful for us to know the leak rate before we book you in for a Leak Detection.
But if you don’t manage to calculate your leak rate, don’t worry, we can still book you in – it’s enough just to know that there is movement on your meter or use our waterloss calculator.
Step 6. Isolation testing.
If you want to know more about your leak, isolation testing can help you determine if it’s on your internal or external pipework.
For this, you’ll need to know the location of your internal stopcock and be comfortable with ‘isolating it’, (that’s what we call ‘turning it off!’). This will stop water from passing the isolation valve – it will cut off the water supply to the property.
Be careful when isolating your internal stopcock, as they can be stiff and brittle and old ones have been known to break easily. If you have any concerns, appoint a local, trusted plumber to assist you.
Once you have turned off the internal stopcock, take another take another look at your water meter. If the meter has stopped, that means your leak is after the internal stopcock, on your internal pipework somewhere.
If your meter carries on moving then you know your leak is before the internal stopcock, somewhere on your external supply.
Again, this information is really useful for us, but not essential when making an appointment for Leak Detection.
If you have any other isolation points (stopcocks) in or around your property, you can repeat this test to further narrow down your leak location.
But remember, this will form part of our investigation anyway so it’s absolutely not essential for you to have gone through isolation testing prior to your leak detection appointment.
Steps 3-6 are really for those people who like to get actively involved in starting the Leak Detection process.
If the results of your meter test reveal you have a leak, or if you’re still not sure, call 0800 731 3843 now so that one of our Leak Detection Experts can assist you.