How we locate a water leak that's not visible to the eye

26 April 2017

Water leaks in pipes aren’t always visible. Most non visible leaks are so small or so well hidden that without the right detection tools you wouldn’t even know they were there, until you receive a big bill from your water authority or find you have no water. With leak detection services as one of our specialties, we know the best methods and have the right equipment to detect leaks that you can’t even see. While we have a whole range of different methods, there are two that we use most often that can easily detect any unnoticed leaks on your property.

Listening Sticks

While you might not be able to hear the sound of a water leak for yourself, in the pipes the sound of a leak under pressure can travel a fair distance through water in every direction. It’s the sound of a leak that can help us to detect where it is with the right tools. 

Our skilled, highly trained and experienced engineers listen in on a number of different places along the pipe and can pinpoint the sound of a leak and locate it. For this, we use a listening stick, which is a device that allows us to listen to what’s going on in the pipes. Listening sticks have been a longstanding tool for leak detection, dating back centuries, and there are many different kinds available. The more traditional types of listening stick consist of a metal or wooden pole with earpieces. 

While this isn’t a perfect method for finding leaks, it is very capable of finding smaller leaks. Contrary to what you might believe, the types of leaks that make the most noise are small leaks, meaning that with listening sticks it is easier to find smaller leaks than it is to find bigger ones. While it might take some time to find the leak, this is one of the most tried and true methods of finding leak detection.

Leak Location-Finding Tracer Gas

While listening sticks work best with pipes under pressure, those that aren’t require different leak inspection tools. Tracer gas is a much newer tool for finding leaks and it can be used to find leaks in many different types of pipes. A gas, consisting of 95% nitrogen and 5% hydrogen is introduced into the pipe with the possible leak. This gas is completely safe and is non-toxic as well as non-corrosive.

Firstly, the pipe is completely emptied of water before a cylinder of tracer gas is released into the pipe. When the gas is in the pipe, the system is then pressurised and a tool is used to read the pressure in the pipes. Hydrogen is incredibly light – it is the lightest and smallest molecule in our atmosphere – which is an important part of the method. When the tracer gas enters the pipes, the hydrogen will float around in the pipes until eventually escaping from the leak. On the tool that measures pressure within the pipes, you will be able to see the numbers go down and the pressure decreasing if there is a place where the hydrogen is escaping.  Special equipment is then used to detect the presence of gas on the ground’s surface and the aim is to find the area with the highest gas readings. This is where the leak most likely is.  

At Hamblin Watermains, we use both of these methods and are able to detect even the smallest of leaks. If you are interested in hiring us for our leak detection services, feel free to contact us today.