If you’re interested in both protecting the Earth’s resources and keeping a few dollars in your wallet, consider auditing your home’s water usage and make any necessary upgrades. By using less water, you prevent wasting a precious and limited resource. You also help reduce the amount of energy needed to treat, transport and then heat that water. But the planet isn’t the only beneficiary when you incorporate water-saving solutions. The average home spends $500 per year on its water and sewer bill, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But by updating to high-efficiency toilets and showerheads, you can put as much as $170 back in your bank account. That’s a 34 percent savings.
The Caroma Sydney Low Profile Toilet uses 1.6/0.8 gallons per flush (full/half flush).
And the good news is you can save the Earth and save some money without sacrificing performance.
“The technology has come a long way in the last 15 years,” says Shane Judd, senior product manager for water conservation at Kohler Co. in Kohler, Wisc. “We want to provide a product that has quality, that has great design, that works well and that, by the way, saves water.”
To see this idea in action, you need look no further than the toilet section of your local home improvement store.
Water-Saving Toilets Toilets account for 30 percent of a home’s total water consumption. So, if you make just one change, upgrading this fixture could give you the biggest bang for your buck. Look for a toilet certified by the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program. These units use 1.28 gallons per flush, which is 20 percent less water than the current federal standard. EPA estimates that a family of four that upgrades its toilet will save more than $90 per year on their water bill and $2,000 over the life of the toilet. Considering that you can purchase a WaterSense toilet for less than $200, that’s a respectable return on your investment. (For more information on the WaterSense program, read “Making Sense of WaterSense.”)
In countries such as Australia where water saving has long been a priority, dual-flush toilets are virtually the only kind available. These toilets use 0.8 gallons for liquid waste and 1.6 gallons for solid waste. The latest toilet from Caroma, an Australian company, called the Sydney Low Profile uses 1.6/0.8 gallons per flush (full/half flush). Caroma now has 41 toilets that are WaterSense-approved—more than any other manufacturer.
And then there is a pressure-assist toilet, similar to what you’d find on an airplane except, says Judd at Kohler, their model is remarkably quieter. The Kohler San Raphael Pressure Lite Toilet uses only 1 gallon per flush but gets the job done with compressed air that propels water to the toilet rim.
If you own an older home, consult a plumber before installing one of these newer units, says Kevin Tindall of Tindall and Ranson Plumbing and Heating in Princeton, N.J., who is chairman of the Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractor’s Association’s Green Task Force on Water Conservation. “In an older home, you have to see whether or not it is appropriate to put that super high-efficiency toilet in,” Tindall says. “Older drain pipes are not as smooth as the new plastic piping and that could cause backups.” Once you have consulted a plumber and you are a savvy do-it-yourselfer, check out Renovate Your World’s video on “How to Replace a Toilet” for step by step instructions.
Faucets and Showerheads Faucets account for 15 percent of home water usage. WaterSense certified faucets reduce a sink’s water flow by 30 percent or more. Installing an aerator or spray nozzle onto your existing faucet is an easy and economical way to save water. “The new ones are half-gallon-per-minute units that are like little sprays,” Tindall says. “That’s something you could certainly use on most of the faucets in the house.”