Water is a valuable resource, and as the population increases the demand for water rises in lockstep to match. Water conservation is arguably the most important aspect of the field of green plumbing, and as a plumber focusing specifically on water conservation and efficiency, I am frequently asked for the best ways to save water around the home.
There are actually quite a few ways for families to conserve water in the home. One oft-overlooked preliminary step in the process is getting a simple home use water audit, which can indicate many areas where you can reduce your water usage.
To get the best results, have a plumbing contractor with water conservation experience examine your home and provide a breakdown of the specific areas where you can realize the greatest amount of water savings. For example, a typical household can save large quantities of water simply by using water efficient fixtures and repairing leaky pipes and fixtures. For homes in the state of California, a whopping 14% of water use is attributed to plumbing leaks.
Below is a percentage breakdown of mean daily per capita water use (gallons per day):
Leaks – 14% (9.5 gallons/day or GPD)
- With main valve closed, inspect the water meter to see if the red triangle is moving- this would indicate a serious leak in the water service and a repair or replacement should be undertaken.
- Check toilet tanks. Drop a little food coloring into the toilet tank, wait a few minutes, if color seeps into the bowl, the flapper is leaking and should be replaced.
- Inspect crawl space. Look at condition of pipes, look for rust spots on piping, visible leaks, look for wet or damp spots on the dirt, this could indicate a leak above.
- Repair those dripping faucets and shower-heads.
Showers – 17% (11.6 GPD)
- The average person showers for about 6 minutes, 0.75 times per day. Calculate the volume of your shower head by timing how long it takes to fill a gallon bucket. The average person uses 12 Gallons per day in the shower.
- Install ultra low flow shower heads and save 1 gallon per minute or more. This can save 6 gallons per person per day (6500 Gallons per year for a family of four)
Toilets – 26% (18.5 GPD)
- The average person flushes the toilet 5 times per day. Check the size of the toilet tanks; older tanks are often as large as 3.5 gallons per flush and sometimes more.
- Calculate the water usage used in flushing for your household.
- A modern, dual flush high efficiency toilet utilizes a flush of 1.28 Gallons per flush and can save 10 gallons per person per day (that’s almost 15,000 gallons per year for a family of four!). Many high efficiency toilets qualify for rebates of $150 from the water authority.
Faucets – 16% (10.9 GPD)
- Replace or install aerators.
Baths – 2% (1.2 GPD)
Dishwater – 1% (1GPD)
Clothes Washer – 22% (15GPD)
Other Domestic Use – 2% (1.6GPD)
- Place a bucket under the fixture furthest from the water heater, time how long it takes to fill the bucket and how long it takes to get the water hot. How many gallons go down the drain?
- Insulate hot pipes, install recirculating system.
Water conservation is a critically important issue, so contact a plumber for a home water conservation audit. It’s often free.