Thursday, February 28, 2008

7 Ways to Save Water

We thought this article in the "Smart Home Owner Magazine" newsletter was concise and useful.

In some drought-stricken areas of the country, homeowners are dealing with acute water shortages. But no matter where you live, you can take simple steps to conserve water and save money. In fact, with just a few small changes in your home, you can cut your water bill by half. Here’s how:
1. Low-flow faucets and showerheads
Low-flow faucets have a flow rate of 1.5 to 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm), compared to 2.5 to 5 gpm for standard faucets. For showerheads, select models that use 2.5 gpm or less. Some showerheads manufactured before 1992 had flow rates of up to 5.5 gpm, so if you have one of these older models in your home, consider switching to a newer version. You could save 20 to 25 gallons of water per shower.

2. Low-flush toilets
More and more manufacturers are offering low flow toilets - some equipped with dual flushing mechanisms and others with pressure assisted systems. Kohler’s Power Lite toilets, for instance, allow users to select either a normal 1.4-gallon flush or a super-low 1.0-gallon flush, so you never use more water than you need. Kohler notes that the toilet can save 2,000 gallons of water a year. Sloan’s FLUSHMATE pressure assisted technology can be found inside toilets from all leading manufacturers. The newest FLUSHMATE IV uses less than 1.0 gallon per flush without sacrificing performance and saves up to 45% more water than conventional technologies, according to the manufacturer.

3. Hot water recirculator
For a hot shower, you first have to displace the water that’s gone cold in the pipe — between 1 and 5 gallons — which heads right down the drain. To prevent cold-water dumping, you can install a recirculating pump, which will rapidly pull hot water from the water heater while simultaneously sending cooled-off water from the hot-water lines back to the water heater. In addition to having the convenience of hot water on-demand, the system conserves water and saves energy. A typical system costs less than $400 to install.

4. High-efficiency appliances
The EnergyStar label is the gold standard for efficient energy use among appliances, but the designation also indicates water-efficiency for dishwashers and washing machines. The Energy Star-rated Whirlpool Gold Super Capacity Tall Tub Dishwasher, for instance, uses just 6 gallons per cycle, not 12 to 14 like older models, and its soil sensors ensure that wash cycles use less water if dishes aren’t as dirty.

6. Rainwater collection system
Using a non-asphalt roof as a catchment area, a rainwater collection system funnels water into a cistern, then sends it through a series of micron filters and an ultraviolet bath to kill bacteria. Instead of spending money on a water bill, homeowners simply pay for the electricity needed to pump water from their cistern into their home’s regular plumbing system. Even a brief rain event on a 2,000-square-foot roof surface can add 650 gallons to the cistern.

5. Zoned irrigation controllers
While indoor water use has been dropping since the early 1990s, outdoor residential water use has climbed to 50 to 70 percent of total water demand. The biggest sponge is your lawn. To control the amount of water you use outside, consider investing in a multi-function timer that can be programmed to water different zones, like trees, shrubs, flower beds and turf. Changing your irrigation schedule with each season also will reduce overwatering and runoff.

7. Lawn humidity sensors
Another way to prevent overwatering is to install a relative humidity sensor, like the WeatherMiser, from Weathermiser Energy Efficiency Corp. It monitors humidity and evaporation and electronically interrupts your sprinkler cycle if moist conditions render watering unnecessary. A more high-tech version is the WeatherTRAK system, which has a controller that receives up-to-the-minute satellite data on weather conditions for your area. It then adjusts its irrigation of your landscape accordingly.

Bonus Feature:
Conduct Your Own Water Audit

Some high desert cities, like Tucson, Ariz., offer free water audits to residents interested in scaling back their water use. Check with your town’s water department to see if it offers a similar program — or simply audit your own home with these ideas from Tracey Berry, a commercial conservation specialist with City of Tucson Water:
• Check for toilet leaks. Add a water-soluble dye tab or several drops of food coloring to the tank of your toilet. If the flapper is leaking, the dye will filter into the bowl after a few minutes. Even a subtle leak can waste 100 gallons of water a day and leave you with a hefty water bill. A replacement flapper, on the other hand, costs only a few dollars and is easily installed by even the least handy of homeowners.
• Find local rebates. Switching to a high-efficiency dishwasher or washing machine is costly, but in certain parts of the country you can get a discount for doing so. In Albuquerque, N.M., for instance, homeowners can earn a $125 rebate for installing a low-flow toilet, $100 for a high-efficiency washer and up to $800 for converting to xeriscaping.
• Adjust landscape watering. Observe your irrigation system to see if adjusting a sprinkler head could avoid sidewalk runoff. In a hot climate, set automatic sprinklers so that you’re watering early in the day or late in the evening to avoid evaporation. Also, remind yourself to check your irrigation schedule frequently; in the fall and winter you should water less often.
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