Rent, Buy, Or Hire? A Comparison Of Leak Detection Equipment & Services For Large Projects & Municipalities

Rent, Buy, Or Hire? A Comparison Of Leak Detection Equipment & Services For Large Projects & Municipalities

Underground water leaks are a major concern in the commercial/industrial plumbing and construction industries. Not only are they huge budget busters, hidden leak scan jeopardize commercial and municipal infrastructure in unanticipated ways.

Meter replacement, chemical treatment, and conveyance are just a few of the costs associated with large-scale water loss. Add to those the cost of inspecting at least 5% of water infrastructure annually, which is the expectation for municipal water district management, and losing water becomes a very big problem, very fast.

Plus, in urban areas and the American West demand is closing in on supply, creating an urgent need to keep every drop that is supposed to stay in your pipes, flowing.

When witnessing municipal water events like those in Jackson, Mississippi and Detroit, Michigan in August and September of 2022, local governments, institutions, and large plumbing contractors may consider shouldering the expense of renting or purchasing leak detection equipment to try to stem significant water loss before it happens.

There are several factors that must be considered before deciding to rent or purchase acoustic or correlative leak detection equipment in order to perform a D-I-Y leak investigation, excavation, and repair.

GPRS Project Manager Providing Acoustic Leak Detection Services
GPRS Project Manager Erick Morales is pictured utilizing an acoustic leak detector. He says his highly trained ears and 17+ years of field experience are his biggest assets when on the job.

What Is Leak Detection Equipment & How Do You Use It?

Underground leak detection generally occurs in two ways: acoustic and/or correlation.

Acoustic leak detection utilizes highly sensitive microphones and listening devices to hear the sound of an actual leak in an underground pipe. Metallic pipe leaks are easier to detect acoustically than PVC or cement, and smaller diameter pipes emit a higher frequency sound than large diameter pipes, making their leaks easier to pinpoint. Additional equipment like an elephant foot microphone can muffle the surrounding ambient noise, enabling you to listen in on the piping system to detect the leak.  

It takes practice and training to learn to hear the various types of leaks and track them to their source. That is why some people turn to leak detection correlators to detect water loss. A leak correlator (aka noise correlator) contains two sensors. Each sensor is placed on the pipe on either side of the suspected leak – on a hydrant or where the pipe exits the ground. The two sensors send data to each other via radio waves and an automated processing unit uses specially encoded algorithms to display the data as spikes and lines to help locate the leak.

Leak Detection Correlator Screen with Data
Leak detection correlator screen with data, showing the approximate location of a pressurized water line leak.

Leak detection correlation can only occur when you can correctly assess the general area of a leak and have access to exposed pipe on either end of the suspected leak area. A combination of acoustic detection and correlation is considered the most effective and accurate way to detect underground water pipe leaks.

Cost To Purchase & Use Leak Detection Equipment: $10,400 - $35,400

Purchasing leak detection equipment is expensive. Unless the equipment is going to be used on a continual basis, it may not justify its expense in a budget.

The purchase price of an acoustic leak detection system, like the DXmic Ground Microphone, is $5,400 at this writing. That price does include headphones and other accessories, like the elephant foot microphone. It is almost impossible to put a value on the years of training and experience a technician must have to deploy acoustic leak detection equipment effectively, but a basic online training course in leak detection costs approximately $5,000, and that does not include any hands-on experience in the field. Further, if the initial step of locating the pipe location itself is not done accurately, an untrained ear is only finding the echo of the leak, rather than the leak itself, and could very well dig up a dry hole, while the leak keeps running in the actual pipe.


The purchase price of a complete leak detection correlator is much higher than an acoustic system. The TriCorr Touch Pro correlation system is $25,000 at this writing. While it is true that leak correlator equipment does not require significant expertise to operate, at more than four times the cost of an acoustic system, and the fact that you must be able to access two points on either end of an underground leak, it may be cost prohibitive, especially for occasional use.


As previously mentioned, most leak detection specialists recommend using both types of equipment to locate underground water leaks, so the cost to own and operate all the required equipment is $35,400 to start.

Is Renting Leak Detection Equipment A Better Choice?

It is certainly possible to rent leak detection devices to find hidden leaks. It can provide a significant savings, and leased equipment may be easy to find near you. However, as with purchasing acoustic devices and correlators, training on how to hear the various kinds of leaks, how to track leaks to specific areas, and how to accurately find the leak itself require significant time, study, and experience.

Rental costs can vary greatly, but a solid average is $150- $200 per month for an acoustic leak detector system with a ground mic, and $1,400 per month for a leak correlator system.


*training not included

There Is Another Way: Hire A Professional, Experienced Leak Detection Service

When comparing costs, it’s vital to factor in the one thing you cannot get when you rent or buy acoustic leak detection equipment: trained ears, trained eyes, and experience.

The most common and cost-effective strategy for detecting leaks in pressurized water lines is hiring a professional leak detection service. The equipment cost is theirs, which saves tens of thousands of dollars in a budget, and there is no additional specialized training required.

While the cost to hire leak detection specialists like GPRS may present a higher short-term cost than equipment rental, the exponential increase in accuracy more than balances the scales. GPRS Project Managers in our Leak Detection Service have decades of acoustic leak detection and leak correlator detection experience, and have the ability to assess and pinpoint a leak in a pressurized pipe fast and accurately.

The savings in excavation costs alone make hiring a leak detection service the smarter alternative. Instead of digging up pipes only to find that they are intact, hiring an accurate professional leak detection service allows you to only excavate at the source of the leak. What’s more, GPRS offers an Annual Water Loss Survey to allow clients to assess water loss over time, and to plan excavation and repairs more effectively.