Whether you want to save the planet or save some money, reducing your home water use is a great idea. Water is a valuable resource that for a long time was taken for granted, but it has become apparent that access to clean and abundant tap water is not a guarantee. Thankfully, water conservation doesn’t have to mean making dramatic sacrifices!
We’ve put together a list of tips that will help you save water with some easy changes and some appliance upgrades!
What is Water Conservation?
Water conservation describes strategies that help you use less water in your daily life. Fresh water is a limited resource which is all too easily used in excess. The average American’s daily water use in 2015 was 82 gallons – or nearly 30,000 gallons per year – but this number can be reduced by 20% just by making some easy changes.
As the population of the US grows and particularly as parts of the US become drier, water shortages are expected to become more common. These shortages will likely drive up prices, so reducing your usage will save you on your monthly utility bills. Not only will water conservation save you money, it will help to preserve our water supply for future generations.
What are some water-saving techniques that I can use in my home?
The good news about water conservation is that it is easier than ever to reduce the amount of water your household uses! Here are some tips:
Who says that water conservation has to be a chore? By fixing leaks you’ll save money on your water bill and help preserve drinking water supplies without changing a single thing about your daily routine!
Leaks are thought to waste more than 10,000 gallons per house per year, totaling more than a trillion gallons of water lost per year in the United States. A leaky toilet flapper valve can easily waste 200 gallons a day, and if a toilet is left running you could see that number grow to thousands of gallons per day.
If you suspect your toilet may be leaking, you can confirm your suspicions by putting a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank. Check back in 10 minutes – if the toilet bowl has taken on the hue of the dye then you have a leak.
Other common culprits include leaky faucets. A dripping faucet can waste 300 gallons of water a year. Oftentimes people ignore leaking hose faucets as they aren’t as noticeable and don’t pose the same sort of risk of damage as leaks inside – but these drips add up to hundreds of gallons a year!
Did you know that your toilet may be responsible for most of your home water usage? Older toilets use as much as 6 gallons per flush – compared to just 1.28 gallons for modern, high-efficiency toilets. And, if you have bad memories of old “low-flow” toilets you can relax – these newer toilets combine efficiency and flushing power.
Many newer toilets come with dual flush modes. Dual flush toilets have one mode for liquid waste and uses less water per flush, and another for solid waste which uses more water to thoroughly clear the toilet.
By switching an outdated toilet to a modern water-efficient toilet a family can save 13,000 gallons per year – totaling about $140 in annual savings off of your water bill! Look for the EPA’s WaterSense label on new toilets to make sure you’re getting one that will be able to save you the most water and money.
If replacing an older toilet isn’t currently in the budget, you can reduce existing toilet’s water usage by putting plastic bottles weighted with water or sand inside the tank. These bottles will reduce the overall volume of the tank, lowering the amount of water used per flush.
Showers typically represent 17% of a household’s daily water consumption, making this a prime target for reducing use. One obvious, although perhaps unpalatable, solution is to simply take shorter showers.
For many this is a bridge too far – and if that’s the case for you don’t despair! Installing a WaterSense certified low-flow shower-head will ensure that your shower uses no more than 2 gallons of water per minute while delivering pressure and coverage similar to older models. This will save you on your water bill, but you’ll also see savings on your energy bill too since your hot water heater will have to do less work!
While the earlier advice to take shorter showers may have elicited groans, this next tip might put a smile on your face. The best way to save water while washing dishes is to stop washing your dishes by hand. Using your dishwasher will almost always be more efficient than hand washing, and it will save you from dish-pan hands too!
An average kitchen sink flows about 2 gallons of water per minute, meaning that even a few minutes of washing dishes easily outpaces a modern dishwasher’s paltry 5 gallons per load. One trick to maximize your water savings is to only run full loads with your dishwasher. A full dishwasher only requires 5 gallons of water to clean its load. A lightly filled dishwasher may use less water, but typically requires proportionally more.
Another water saving tip: stop pre-rinsing your dishes before loading your dishwasher. Instead, simply scrape food waste from dishes and then trust your dishwasher to take care of the rest!
When it comes to conserving water, small improvements to your daily routine can add up to real savings over time. While brushing your teeth or shaving, you may let your faucet run – after all it’s only a minute or two. However, if your bathroom sink flows 1 gallon per minute then leaving the faucet on while you brush your teeth can create 1,460 gallons of waste water annually.
Outdoor Water Savings
Folks out west have had to contend with water shortages for decades now, and so many have already taken steps to reduce their outdoor water usage. This can be as extreme as replacing lawns with xeriscaped landscapes of cacti and rocks – but less drastic options are available.
One of the easiest solutions is to simply water your lawn in the early morning to reduce losses caused by evaporation. Be careful that you aren’t overwatering – not only will this raise your water bill unnecessarily, too much water can damage your lawn.
Consider replacing all or part of your irrigation system with a WaterSense certified system. Modern irrigation systems can detect recent rains and suspend watering cycles. If you’ve got a large lawn this can save you nearly 7000 gallons per rain-delayed watering cycle!
Replacing old sprinklers with newer ones is a great way to save money – consider using drip lines where appropriate. Drip lines are subject to far less evaporative losses and ensure you only water plants that you had intended to!
Beyond lawn care, you can conserve water by avoiding using your hose to clean off your driveway. While convenient, and often quite satisfying, this cleaning method uses a lot of water to accomplish a job that a leaf blower can make quick work of.
Can my appliances raise my water bill?
Over the years appliances have become much more efficient, and if you are still using a decades old toilet, washing machine, or dishwasher just because it “still works,” you may be literally flushing money down the toilet.
As mentioned earlier, an old toilet can use more than 4x as much water per flush as a new model. Not only that, but old toilets are more prone to developing leaks, which can quickly waste thousands of gallons of clean water.
Similarly, older washing machines are water hogs! An old top loading washer with an agitator can use upwards of 40 gallons per load compared to less than 15 gallons per load for an EnergyStar rated front-loader.
We’ve already discussed the advantages of dishwashers to hand washing – but did you know that old dishwashers use about 2x as much water as new models? This will also result in higher energy bills as your water heater has to heat this extra water too!
One appliance that might be overlooked when it comes to saving water is the in-sink garbage disposal. These handy gadgets come with a dark side: by using your plumbing as a tool to flush away food waste you are also rinsing away gallons of tap water. Not only that, but garbage disposals greatly increase the incidence of pipe clogs, both at home and at a municipal level.
Composting is a great alternative to using your garbage disposal, and is a great way to reuse your food waste as a fertilizer for plants! If compost isn’t an option for you, just scrape your plates directly into the garbage and save the rinse water!
Finally, if you’ve got an older home you’ll want to check that you’ve got efficient faucets installed in your sinks. Typically efficient faucet designs include faucet aerators – which introduce air into the water. This allows you to use much less water to accomplish common cleaning tasks such as washing your hands.
Conserving Water Doesn’t Have to Be Hard
When you think about water conservation it’s easy to imagine a dry and unpleasant existence – but the reality is so much more pleasant! If you’re in the Midlands area, Kay Plumbing offers green plumbing solutions that can help you reduce your water usage and lower your monthly utility bills. In the meantime, we’ve provided a few tips that should help you reduce your water usage without even taking a shorter shower!