It seems like everywhere you turn nowadays, both businesses and individuals are encouraging you to reduce, reuse, and recycle. In fact, the very words “going green” immediately bring conservation thoughts to mind. When was the last time you heard the word, “plumber,” though, and thought about sustainability? You should! With the advice of your plumber, you can make some very simple changes around your home or business to save significant amounts of water.
Let’s begin with the biggest offenders, starting inside your home. According to the Alliance for Water Efficiency, toilets are the biggest culprits, accounting for approximately 26.7% of the water used daily inside the house. By simply switching over to high-efficiency models of toilets, homeowners can make a huge dent in this number. The best part—unlike “low flow” models of previous years, today’s high efficiency toilets (HETs) are designed, tested, and proven to take care of business with very little water. Some models (look for the EPA WaterSense Label) actually use less than one gallon per flush!
Showers are another area in the home where water is wasted, responsible for about 16.8% of household daily water usage. I used to think that these numbers somehow didn’t apply to me. My morning showers seemed way too short in my eyes—I literally used them as a way to wake myself up for the day. I was in for a rude awakening after I received a water flow measurement bag at a green education event and slipped it under my shower head to see how I was doing. My much-beloved “rain type” shower head was dousing me with 100 gallons of water each time I showered! I had two choices to save water: switch my shower head to a high efficiency model, or shorten the time I was in the shower. In the end I did both and I learned an important lesson in doing so. Sometimes the least expensive and most effective way to conserve resources is by simply changing our habits!
How about that dripping faucet you keep meaning to fix? How does it measure up on the “wasted water” scale? While you certainly may be losing a few gallons a day, it’s worth taking a look at your faucet as a whole. Faucet use adds up to about 15.7% of a household’s daily water usage. Did you know that simply by installing aerators on your bathroom and kitchen faucets, you can save up to a gallon of water per minute, per faucet? What’s even better—it’s a change no one will notice! That doesn’t mean to ignore those leaks, though. In fact, any leak stopped helps the cause.
In addition to those obvious sink leaks (and who doesn’t hate that annoying dripping sound?), there are less obvious leaks lurking in your home, wasting your precious water. The easiest of these leaks to detect on your own is a leaky flapper in your toilet. Here’s a test: open the tank of your toilet and put in a few drops of food coloring. Go ahead, be creative! Mix colors for some extra fun! Replace the tank lid and wait a good 5-10 minutes or so. When the time is up, check the bowl of the toilet. If any color has made its way down into the bowl, you have a leaky flapper. Unfortunately, this means that your toilet is wasting water. Fortunately, replacing the flapper on your toilet is an easy fix. Simply take the model name and date of manufacture of your toilet (stamped inside the tank) to your local plumbing supply house and they will help you find a replacement flapper. Note: do not waste your money on a “universal” toilet flapper, as it will not fit your toilet the way the proper part is made to.
Keep in mind that any amount of water that we save, inside or outside our homes and businesses, is a step in the right direction. Conservation is not a single act, but a process towards a common goal. Make use of the resources around you- both products and professionals- who can help you find water-saving solutions that are comfortable for your lifestyle. Perhaps the most important thing of all to remember is that any effort to save Earth’s precious resources is worthwhile. After all, there is no perfect shade of green.
John Smith is the Vice-President of R2K Plumbing, The Arizona Green Plumbers,* and the author of Plunging Into Green, One Plumber’s Journey to Becoming a Water Hugger. John was named the 2010 and 2011 Green Plumber of the Year and is the host of The Arizona Green Plumber Show on BlogTalk Radio. For more water-saving tips, follow The Arizona Green Plumbers on Facebook.
GreenPlumbers is a national training and licensing program to advance sustainable plumbing practices that will use less energy, less water and fewer chemicals. Savings within new and existing buildings can be from efficient heating, cooling, and hot water systems, as well as from water-efficient fixtures and appliances, and by the harvesting and use of alternative water sources. Be sure to check with your power or water utility to see if rebates are available for the purchase of efficient products.
Learn more about Green Plumbers and other organizations involved in water conservation efforts on the Water – Use It Wisely Resources page.