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sirienne 01-12-2013 09:38 PM

Can high water pressure cause a toilet to run?
(I apologize in advance for the long post, I can be quite wordy and over-explain things. The topic title is the relevant part, the rest is just backstory. ;))

I bought my house in April. For the past few months (essentially since the weather's gotten colder) I've been hearing an intermittent running water noise that I've had trouble identifying the source of. It only runs for a maximum of 4-5 seconds at a time, so by the time I hear it and try to run from wherever I am to wherever I think the noise might be coming from, it's stopped. It'll run anywhere from 1-5 seconds and it does so very intermittently. It must have gone off 15-20 times today starting around noon, but I hadn't heard it all week previously.

It's loudest from the powder room (which is right off the living room). I've come to the conclusion that it's most likely the toilet, even though it doesn't sound like the toilet does when it's filling after a flush, it's at least twice as loud - I can barely hear the toilet filling when I'm out of the room normally, but this is loud enough to hear throughout the entire first floor and the basement, and startle me when I'm in the living room and it's quiet. The only other source of water in that area (other than the faucet) is the water heater which is in the basement underneath the powder room.

I turned the toilet off when I was gone for a few days to see if it would lose water in the tank, but when I came back it hadn't. I turned it off for nearly a week again, this time when I was home, to see if I heard the noise when it was off, and I didn't. It did run for a few seconds this time when I turned it back on, but it was not the same sound as the mystery noise and I think it was due to evaporation - it gets really hot in that room with the door closed as it usually is and the water level in the bowl was a tad bit lower than normal. If it was a leaky flapper, I would think that it would run on a consistent schedule and always run after the water to it had been turned off for a few days. This is a new toilet I installed before I moved in and I have the same exact toilet upstairs, which does not run.

The curious thing is that the old toilet that used to be installed in this location also ran, quite frequently it seems. It was running when I first toured the house; it was running during my inspection (the inspector fiddled with the tank innards and got it to stop but unfortunately I didn't ask what he did); it was running on the morning of my closing and the seller paid a plumber $200 to do an emergency fix. Don't know what he did, though. And now the new toilet in the old spot runs (or seems to...still haven't been able to catch it in the act!)

So I got to thinking the other day, maybe it is a water pressure issue? I don't know the exact psi of the house but it's got to be fairly high because I can run the dishwasher, washing machine, and take a shower at the same time without the pressure noticeably diminishing. The powder room toilet is the first fixture on the water lines, I think, and there's only that, the powder room sink, the kitchen sink, and the dishwasher on the main floor. There's also a pretty noticeable water hammer sound when the mystery water noise cuts off. So maybe the fill valve is the weakest point in the system and is being forced open every once and a while by the high water pressure? Is that possible? How would I know if that's the case and what would I do about it?

The only other idea I have is that it's something related to the heat pump or the water heater, both of which are right under the powder room. But I don't see any water connections on/near the furnace, or a humidifier or anything, and it's not as loud in the basement as it is upstairs. Or maybe my house is haunted by a ghost that uses an invisible faucet to wash its hands... :huh:

DannyT 01-12-2013 10:16 PM

sounds like you need a new flapper. it leaks water out slowly til the valve comes on to fill the tank back up to the proper level. flapper = the thing in the middle at the bottom that lets the water run into the bowl when you flush. any local hardware store should be able to fix you up if you shut the toilet and take the old part with you.
to check it put some food coloring in the tank when it hasn't been flushed for a while and see if the water in the bowl turns the color that you put in the tank.

joecaption 01-12-2013 11:04 PM

If it not that check the water pressure, no need for it to be any higher then 60 PSI.
If it's an older water tank and no ones ever taken the time to drain the sedimant out of the bottom of the tank it can build up and make a popping or rumbling sound. It needs to have some water drained out at least once a year.

AllanJ 01-13-2013 07:52 AM

Have you done the food coloring test in all toilet tanks?

Are you getting outflow from the water heater relief valve?

Do you have a water softener or whole house humidifier or other appliance that normally cycles on and off and uses water or is connected to the plumbing system?

sirienne 01-13-2013 07:06 PM

Alright, I went out and got some food coloring and a water pressure gauge that you can hook up to a hose bib. Put the food coloring in the tank, went downstairs to turn on the water to outside (toilet ran while I was doing that but not while I was upstairs, sneaky bastard). My water pressure is around 75 psi and my toilet had some nice blue-green swirls in the trapway when I came back upstairs. So I guess it is the flapper, then? It's only six months old. :mad: Still doesn't explain why it's so blasted loud, though.

I don't have a humidifier or any other kind of water-using appliance down in the basement, and I've never seen any water on the floor near the water heater. (Yet...) Unfortunately the previous owner of the house died and there's no way to know what she did to maintain it over the years. The water heater was installed in 2000 and I am planning to replace it in the next six months so I've never really bothered to do anything with it.

Should the water pressure be adjusted down? It looks like I've got a pressure regulator on the water line before the meter, I assume you just turn the screw on the top to adjust it?

jagans 01-13-2013 07:25 PM

1 Attachment(s)
1. Shut off the water pressure to the toilet.
2. Flush the Toilet.
3. Remove the tank top and place it on a towel on the floor.
4. Disconnect the chain from the flush arm
5. Reach in and take the ears of the rubber flapper off the protrusions on the standpipe.
6. Clean the seat where the flapper set with warm water bleach and soap.
7. Take the old flapper down to HD or Lowes, or a PS. Buy new flappers for all your toilets if they are the same.
8. Go home and install them, making sure there is a little slack in the chain.
9. Set the ball cock a little lower on all toilets.

That should do the trick. Slime build up on the flapper, and can cause it not to seat properly. The reason it is so loud is because the ball cock is just slightly opening, and their is a diaphragm in there that is setting up a harmonic, like stretching the open end of a balloon and blowing. like blowing on a reed. Annoying as hell.

I like These, if it fits yours, Kohler.

sirienne 01-13-2013 07:58 PM

It's an American Standard Cadet 3. I'm not sure if the flapper you posted would fit it? I'll probably take the old one with me when I go... wherever I go. For some reason there are not any plumbing supply places near me. I am somewhat dubious of the stuff at the big box stores - I know some of it is cost engineered, I don't know if that includes flappers.

My fill valve looks more or less like this:

The water on both toilets goes up until it just trickles over the overflow tube, but I'm not sure how to adjust the fill level down with that.

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