Should You Repair a Dripping Faucet?
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
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!]