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Dulley's Money-Saving Tip #1016

Fix your dripping faucets

(related Dulley column topic links - 678, 847, 811, 429)

If you have any faucets leaking, definitely fix the leaks. A drip of only one drop every several seconds can waste hundreds of gallons of water per year. This slow drip has time to cool and it will always feel cold, even if it is coming from the hot water side, so do not ignore any leak. An annual leak of five to ten water heater tanks of hot water can really push up your electric or gas bills.

For about $3, you can easily fix most drips yourself. By far the most common type of faucet is the stem design. If your faucets have separate hot and cold knobs, they most likely are this type. First shut off the water under the sink. Turn the handle to open the faucet as if you were turning on the water. Use a wrench to remove the stem assembly. Take it along to the hardware store so you get the proper size washer. There are many similar sizes. Install the new washer in the bottom of the stem (usually held on by a small screw) and screw the stem assembly back into the faucet body.

Tighten with a wrench. Before tightening, make sure that the handle is turned so that the faucet would be opened. If it is turned in the closed position with the washer and stem down, the washer may hit the valve seat before the stem assembly is screwed all the way down into the body. If you keep turning with the wrench, you can break the body or the stem. I know this because I ruined my mother's kitchen faucet in this way many years ago.