If you've noticed a significant spike in your recent water bills, one of your toilet's components may be to blame. The first thing you should do is listen for the sound of running water.
It may be a rather obvious sound of water running through pipes, or it may be almost imperceptible, especially if your household has the usual constant noise from family and gadgets.
Even a small constant trickle of water can cause significant water use and corresponding water charges. The culprit may be the flapper in your toilet bowl.
What is a toilet flapper?
A toilet flapper is a round flat piece of rubber that is seated over your toilet tank's drain opening. It is connected by a thin chain to the flush handle of your toilet. When the handle is depressed, the flapper is pulled upward, allowing the contents of the tank to drain into the toilet bowl and down the main drain.
When the flush handle is released, the flapper falls into place again, and as the tank starts to fill, the weight of the water keeps the flapper in place over the tank drain.
However, the flapper can degrade over time or accumulate mold and other materials that can inhibit the flapper from seating itself fully over the drain opening.
When this occurs, water will flow into the bowl unimpeded, causing the fill valve, which supplies the tank with water, to run continuously if an effort to keep the tank at the proper level.
Changing the flapper
Considering the potential costs of a flapper that is no longer functioning properly, replacing a flapper may be the best investment you've ever made. Toilet flappers are sold in one universal size and require no tools to install. They are also very inexpensive, costing only a few dollars.
If you have an aversion to immersing your hands and forearms in very cold water, you may choose to turn off the supply valve that controls the flow of water to your toilet. Turn it in a clockwise direction until it turns no more, then flush the toilet a few times until very little water remains in the tank.
Removing the old flapper
You will first unhook the chain that connects the flapper to the flush handle. The flapper will have two small flexible arms with slots that are attached to posts on the sides of the overflow tube, which is a vertical tube in the center of the tank.
Simply pull the arms away from the posts and lift the flapper from the tank. You may see a buildup of mold or mineral deposits on the flapper and around the tank's drain opening. Clean the opening carefully with a cloth or paper towels to ensure that the new flapper can seat itself fully.over the opening.
Installing the new flapper
Push the slotted ends of the flapper arms onto the posts on the overflow tube. Before hooking the chain to the new flapper, you must be sure that the chain is not twisted or kinked, because the flush handle may not lift the flapper properly if the chain is shortened.
When the chain is attached, turn on the fill valve and give the flapper a few test flushes.
If you have other questions, or you don't trust your skill, contact a plumber in your area.