Should You Repair a Dripping Faucet?

By Paul Michael on 12 April 2011 26 comments

Drip. Drip. Drip.

It’s a sound most of us know all too well. Sooner or later, we encounter a dripping faucet in our home. For some people, it’s a no brainer to replace it. One washer and some very simple plumbing maneuvers, and it’s all done. (See also: 5 Household Fixes You Should Stop Paying Others For)

But to others, it’s not all that simple. Some people just do not want to mess with faucets, washers, and water supplies, period. Others have to get down into a nasty, bug-infested crawl space to reach the water shut-off valve. Whatever the reason, they’re not into the idea of doing it themselves.

In that case, it’s time to call a plumber. And with the average price of repairing or replacing a dripping faucet being $40-$100, it raises an interesting question...

How much money does a dripping faucet really waste?

I was ready to get down and do some serious calculating, but this being the information age, I figured someone on the Internet had already created a calculator for this one. And sure enough, after literally minutes of searching, I found this water-waste calculator. It rounds the numbers in the calculations, but the final outcome is spot on.

So, for this hypothesis, let’s go with one home and one dripping faucet.

I’ll say that the average leaky faucet drips once every two seconds. That makes 30 drips/minute, and...

  • 30 drips/minute = 43,200 drips/day
  • 43,200 drips/day = 10.8 liters/day or 2.85 U.S. gallons/day
  • 2.85 U.S. gallons/day = 1,041 U.S. gallons/year

The average price of 1000 gallons of tap water in the US is $1.50. I found several sources for that, including, Fairfax Water, and LeakBird. So 1,041 U.S. gallons = $1.56.

So is the dripping faucet worth repairing?

Well, that all depends. I'm against waste and usually wouldn't even ask a question like that. But in this case, it's warranted. There are two definitive answers depending on the solution you plan to use for the dripping faucet.

If you do it yourself: Yes

Pretty simple math. One 35-cent washer is going to have paid for itself within three months. If you have the know-how and the time, by all means change that washer. After three months you’re saving money.

If you hire a plumber: No

Forget the moral implications for a second here. I know any kind of waste is wrong, especially in a world where millions of people don’t have access to clean drinking water. But from a purely financial perspective, it’s not worth it.

Even if you get lucky and find a plumber who will charge the bottom-end $40 fee for the repair, it will take 25.6 years to break even! OK, rates will go up over time, but you’re still looking at around 15-20 years. And if you get a plumber that charges the $100, you’ll be old and gray longer before your investment pays off. It would take over 64 years to get back to zero at $1.56/year.

Yes, waste is rotten. But if you really don’t care, and don’t mind (or just don’t hear) the dripping sound, you now know that you’re not throwing hundreds of dollars down the drain. Not even close.

[Note: Sorry for the typo in the math and thanks for pointing it out. It has now been fixed!]

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26 discussions

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Guest's picture

It's not just about how much a dripping faucet costs YOU it's also about how much ALL the other dripping faucets cost the neighbourhood, the town, the county, etc. And cost isn't all about money. What about the cost to the eco system?

Guest's picture

I agree. Imagine if everyone's faucet *only* leaked 2 gallons a day. What if the sewage treatment facility for the town was already near capacity? Those measly 2 gallons per household could mean tens of thousands of gallons of untreated wastewater spilling into creeks, lakes, etc. If a nearby town takes water from that same body of water, then the water plant that produces potable water must spend more to reduce fecal bacteria loads to safe levels. Remember, no one lives in a bubble and the collective impact would be huge.

Guest's picture
Rare Guest

Check your math. If an average gallon is $1.50, then 1,041 average gallons will cost $1,561.50. Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems like your dripping away $4.28/day.

Guest's picture

Check you reading. 1000 Gallons for $1.50.

Guest's picture

I think something must be wrong with that equation (but not the conclusion). I had a dripping tap recently, but the relative who fixes these things for me for free was away on a week's fishing trip. Until he returned, I placed a 2 litre jug underneath the tap, which was dripping every second. Over 24 hours, it just filled the jug once. Nowhere near 10.8 litres a day. The collected water was used for cooking/the cat's drinking water/tipped on the vege garden, so it wasn't even wasted. But one more point people might like to consider: my tap was the *hot* water tap, so it was also wasting electricity.

Guest's picture

Great article. Maybe double check your units or calculations. Did you maybe mean to say that a gallon in the US usually costs 1.50 cents not dollars? I imagine that's the problem, however that would still end up costing more than $1.56. It would be $15.60 then.

Guest's picture

1,041 U.S. gallons/year * $1.50/gallon = $1561.50/ I missing something?

Guest's picture

$1.50 x 1041 gallons = $1561.50

Guest's picture

Great article. Maybe double check your units or calculations. Did you maybe mean to say that a gallon in the US usually costs 1.50 cents not dollars? I imagine that's the problem, however that would still end up costing more than $1.56. It would be $15.60 then.

