With concerns about saving natural resources, many people are thinking about ways to use less and conserve more, and the added bonus to saving natural resources is saving money. One of the easiest ways to conserve natural and financial resources is to use water wisely. Fortunately, this can be done in such a way that your family won’t notice the difference.
The top three water users in most family’s homes are showerheads, toilets and washing machines. They require different amounts of money and labor to replace, but you will quickly see the time and money invested paying off.
Many older showerheads deliver 5-6 gallons per minute (gpm). This means that during a 10 minute shower, 50 to 60 gallons of hot water have been poured down the drain into the sewer or your septic system. Not only do you pay for the water and the systems to dispose of it, but you pay for the electricity or gas it took to heat up that water. United States law now requires new showerheads to use 2.5 gpm or less, but households can do even better than that without noticing a difference. Showerheads that use as little as .5 gpm are available.
Many resist replacing their showerheads because they believe they will get a less satisfying shower or they will not be able an attractive one that complements their bathroom décor. However, companies such as Niagra produce inexpensive low flow showerheads in many different styles, and the difference in shower quality is typically not noticeable. You can purchase a chrome 1.25 gpm showerhead shipped on eBay for less than $10, and the savings in water and electricity will more than pay for itself in the first month.
If a four-person family replaces their 2.5 gpm showerheads with ones that use 1.25, they could be saving 50 gallons of hot water a day! If each person takes a daily 10 minute shower, the family will save approximately $30 a month, or $360 a year. That will make a big difference to the earth and to your pocketbook, all for an investment of $10 and less than 10 minutes of effort per showerhead.
Replacing a showerhead is one of the easiest water-saving upgrades you can do. Using pliers, simply unscrew the old showerhead, dry off the threads of the showerarm, apply plumbers tape/Teflon tape (found at any hardware store, and it’s often included when you buy your showerhead) clockwise on the threads, and screw on the new showerhead. It should be secure but not overly tight. Be sure to turn on the shower to check for leaks, and then let the savings begin! See this online tutorial if you need a visual aid.
Older toilets consume around 20 gallons of water per day per person, making up about 1/3 of an average home’s water use. Replacing your 3.5 gallons per flush (gpf) toilet with one that uses 1.6 gpf will save 1.9 gpf, and in a 4-person home, that comes out to approximately 40 gallons per day.
As with low-flow showerheads, many people fear that using a lower gpf toilet will lead to more double flushing and clogging, but new low-flow toilets have improved drastically since they were first introduced, and these issues have all but disappeared.
Replacing a toilet is more involved than replacing a showerhead, but it is still something that an average homeowner with the proper instructions, materials and tools can manage. Here is a good written and video tutorial from Lowes on replacing a toilet. It is a quick and easy job for a plumber or handyman, so you won’t have to spend an arm and a leg if you choose to hire someone to do it for you.
Many of us have old washing machines clunking around in the basement, garage or the laundry room, ready to be replaced. When shopping for a new washing machine, consider the benefits of buying an Energy Star rated efficient model. According to the Energy Star website, heating the hot water for washing clothes accounts for about 90% of the energy needed to run a load of clothes. Only 10% goes to electricity needed for the motor. This means that the less water used, the more electricity saved, and the more electricity that is saved, the lower your power bill is!
There are a multitude of options available for very efficient washing machines at your basic Lowes and Home Depot type home stores. Many people believe that front loading machines are the only efficient ones, and although front-loading machines may not bother some people, others prefer the top-loading types. The good news is that many efficient Energy Star models now are actually top-loaders.
A quick search shows that at Lowe’s home improvement store, a Hotpoint top-loading washing machine with 3.5 cubic feet of capacity is one of the least expensive available at $450. According to the U.S. Government’s Energy Guide (the bright yellow sign seen on appliances in stores), the average consumer would spend $46 a year for the 434 kWh it uses (based on an average electricity cost of $10.65/kWh and 8 loads of laundry a week). This cost only reflects the electricity needed to power the machine and heat the water; it does not take into account the gallons water used and then dumped into the sewer or your septic system.
Also at Lowes is a Whirlpool top-loading machine with 3.8 cubic feet of capacity on sale for $539 (regularly priced at $599). After a $50 rebate from Energy Trust, the cost comes down to $489, only $39 more than the Hotpoint. This machine is Energy Star rated, and costs the average consumer $14 a year for 135 kWh, saving $32 a year over the Hotpoint. This Whirlpool washing machine will pay for itself with just the electricity cost in less than a year an a half, and the savings keep building up from there.
For a complete list of washing machines that qualify for a $50-$70 rebate, see this list.
According to the Energy Star website, if every clothes washer purchased in the U.S. this year earned was an Energy Star rated one, together we would save 540 million kWh of electricity, 20 billion gallons of water, and 1.4 trillion BTUs of natural gas every year. All of this would result in Americans’ energy bill savings of about $250 million, every year!
There are many easy ways to save water in your household; there’s no need to stop with these three! For more information on saving water in your home, see http://wateruseitwisely.com/100-ways-to-conserve/.