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Money Saving Water Conservation Tips That'll Keep You Afloat

By (view all posts by brwood)
at 9:43AM Tuesday June 15, 2010
under Money Saving Tips

In California we've experiencing a major water shortage over the past few years. In order to have more of it for washing and watering our lawns, many people here have been doing their part by only drinking bottled. Even so, because of the drought the Department of Water and Power has increased the cost of my water bill. You may have heard that I hate spending money. Last year I coped, but my lawn was not happy and not much of a lawn by the end of the summer. My back yard looked a lot like a scene from The Grapes of Wrath.

This year I'm determined to keep the grass green and not increase my water bill, so I have to cut down in other places. I'm going to share my research with you so we can all enjoy what little clean environment we have left.
For your information, I consider myself a man of science. Before I could begin to save water, I needed to do a little testing. Luckily my big pasta pot came with graduated quart markings, so with the help of a stopwatch I was able to figure out how many gallons per minute (and ounces per second) my faucets were flowing. You can do this too, and you don't have to be too precise. You can use a ½ gallon milk jug and the second hand on your watch. Double it and you have how many seconds it takes to get a gallon. Divide 60 by how many seconds it took to get a gallon, and you have gallons per minute.

My primary bathroom sink faucet was flowing about 1 3/4 gallons per minute (hence forth known as GPM). My kitchen sink faucet flows about 1 1/2 gpm. My shower flows about 2 1/4 gpm. I also have a second bathroom, and that faucet flows only about 1 1/4 gpm. Each one of these has a different purpose and each one should have a unique water-saving solution.

Starting with the least-used sink in the second bathroom, we have the easiest solution.Currently the faucet has standard aerator rated at 2 1/4 gpm and, since it's rarely used and only for hand washing, we can easily make things better by just putting in a super low-flow version. Various online "green" conservation sites will gladly sell you aerators rated at 2, 1.5 and 1gpms, plus non-aerated restrictors all the way down to 1/2 gpm.

It ought to be no problem to use a 1gpmaerator and save 50% on this sink. Many places have them--including AM Conservation Group. Last year I fixed a leak in this faucet and I saved enough on my water bill to pay for my AC all summer. I didn't get a good measure of how much was dripping per hour, but it had to be at least one gallon per hour, 24 hours a day--or about 720 gallons a month! If you are looking to save water, the planet, or money, the first thing you need to do is fix those leaky faucets.

The main bathroom has a multitude of uses:  teeth brushing, face washing, shaving and hand washing. I don't want to just cut the flow in half since I sometimes need to fill the sink to create a "shaving pond," but I can still do better with a 1.5 gpm aerator. While brushing your teeth or washing your hands, this will cut down on the amount of water you are wasting between rinses--unless you are turning the faucet off every second you don't need the water. Of course you can always install those future faucets with the electric eye that only turn on when you need them. Those cost big bucks though and faucet aerators,even the really good ones, cost less than $2.00 each. At only 4 oz. per second, it will take years to save enough to pay for a $400 Delta E-flow Hands-Free Faucet.

Most of the water wasted at the kitchen faucet goes down the drain when you are doing the dishes. If you have a dishwasher (the machine, not someone you pay to come over and wash your dishes...), you can ignore most of this. How much water your dishwasher uses is purely a function of your dishwasher. If you want to do better you need a new dishwasher, or you need to use it less. If you are your own dishwasher, you can do better.

I notice I waste a lot of water during the few seconds after rinse when I'm trying to find a place for the dish in the drain rack. My hands are full, soapy, and holding a dish, so I don't turn off the water.  You can't limit the flow here because waiting to fill the Dutch oven with water to make pasta already seems to take hours. Luckily there is a $5 gizmo that has a quick on/off control which will make it easier to "pause" the flow and continue it without affecting the temperature or volume. The one pictured above is from AM again.

Kitchen Faucet

Ideally I'd install a commercial style "pre-rinse" faucet, with a spring loaded sprayer, and eventually  I may. For now, I'm going to see if the $5 part can pay for itself before buying a $250 restaurant faucet. I waste about 12 oz. in the few seconds the water runs while I'm not using it--you do the math. If you want a water-saving single lever faucet, the best price I have found on one is at FaucetDirect.

My house already has low-flow toilets that use 1.6gallons per flush. There isn't much improvement I can get there--but you can if you have old toilets. New toilets aren't that expensive, and do a much better job of flushing than old commodes that have been adjusted to use as little water as possible. First thing is to make sure it doesn't run on, and the flapper valve doesn't leak. If you hear water running at night it's not necessarily ghosts--it's most likely your toilet refilling the tank because some has run out the flapper, or the float valve needs to be adjusted or replaced. I can and will walk you through the repair,but not in today's blog post. Just Google "toilet repair" and you should be able to find a step by step how to guide.

Auto-off shower valve
I like my shower just the way it is. It took several shower heads to find one that the wife and I could agree upon. I'm not messing with it. Somehow I did convince my wife to take several showers a week at the gym--which doesn't do anything for the planet, but at least I don't have to pay for the water, or the heat. I am still looking for a hand-held shower massage that works like a garden hose nozzle.  Turn on the water, set it to the right temp and spray, hose yourself off, let go of the handle and soap up, then rinse. It would be just like washing your car.  They call this a "Navy Shower" because that's the way they do things in the military.

The only way I can find to do this easily is to employ the type of spring-loaded valve used on outdoor showers at the beach. Pull the chain, out comes the water. Let go and a few moments later it stops. The easy part is installing it; harder was finding one  and hardest is going to be convincing the wife. At nearly 5 oz. a second and a 10-minute shower, I think I can save 5 gallons per shower. If you want to try, I found them for you at ConservaStore.com.  Just install it between the shower head and the pipe in the wall.  If you use one, let me know how much water you are saving.  I will need some hard facts if I'm going to convince the wife.

That's it for now. I will try some of these and see what happens.