Home Improvements That Can Lower Your Water Bill
Is Saving Water Worth the Effort?
The availability of water is becoming a major issue throughout the United States, especially in the dry western states where some of the disputes over water resources have become truly acrimonious. The amount you spend on water is largely related to your geographic location and there is a wide divergence of cost. For example, in Chicago the average annual expense for water services in 2008 was $228, whereas in Atlanta it was $1,476. Further, the recent trend of privatizing water resources has also led to price increases in many markets. All of this means that it is in the interests of most people to lower their water consumption. Though this can be done by simply using less water, there are also a number of home improvements that can be made that can make your home more water efficient without necessarily changing many of your habits.
Installing Dual-Flush Technology
Dual-flush technology gives a toilet two different flushing options; a light flush for liquid waste and a heavy flush for solid waste. Using the lighter flush when appropriate can save as much as 3,300 gallons of water per year. This has been the standard in Europe for decades, but was largely an exotic – and expensive – add on feature in the United States until recently. Although buying a European-style dual flush system will still cost you around $300 in many home improvement stores, there are now inexpensive conversion kits that can allow you to install dual-flush technology on your present toilet for about $30. One of the first to offer these conversion kits was SelectAFlush (dualflushkit.com), though there are a number of similar products available today.
Switching to a Tankless Water Heater
This is another standard in Europe that has been popular there since the 1960s but is just now making significant inroads in the United States. Tankless water heaters do not involve massive tanks of hot water that sit there using energy all of the time, but instead only activate when you turn on the hot water and super heats the water for as long as you need it. Not only are tankless water heaters more efficient in respect to water, they also save money on your heating bill (electrical, gas, or whatever your current hot water heater uses). Tankless water heaters can range from small, wall mounted units directly next to the shower (popular in Ireland today), to large units that provide hot water to all of your showers and sinks at the same time. Although older models were much weaker and did not perform as well as tank water heaters, the technology has come a long way and many tankless water heaters work extremely well today.
Install Faucet Aerators
A faucet aerator screws on to your faucet and mixes air into the water flow. This allows the water pressure to remain the same while significantly reducing the amount of actual water used. If you have newer faucets, there are probably aerators already installed, but if this is not the case they usually cost between $5 and $10 apiece and can be easily installed on most faucets in your home. The primary benefit is that aerators reduce the gallons per minute flow rate by almost half without sacrificing water pressure. You can also install aerators on your shower heads, though in this case the additional air means the water cools much faster, so a non-aerating low flow shower head might be more desirable.
Check For and Fix Leaks
According to the National Sanitation Foundation, a leaky faucet can waste as much as a thousand gallons of water per year and a toilet leak can waste as much as 500 gallons of water per day. Faucet leaks are usually fairly obvious, so if you have any you should consider fixing them. Toilet leaks are not as obvious, so consider adding a dye tablet to the toilet tank and let it sit for a while without flushing. If dyed water enters the tank, then there is a constant leak that should be fixed immediately. Some repair jobs, such as fixing a faucet leak are easy enough that most handy people can do the job themselves, while a toilet leak may require the assistance of a professional.