Save Your Toilet, Save the Planet: Water Efficiency Tips

a kitchen sink drips in the daylight

As Captain Planet informed us, our water supply is not infinite. In fact, 97.5 percent of all of Earth’s water is saltwater, and 2 percent of the Earth’s freshwater supply is trapped in the ice caps and glaciers (though perhaps not for long). That means extraordinarily little water is potable.

As if that’s not enough motivation to increase your water efficiency, you can save money on your water and sewer bills with just a few modifications to your home and/or routine. Here’s how!

Upgrade to new EPA WaterSense fixtures

Like ENERGY STAR appliances, WaterSense is the Environmental Protection Agency’s water efficiency label that helps homeowners make better choices about their water consumption. WaterSense certified shower heads are approximately 20 percent more efficient than standard showerheads. They can also save up to 2,300 gallons of water per year and 300 kW hours of electricity.

Likewise, old, inefficient toilets use approximately 6 gallons per flush. New WaterSense label models can reduce a family’s water usage by 13,000 gallons a year with water efficient toilets that use 1.6 gallons per flush or even 1.28 gallons per flush.

a toilet has its seat up in the corner of a bathroom
Get yourself a toilet that only uses 1.28 gallons per flush.

(If every old toilet in the U.S. was replaced by water-saving toilets, the EPA estimates that we could save more than 360 billion gallons of water a year.)

Not to mention, newer faucets (installed 1995-present) use 40% less water than older faucets, so upgrade all your water fixtures to low-flow features and WaterSense models to help with water conservation. Not sure how to install these? Get a qualified plumber in just a few clicks.

While we’re talking about government models –

Use ENERGY STAR appliances

ENERGY STAR certified appliances can help you not only save water but also energy. Their washing machines use 30% less water and consume less energy, and their certified dishwashers use up to 18% less water and 10% less energy. (In fact, if all the washers sold in the U.S. were ENERGY STAR certified, Americans would save more than $3.3 billion each year in energy and water costs.)

Utensils fill a net in a dishwasher
ENERGY STAR dishwashers help you save energy and water.

There’s even high efficiency water heaters with ENERGY STAR certification that use 10 percent less energy than standard models. With so many options – electrical water heaters, gas water heaters, and even tankless water heaters – check with your qualified plumber to find out which option will optimize water efficiency in your home.

For a quick reference, check the heater’s yellow stick for its Energy Factor. The higher the Energy Factor, the higher efficiency.

Learn more about energy-saving tips in Power Up Your Energy-Savings Home Ideas.

Install smart home water tech

Homeowners routinely waste water daily. Smart home tech can help to control, monitor, and manage water usage. Some devices can detect the amount of water used in each fixture – toilet, shower/bath, faucet, etc. Then, you’ll receive an alert if your water usage deviates from the norm. (Guess you won’t be taking long showers anymore.)

Some smart water tech also detects moisture by pipes, so you’ll receive a notification of a potential leak. If your smart water tech comes with an automatic water shut-off valve (most models do), the device will shut off your water main after two minutes if it suspects a pipe burst.

Prevent Water Damage with the Guardian

If you have a green thumb, irrigation systems can be programmed to monitor weather forecasts and coordinate sprinkler schedules, so over watering or underwatering does not occur. How neat is that?

Get a greywater system or a drain water heat recovery system

Eighty to ninety percent of energy used to heat water is wasted when that water flows down the drain. To help conserve water, greywater systems take the water from the bathtubs, showers, and washers (aka greywater) and reuse it to fill toilets. The estimated savings from this system is 7,000 gallons of potable city water per year per home. Homeowners can also use greywater to preheat cold water used in the water heater or other appliances with a drain water heat recovery system. This usually costs between $300 and $500 (not including labor as you will need a qualified heating professional and a qualified plumber).

Everyday water efficiency tips

a front-loading washing machine has white towels being cleaned inside its basin
Wash in cold water (when not in a pandemic).

Is now not the time to replace your faucets or upgrade to an automatic water shut-off valve? Here’s a few quick tips that can increase the water efficiency in your home.

  • Turn off water when it is not needed, i.e. when brushing your teeth or shaving.
  • Check for leaks in all areas of water usage. (Use the food coloring test on your toilet!)
  • Only run dishwashers and clothes washers with full loads.
  • Clean driveways and walkways by sweeping instead of using a garden hose.
  • Wash your car(s) at a commercial car wash that uses recycled water.
  • Have a professional audit your sprinkler system to make sure it’s running properly.
  • Substitute cold water when able as nearly a fourth of a home electricity bill can be traced to the hot water heater.
  • If rain is predicted or has occurred, turn off automatic sprinklers.
  • Use mulch, which can hinder water evaporation and reduce the need for daily watering. (Just make sure to lay the mulch away from your foundation!)
  • Water before sunrise (instead of at night) to prevent mold formation and water evaporation.

Save your home, save the planet!

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