Guest's picture
Math Teacher

Methinks the author needs to recheck the math used in this article, since 1.50 * 1041 is definitely not 1.56 :)

Guest's picture

"The average price of a gallon of tap water in the US is $1.50. I found several sources for that, including, Fairfax Water, and LeakBird. So 1,041 U.S. gallons = $1.56."

I think you meant meant the average price for 1000 gallons tap water is $1.50

Guest's picture

If the average price of a gallon of tap water is $1.50, and the faucet is dripping 2.85 gallons per day, wouldn't that be $4.28 dollars in water every day? And over $1,500 worth of water in a year?

Guest's picture

Will you be updating this post with new calculations? As everyone else says below, the numbers don't add up.

Paul Michael's picture

My apologies, I meant to say 1000 gallons is $1.50. 1 gallon is $0.0015. The post is fixed now. Thanks to all who pointed it out. It does make a good argument for drinking tap water, too. I doubt you can buy bottled water for less than $3/gallon these days.

Guest's picture
Guest Jill

a gallon of bottled water costs around a dollar a gallon.
In our neighborhood, if you purchase it and fill your own bottles (reverse osmosis) it runs around 45 cents. And it's not only how much it costs, it's what is coming out of the tap and going into your system.

Guest's picture

If the drip is your hot water, then you also need to factor in the cost of heating the water (gas and electricity).

Guest's picture

Hot water drips are the killer. And in my neighborhood, we pay not only for water but also for sewer, so in total, about double the cost of just water delivery.

Guest's picture

My condominium has a deal with a company called Water Management. They fix leaky faucets and toilets at no cost to the unit owner, and split the savings with the owners' association. The fact that this business model works proves that the answer is yes.

Guest's picture

I doubt that the gas and electric costs will be affected all that much by a slow drip. I could be wrong, but Im sure over a year it's quite minimal.

This is an interesting post though, I wouldve guessed more money annually than what was described.

Guest's picture

I've got a dripping faucet. I'll fix it when I have the time. (Sorry, but it's not always just a matter of changing a washer. This sucker has a corroded faucet screw I'll have to drill out, etc. etc.)

Meanwhile.....put a pitcher under the faucet. (Put a washcloth in it if you can hear the plunk, plunk of water dripping into water.) Use the water for your plants. Pour it into the washing machine before you do a load of wash. Fill the dog's water bowl with it.

That cuts the guilt way down.

Guest's picture

If you have a septic system instead of sewer for your home you HAVE to fix the leak promptly. If you don't the leak will eventually cause your leech fields to fail resulting in thousands of dollars to repair or replace them.

As an aside, most manufacturers (American Standard comes to mind) offer lifetime warranties on their faucets and will ship parts out free when they fail. Something to look into.

Guest's picture

Actually a slow dripping tap costs nothing. It is too slow to register on the water meter.

Guest's picture

I had a dripping hot tap. I went out for about an hour. When I returned the drip had turned into a completely perished valve, and the tap was bursting water at full pressure all over the flat. Not good. Extremely unlikely I would agree, but something I realise is possible. So my advice is YES FIX A LEAKING TAP!

Guest's picture
Drippy drop

I did this on my own recently, (just a few hours ago actually), and found I could fill 1/4 cup in almost exactly 20 minutes. So, a full cup every hour and 20 minutes, bringing the total to 18 cups in a day, (or a gallon and 2 cups). Water in my area costs about a penny per gallon per day, so in a year, this drip costs me $4.11. With the cost of a low-end plumber being $40, .... yeah ... 9 years isn't worth it. This is a really old faucet also, (not very do-it-yourself friendly), plus, I rent and the landlord doesn't give a crap.

Guest's picture

I got a bathtub faucet that leaks. I always thought it was just the water that was in the pipe going to the head leaking out after I took the shower (its got a lever to switch back and forth). I put a bucket under it since it seemed to be about 1 drip a second at times (it varies). After 2 days, there was maybe 3 quarts in the bucket. I went to take the faucet apart to change a washer. The thing was corroded and could not come apart. I think I'll just live with the $3 a year the leak costs me.

Guest's picture

If you live in the country and you have a well, dripping faucets can cause the pump to cycle in and off and eventually add to your electric bill. And if you have a septic tank, eventually all those extra gallons of water flowing into the septic tank will cause a stinking mess to bubble up somewhere on your property down the line. I guess it does well to ponder whether or not to fix a leaking faucet or two, but really, all is relative, kind of like...letting your bank account drip a little over the years by buying extra stuff you don't really need. : ).

Guest's picture

This post forgets to ask if it is hot water or cold water. If hot water and you are using a storage system then you need to reheat 1,041 U.S. gallons of water from the temperature the water enters the system at to usually around 60 degrees celsius