May 16, 2012

Saving Water

As mentioned in the Save the Earth vs. Utility Bill Reduction, this is about ways to reduce water usage and keep some more $$$ in your wallet. When looking at a satellite image of the Earth, it would appear that we have an abundance of water, but less than 1% of it is available for human use. That is why some regions have droughts or experience water alerts. It also demands a lot of energy to transform freshwater into water that is available for use. There are demands on energy in a home to heat water which accounts for 19% of home energy use. Keep in mind that 14% of the water that you pay for is never used, it goes down the drain. So what are some of the things we can do to reduce water use and energy demands (which keeps more usable water available and reduces our water bill)?

Change your kitchen and bathroom faucet to EPA WaterSense approved low flow aerators. Most kitchen faucets are 2.0 to 2.2 gallons per minute (GPM) flow rates, meaning 2-2.2 gallons of water flow per minute. I switched mine over to the WaterSense approved ones that have a rate of 1.5 GPM. I got them from a local home supply store, and I didn't even need a single wrench to do it.

Change your shower head. There are a LOT of them available (with the  WaterSense stamp) that reduce the amount of water needed for a shower, yet still maintain the pressure that you like. Also reduce the time used to shower. Get in, get soaped, rinse, get out. Yeah, sometimes we linger because it just "feels" good, but paying attention to the GPM and the duration helps save water and energy demands, plus keeps some money in your pocket.

Change your toilet or at least update the fill valve in the tank. "Back in the day," my grandfather taught me to fill a half gallon milk jug with sand and water and place it in the tank to reduce the amount of water to fill it. Newer toilets were made to use less water, but even technology is progressing. For only a few dollars and about 30 minutes, consider updating to a dual flush one. Dual flush means that you turn the handle one way for liquid and the other way for solids. The valve uses half the water for liquids. This replaces the old phrase "if it's yellow, let it mellow...if it's brown, flush it down." Even if you have a very old toilet, there are conversion kits that will convert it. Most local Home Depot, Lowe's, and local hardware stores carry them.

Using national averages in the calculator from the NEOPERL website for just faucets, shower heads, utility charges, and household members, the following table shows what the savings would be for just changing the aerators and shower head. It doesn't include how much more would be saved by converting the toilet.
Annual Estimate Current Usage Switch to Super Water Saving
Kitchen faucet flow rate: 2.20 Gal/Min 1.50 Gal/Min
Kitchen faucet water usage: 12,526.80 Gal 8,541.00 Gal
Bathroom faucet flow rate: 2.20 Gal/Min 1.00 Gal/Min
Bathroom faucet water usage: 16,911.18 Gal 7,686.90 Gal
Shower flow rate: 2.50 Gal/Min 1.50 Gal/Min
Shower water usage: 12,574.25 Gal 7,544.55 Gal
Annual water usage: 42,012.23 Gal 23,772.45 Gal
Annual water cost: $168.05 $95.09
Annual water saving:
Annual energy usage: 4,901 kWh 2,773 kWh
Annual energy cost: $588.12 $332.76
Annual energy saving:
Annual water & energy savings:

I recommend that you go to that calculator or the one on the EPA website [link] to calculate YOUR potential savings. Some other ways you can increase your savings and reduce your water usage are:
  • When washing dishes by hand, don't let the water run while rinsing. Fill one sink with wash water and the other with rinse water.
  • Run the clothes washer and dishwasher only when they are full to save up to 1,000 gallons a month.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables in a pan of water instead of running water from the tap.
  • Collect the water used for rinsing fruits and vegetables, then reuse it to water houseplants.
  • Designate one glass for drinking water each day or refill a water bottle. This reduces the number of glasses to wash.
  • Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean.
  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and save 25 gallons a month.
  • Listen for dripping faucets and running toilets. Fixing a leak can save 300 gallons a month or more.
  • Turn off the water while shaving and save up to 300 gallons a month. 
Watch for more entries about savings achieved in electricity and natural gas around the household.

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