How to Conserve Water in Your Home
By: Joe Cuhaj
The average residence in the U.S. uses over 100,000 gallons of water a year. By adopting these simple water saving measures, you can cut your home’s water usage dramatically.
Overall Household Water Savings
- Leaks: Even the smallest leak can waste thousands of gallons of water a year. To see if there’s a problem, read your water meter when no water is being use, then look at it again after a few hours to see if the gauge has changed. Fixing it could be as simple as replacing a faucet washer or could indicate a more serious problem such as an unseen leak in a pipe.
- Pipes: Installing foam insulation on hot water pipes saves both water and energy by providing hot water faster and keeping it hot longer. This reduces the water wasted from running the tap to heat it up.
- Toilets: Toilets are the largest user of water in the home. Look on the bottom of the lid to find the date your toilet was manufactured. Those made before 1993 use two to three times the water of new ones. If you have an older model, consider replacing it with a new low flush or dual flush toilet that can use as little as one gallon-per-flush.
If replacing a toilet isn’t in your budget, add a few inches of gravel or sand to a plastic soft drink bottle, fill it with water, screw on the cap, and put it in the tank away from the float and flapper to reduce the amount of water used per flush.
To check your toilet to see if water is leaking from the tank into the bowl, put a small amount of food coloring in the tank. If the color shows up in the bowl without flushing it, the flapper valve in the tank should be replaced. See our article on Repairing a Toilet to find out how.
- Showers: Cutting down on the time spent in the shower can save two to five gallons of water per minute (GPM). Installing a water saving showerhead will prevent thousands of gallons a year from going down the drain.
To see if you need a new showerhead, put a five-gallon bucket in the shower and turn on the water. If it fills in less than two minutes, consider replacing the showerhead with a water saving model that uses two GPM or less.
- Sinks: Leaving the faucet running while you shave or brush your teeth wastes water. Turn the water off while you brush and fill the sink to rinse your razor.
- Dishwashing: When used properly, a dishwasher uses less water than hand washing. Run your dishwasher only when it’s full and use water saving settings for more efficiency. If you hand wash, fill one side of a double sink with soapy water for washing and the other with clean water for rinsing.
- Faucets: Install low-flow aerators on faucets that reduce water flow to one GPM or less.
- Drinking: Running water from the tap until it cools off for drinking is wasteful. Instead, fill a pitcher or bottle and keep it in the fridge.
- Washing: Washing clothes is the second largest water use in the home. Only run the washer with a full load and use the shortest cycle for lightly soiled clothing. Avoid the permanent press cycle which uses up to five gallons more water per load. While washing clothes on cold saves energy by reducing water heating, it uses the same amount of water as warm or hot settings.
Appliances and Fixtures
- Energy Star: When replacing appliances like dishwashers or washing machines, look for models that have earned the government Energy Star rating, certifying that they use less water and energy.
- WaterSense: Plumbing fixtures such as faucets and toilets that carry the Environmental Protection Agency WaterSense label use 20% less water on average than conventional fixtures.
Using these water saving tips can reduce the amount of water used inside your home by 30% or more. Start simple by changing wasteful habits and fixing leaks, then move up to installing water saving fixtures and appliances. Not only will it save money, but you’ll reduce the needless drain on one of our most precious resources.