Are You Paying Too Much on Your Water Bill?

Serving our present needs without jeopardizing the future involves more than solar power and other renewable energies. Water conservation is just as important for a clean, green, and sustainable environment. Neglecting our water use can be just as expensive too. Just ask Californians, whom are suffering from a long lasting drought and may soon be facing water rationing.

Make your home water smart and save money and the environment. Take a look at these simple yet effective water conservation tips from homepower.com.

Flushing Toilets. Toilets are the largest water-wasters inside most homes, accounting for about 25% of the daily indoor water use. If your toilet was installed before 1992, it likely uses too much water. Check out your toilet’s vintage by lifting the lid and looking at the manufacturer’s imprint. Sometimes, the stamp will also include a “gpf” (gallons per flush) value, such as “2.2 gpf,” which indicates the amount of water used for each flush. In 1992, federal legislation mandated that all toilets manufactured or imported into the United States be 1.6 gpf or lower. Today, you can do even better—dual-flush units let you select how much water to use, usually 0.8 gpf or 1.6 gpf. For reviews of low-flush and dual-flush models, check out expert plumber Terry Love’s forums at www.terrylove.com. Although this is a commercial site, the forums offer insight on models that people love, and ones people love to hate. Composting toilets are the most water-efficient of all, since they use no water. They typically consist of a standard seat that empties into a chamber. “Deposits” are usually covered with peat moss, coconut husks, or sawdust to stymie odors and aid in composting. Once full, the chamber contents can be emptied into a separate, outdoor composting bin or buried around vegetation.

Washing Clothes. After toilets, washing clothes consumes the most water in a typical household. This is mostly due to older vertical-axis machines (commonly known as “top loaders”), which may use 35% to 50% more water than newer horizontal-axis machines. If your machine is 10 years or older, you may want to consider replacing it for both water and energy savings. Choose a model with a high modified energy factor (MEF) and a low water factor (WF).

Showerheads. For maximum water efficiency, select a showerhead with a flow rate of less than 2.5 gpm. Two basic types of low-flow showerheads are available: aerating, which mixes air with water; and laminar-flow, which forms individual streams of water. Laminar-flow showerheads put less moisture into the air compared to aerating ones. Consider replacing showerheads that are more than 9 years old—before the water-saving standards went into effect.

Faucets. Low-flow faucets designed to federal standards may use sensors, as well as aerators, to reduce water consumption. For households, one of the newest innovations is the touch faucet, which allows users to control flow and operation with a quick touch of the faucet. Fixture retrofits include simple and inexpensive aerators, which screw into the end of the faucet. At $5 to $10, they are an easy, quick retrofit that offers a quick payback.

Find & Fix Leaks. Studies have shown homes can waste more than 10% due to leaks, which costs both you and the environment. Leaky toilets can account for 95% of all water waste. Defective float arms and flapper valves are common causes of toilet leaks. A worn seat washer may be the cause of a dripping faucet.

Outdoor Uses. Most household water use—about 30%—occurs outside the home, and goes toward watering lawns, landscape plantings, and gardens. Avoid sprinklers and overhead watering systems—they are big water wasters, losing a lot of water to evaporation. If you have an irrigation system, check it thoroughly before putting it back in business. It’s estimated that, with regular maintenance, watering waste due to irrigation systems could be reduced by about 15%. Consider replacing grass with drought-tolerant and native plants. Once they are established, they’ll need little watering beyond normal rainfall.

Saving the Rain. Beyond water conservation, consider water harvesting strategies—ways to keep water on-site and reduce stormwater runoff. Rain barrels, which connect to the downspouts of your home, are some of the simplest (and least expensive) rainwater-saving devices. Most barrels are designed to hold 40 to 75 gallons, and prices usually start at $50.

Reuse. Graywater (or greywater) is water discharged from bathroom showers and sinks, washing machines, and kitchen sinks. In some areas, this water is permitted to be conveyed separately from toilet water (blackwater), and can be used in the landscape. If you compost your food scraps, don’t use a garbage disposal, and avoid chlorine and other harsh chemicals, you can safely reuse all of your graywater.