Sunday, September 09, 2012

Home maintenance: Our toilet leak, why Google searches about home problems suck, and my fix

Emily claimed the toilet was running. It seemed fine to me. Flush, fill, stop.

She didn't believe me, despite my stellar home repair history (I know how to stand aside while she calls a contractor). She bought a new flap valve, but still she could hear a leak. Obsessed, she took to spending hours staring at the toilet, listening ...

Or maybe minutes. She showed me that the tank water level was dropping until it triggered the float valve, and the tank refilled. There was no sign of water entering the bowl -- so where was it going?

Google was no help, but eventually we figured out that when I last replaced the float/valve mechanism I'd failed to trim the refill tube. It was so far down the overflow pipe it was below the fill line, and water was being siphoned into the overflow pipe. I assume this must run into the bowl, but we couldn't detect the flow (ok, that puzzles me - but I can't believe there's another flow option.)

That solved our home problem, but not the Google problem. It's not the first time I've noticed that searches for home issues don't work well. For some reasons, Google seems to have lost the SEO battle for the home maintenance market.

The answer to that problem is a free (ad-supported) Google custom search engine.

First, now that I knew the problem, I searched for a site that would have solved it:

Toiletology ... : "Another occasion when siphoning is a problem in a toilet tank occurs when the refill tube drops too far down into the overflow pipe. Then the water is siphoned from the tank into the overflow pipe and down the drain. While this scenario won't harm you, it will wreak havoc on your water bill, because you have water constantly recycling through your toilet. This problem often arises when a new refill valve is installed. They usually come with extra long refill tubes that are meant to be cut to size, but instead a do-it-yourselfer just drops the long tube down inside the pipe. The refill tube should be cut to just reach the top of the overflow and then be clipped to the top edge of the pipe. "

Then I started my home repair and maintenance custom search engine (see all of mine) with toiletology. Next I added the site for a magazine Emily subscribes to - "The Family Handyman". I'll gradually add sites to the CSE, but I don't want to add too many. That will produce Google's behavior -- lots of duplicative references on common problems, and the real result buried on page 114. 

See also:

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