Don’t flush money down the loo with every trip to the bathroom, during each hot shower, and every time you wash your hands.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average household spends as much as $500 per year on its water and sewer bill. The agency says homeowners could save about $170 per year just by making a few simple changes to use water more efficiently.
Save water with the following (mostly) inexpensive devices and fixtures designed for the eco-conscious, and money-smart, home owner.
Save Water with Every Flush
Cheapest of all water-saving measures is placing a heavy object in your toilet tank to displace water. Bricks are heavy and inexpensive, but may disintegrate and clog your plumbing (although you can encase them in a zippered baggie). Instead, use a plastic water or milk bottle filled with rocks, marbles, or even water and your toilet will fill up with less water after each flush. Experiment with the size of the bottle; if you need to flush twice to completely void the toilet bowl, you will be wasting more water and money.
Low Flow Showerheads
Federal laws mandate that new showerhead flow rates can’t exceed more than 2.5 gallons per minute at a water pressure of 80 pounds per square inch. Replace older, less efficient showerheads with low-flow models to reap big savings. Gaiam’s Lowest Flow Showerhead promises a strong water spray while cutting water use by 50 to 70 percent. A built-in valve cuts off the water while you soap up or shave in the shower.
Dual Flush Toilets
Popular in Japan and Australia, dual flush toilets have yet to catch on North America. These new models, such as the Toto Aquia Dual Flush Toilet from The Inside Store, create significant water savings with an ingenious solution—using different flushing options for different waste. Push the smaller button for liquid waste and the larger button for solids.
Toilet Tune-Up Water Conservation Kit
Don’ have the cash to upgrade to a water-saving toilet? Retrofit your old loo with the Toilet Tune-Up Water Conservation Kit from Creative Energy Technologies, Inc. Included in the kit is a water conservation booklet, leak detection dye tablets, the “Frugal Flush” toilet flapper, a water-displacing “Toilet Tummy,” and a “Fill Master” fill cycle diverter. This diverter saves one-half to one-and-one-half gallons per flush by diverting water that would normally go down the toilet’s overflow tube back into the toilet tank.
Kitchen Faucet Aerator
Faucet aerators save water usage by mixing air with water to make a more forceful spray at a lower rate of flow. Aerators for the kitchen sink are inexpensive, like this swivel aerator from Let’s Go Green, which features swivel action and an adjustable spray.
Two Uses for One Flush: Toilet Sink
Kill two birds with one stone. Each time you flush your toilet, clean water rushes to fill up your tank. Why not use that water (the same that flows into your bathroom sink) to wash your hands after toileting? Gaiam sells a toilet sink lid that easily installs over your standard toilet and sends clean water through a chrome spigot to a sink bowl on top of the toilet lid.
Rain Barrels Can Help Conserve Water
One of the easiest ways to reuse the precious resource of water is to use a rain barrel to collect rain water. Many areas of the world suffer from extended drought in the summer, and are looking for creative ways to save money. Many people focus on conserving water, and this method can be combined with another easy idea. One of the latest trends is to reuse water that would otherwise be wasted.
Many people are now looking for old-fashioned ways to find water in unusual places. And they just may have found a hidden treasure.
The secret lies in capturing water that is normally taken for granted. Simple recapturing methods require little effort; people can just place a bucket under their outdoor gutters, or place extra buckets outside to capture water for plants. Another creative method is used inside.
During showers and baths, many people literally let the water run down the drain as they wait for the water to heat up. One trick is to capture clean water (which comes straight from the faucet) in a bucket, as the cool water warms up enough for the shower. This method can also be used in the kitchen sink, bathroom sink, or anywhere else. When the water cools, it can be used to water household plants, outdoor plants, or even the lawn.
More adventurous folks are up for a bigger challenge, and have considered installing rain barrels. Rain barrels, in the form of clay pots and other rudimentary devices, have been used throughout history to increase water supplies. In fact, Thailand used this method over 2000 years ago. Modern cisterns are as practical today as they were in ancient times.
These modern day cisterns are simple and practical. They are easy to install, provide an abundance of water, and just may help the homeowner’s greenery flourish. While the water is not safe to drink, it provides the perfect nourishment for parched plants. Best of all, this recaptured water is cost free and contains no added chemicals.
Setting Up a Cistern
Reclaiming water is actually a lot easier than it seems. Basic systems, such as buckets in the shower, are easy to use. But more sophisticated methods are pretty painless, too.
Homes with gutters are already set up to divert rain. Under normal conditions, the runoff would flow onto the land or into a drainage system. But it’s easy to install a simple diversion system to accumulate the flow into a rain barrel. A simple approach would be to place the rain barrel right under the downspout, if space allows. With a more complex system, do-it-yourselfers could purchase a diverter kit from the local hardware store. This diverter kit replaces a portion of the gutter with the diverter, which sends water straight to the rain barrel.
Even homes without gutters could benefit from a smaller cistern. Small buckets can be left outside to collect rainwater, and when filled, poured into the main cistern or directly on plants.
Regardless of the system, care should be taken to ensure that the rain barrel is level by placing it on concrete blocks. It’s also important to install an overflow port, so excess liquid has an outlet; and this area must be covered area with a fine mesh to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in the water. By attaching a regular spigot to the bottom of the cistern, a garden hose can be attached for easy access.
Rain barrels generally vary in price from $40 for a 50 gallon barrel to $85 for an 80 gallon barrel. A large trash can be used, but it is not recommended since it cannot withstand great pressure.
Reclaiming water is generally a safe project, but remember there are a few safety guidelines:
- Rain water is not safe to drink.
- Tightly cover the cistern and make it childproof. Drowning is a serious risk; ensure that children and pets do not have access.
- Place the rain barrel on cement blocks so it will not tip.
- Make sure all holes are covered with a fine mesh to keep mosquitoes away.
- Empty and clean the cistern often to prevent the growth of bacteria.
Rain barrels are an easy and affordable way to use our natural resources without waste. Though rain can sometimes be plentiful, drought conditions can often reoccur. Best of all, saving water saves our environment and lowers utility bills.