Water-saving is more critical than ever. At the time of this writing, it is July 1st, 2019, and summer is in full swing. As it warms up, water is more and more on our minds here in So Cal. I find myself thinking of a river full of water to swim in! It also tends to rain much less in the summer, so drought warnings are usually in effect. And it takes more water to survive in the summer. The plants need more water, and we need more water. Both have to stay adequately hydrated as the heat saps the moisture from us. And lastly, we have more daylight hours draining us during the summer.
All of these things add up. And we see how it adds up when the water bill arrives. In the ’90s, a typical family home spent $35.00 on water & trash each month. Today water is quite a bit more expensive. Because of that, it has become necessary to find ways to save water. In this blog, I wanted to give all of you some tips on how you can reduce your water usage. These all may seem like small things. But if you put these recommendations into practice, you will save quite a bit of water and money.
The first thing is first. Take a look at your water bill to determine how much water you use on an average day. Some statements will show this data explicitly, while some may need to do some math.
Suppose it shows your gallons per day usage on the bill somewhere. Great. You will need this.
If it only shows your total and your usage for the billing period in:
- Gallons: Divide the total gallons by the number of days in the billing period.
- Cubic Feet: Divide the total cubic feet by the number of days in the billing period, then multiply the result by 7.48
Once you have figured out your daily usage, it should be around 300-600 gallons per day if you have a typical 3-4 person single-family detached home with a yard. If it’s in that range, you probably did the calculation right. Call us if you need help!
Toilets – Potential savings: 30-40 gallons per day
Toilets are often one of the most significant contributors to water waste. Older toilets manufactured pre 1994 used 3.5 gallons per flush. From 1994 until now, 1.6 gallons per flush has been the standard. However, these past few years have seen some excellent flushing ultra-high-efficiency toilets. These toilets use 1.28 gallons per flush or less. A dual flush toilet can save you even more, water since there is a 1.28 gal flush for “#2” and a flush off often less than 1 gallon for a “#1” flush.
Showerheads – Potential savings: 40-200 gallons per day
Showerheads are often a significant “hidden” contributor to water waste. A standard showerhead uses 2.5 gallons per minute. So a 10-minute shower would use 25 gallons. A “high-efficiency” showerhead is typically 1.5 gallons per minute. So a 10-minute shower with a “high-efficiency” shower head is only 15 gallons. That’s a 10-gallon per shower savings! However, showerheads are generally not typical. I’ve been in quite a few homes in 26 years of plumbing, and I can tell you that most homes remove the restrictors in the showerheads. Some customers buy “high-flow” showerheads online or have multiple showerheads. In any case, most showers I’ve seen use 5-10 gallons per minute. So the actual savings for a family of 4 could be over 200 gallons per day if they managed their showers better.
I understand why people bypass their low-flow showerheads or get rid of them altogether. It’s way too difficult to rinse off under a 1.5 gallon per minute showerhead. Especially if you have a lot of hair, which I do not, but my wife does.
A better solution:
I don’t think that having a low-flow showerhead is the proper way to save water in the shower. Something I’ve done in my showers at home, and for some of my customers, is install an in-line shut-off valve so that I can control the water flow. I have a high-flow shower head in my house, but I turn it off or down when not rinsing. I also installed a small sprayer on a 6-foot hose with its controllable shut-off valve. We can use the water to rinse when and where necessary while keeping the water off or turned down to a low flow spray when we don’t need the volume to rinse off.
I have a water flow unit by Flume, which allows me to monitor my minute-by-minute water usage for my home. It reports this information via an info-graphic on a phone app. I’ve been watching our household water usage during our showers before installing the in-line shut-off valves and after installing them. Installing the in-line shut-off valves on our shower heads has significantly impacted our water usage in our home.
Flume can detect a leak before it floods your house. Click here for more information on installing a Flume in your home.
Faucets – Potential savings: 10-30 gallons per day
You use your kitchen faucet to wash your dishes, vegetables, hands, and many other things. You use your bathroom faucet to wash your hands while grooming, brush your teeth, and splash water on your face when you can’t wake up. When you have old, inefficient, broken, or missing faucet aerators, you could be wasting a lot of water. The aerators at the end of the faucet spout regulate the water flow and aerate the water for more effective cleansing. A single missing aerator could waste over 10 gallons per day, sometimes much more. Make sure you have faucets with suitably sized and functioning aerators.
Dishwashing – Potential savings: 5-20 gallons per day
If you hand wash your dishes, use partially full sinks to wash and rinse rather than running the water constantly.
If you have a dishwasher, you may want to check how efficient your model is and determine if there are better cost-effective options for you.
Laundry – Potential savings: 10-40 gallons per day
Laundry water usage depends on how much laundry you do each day and how efficient your washing machine is. The amount of laundry you have to do each day is likely fixed and cannot be changed. If you have an older or inefficient washing machine, a newer high-efficiency unit will undoubtedly save you on water usage. But one thing you can do that is always effective is to try only to launder full loads. Doing partial loads can waste gallons of water.
Water heating – Potential savings: 20-100 gallons per day
Many homes have a water heater located on one side and some plumbing fixtures located on the other side. When the hot water is turned on, you must wait for the hot water to travel from the water heater to the bathroom. All of that water is just wasted as it goes down the drain. We have solutions to this problem!
A recirculating system can circulate the hot water over to the bathroom ahead of time. The hot water is immediately available when you turn on the faucet or shower. There are many variations and options available for this type of system. Give us a call for a free in-home consultation.
Small single-fixture water heaters or multiple water heaters have the advantage that you can locate individual water heaters near each bathroom or at each fixture to provide heated water at the fixture, so no travel time is needed. This solution can be the most efficient for water/gas/electricity use. Typically it needs to be designed as part of a whole-house plumbing solution, such as having a large remodel performed or a whole-house copper or PEX repipe (which we can also provide for you).
Irrigation – Potential savings: 20-250 gallons per day
Of course, since yards can vary so much, this savings is for a typical “cookie-cutter” 3-bedroom, 2-bath single-family residence in a master-planned neighborhood with grass in front and back, some bushes, trees, and a vegetable garden. Your situation may be quite different. Use this as a gauge.
There are many great options for reducing your watering for your grass by up to 90%! And your lawn will look more green and healthy than it ever has. We offer custom irrigation solutions through our Trusty Plumber’s affiliate network to provide our customers with water savings before irrigation. Newer developments with irrigation technologies have made it possible to reduce your irrigation water usage significantly by delivering the water directly where it is needed at the proper intervals. Let us know if you are interested in a custom irrigation solution, and we can set up a consultation.
Using drip irrigation on your trees, bushes, and your fruits & vegetables is also a great way to get the water only to where it is needed. Follow your local garden center instructions on proper water amount and frequency to not overwater. And, of course, fix any leaking hoses, irrigation valves, or piping as soon as possible.
The last thing is to make sure you don’t have any faucets, valves, or toilets leaking any water. Give us a call, and we can come out and do a free evaluation to make sure you don’t have any active leaks. If you are interested in learning more about tracking your water use and having warnings about potential leaks automatically by using the Flume device we mentioned earlier in the blog, please let us know.
I hope I didn’t ramble on too much. And I hope the information was helpful. Give us a call if you have any questions or comments.
Sincerely, Mitch Clemmons
Founder, Trusty Plumbers
- A Guide to Water Conservation – Saving Water and the Earth
- Main Image Courtesy of https://www.greensboro-nc.gov/departments/water-resources/get-involved/water-conservation