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Leak detection: more important than ever

By Marcelle Dibrell

With everything else that is going on in the world, it has been easy for the drought, which is impacting most of the western part of the United States, to slip under the radar.

However, according to the latest map provided by the U.S. Drought Monitor, much of the West– that is, California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana – is in what the agency considers to be either a severe or extreme drought.

Last summer, the drought prompted California’s Governor, Gavin Newsom to ask the state’s nearly 40 million residents to voluntarily reduce their water usage by 15 percent this year. In response, however, California reduced its water consumption by a meager 3.6 percent since July, when Newsom made the request, according to the State Water Resources Control Board.

Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, said that this wasn’t data the state had hoped to report.

Asked when to expect statewide mandatory conservation orders, Esquivel saidtheboardisstillcontemplatingthedata.

“We need to continue to see that response and decision-making, and the state’s here to make sure that if we need to go mandatory, that’s where we’re going,” Esquivel said.

In times such as these, as history has proven, the pool and spa industry is likely to come under fire, with jurisdictions imposing bans on new pool construction and renovations.

Consequently, it is more important than ever for the industry to monitor its water usage, especially when it comes to waste. And that means mitigating both water loss from both evaporation and from leaks.

The average residential pool contains about 20 thousand gallons of water and will naturally lose nearly two inches of water a week due to evaporation. That translates to about 25 thousand gallons of water loss a year. But according to a study by the National Pool Industry Research Center, simply adding a cover can reduce this water loss by 95 percent, which is considerable water savings. For this reason, it’s a good idea to advise customers to do what they can to minimize this loss, such as investing in a pool cover, using a liquid solar blanket, reducing water temperatures, and turning off any water features when the pool is not in use.

But a leaking pool or spa wastes considerably more water than water loss from normal evaporation, and according to American Leak Detection, one in 20 pools in the U.S. is currently leaking.

Experts say that a pinhole-sized leak in a pool plumbing system with 40 psi will lose approximately 970 gallons of water in a 24-hour period. That’s about 30 thousand gallons a month or 360 thousand gallons per year. This is enough water to drain and refill the average residential swimming pool many times over.

Not only is it wasteful, but it’s expensive, and it can lead to even more expensive problems. There’s the higher water bill, of course, but there’s also the increased cost of chemicals. And left unchecked, a leaking pool can undermine the structure of the pool itself, which can be a massive expense that a lot of insurance companies will not cover.

So, if a pool is leaking – typically more than ¼ inch of water loss per day suggests a possible leak – it should be leak tested immediately.

The simplest leak test is, of course, the bucket test, which can be done by either the homeowner or the pool service technician. The test involves placing an empty five-gallon plastic container in the water on a step of the pool so that the five-gallon mark is level with the water surface.

Fill the container with water to precisely match the pool’s water level. Turn off the recirculating pump as well as any auto-refill device if the pool is so equipped.

Wait 24 hours and compare the pool water level to the level of water in the plastic container. If the pool level has declined more than the level in the container, there is probably a leak somewhere. Repeat the same test, this time with the pump running for the next 24 hours. If the water loss in the pool is greater with water circulating under pressure, a leak somewhere in the pool plumbing is probable.

The next step is isolating the exact location of the leak, which can be a major undertaking, often necessitating specialized equipment such as special electronics, listening devices, cameras, pressure testing equipment, and more.

Such equipment is expensive, and using it can be somewhat complicated, but many manufacturers such as Anderson Manufacturing Company Inc., (www.leaktools) and LeakTronics (www. leaktronics.com) offer comprehensive training events, both in-person and online, and exceptional customer service that can make any pool and spa technician a professional leak detector.

Not only is it a profitable profession, but it also helps the environment.

In this special issue of Service Industry News, we’ll take a closer look at some of the finer points of leak detection.

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