The plumbing system in the average home uses far more water than it needs to. All that wasted water doesn’t just mean more pollution for city or county water customers. It also means water bills that are unnecessarily high.
How can you increase the efficiency of your plumbing, reduce water waste, cut pollution, and save money? Here are six simple solutions.
1. Get a newer model low-flow toilet
The standards for water consumption in toilets have become increasingly strict since the 1990s. A toilet purchased before that era probably uses 3.5 gallons of water—or more!—to dispel waste every time the toilet flushes, whether the waste in question is solid or liquid.
Today’s toilets use much less water. The allowable GPF (gallons per flush) of a toilet sold in many U.S. states today is 1.28. That saves more than 2 gallons for every flush, and more for dual-flush toilets, which can use as little as a single gallon of water for the liquid option.
2. Install faucet aerators
One of the problems with early low-flow faucets was that, while they did a great job of reducing the amount of water that came out, they did it by reducing the water pressure. The predictable result was that consumers grew to hate them.
Even people who like them tend to take longer to perform the tasks they need the faucet for. In contrast, new faucet aerators reduce water consumption while keeping the pressure high.
3. Improve your insulation
Pipe insulation does more than just protect your pipes from freezing. Insulating hot water supply pipes also helps to minimize the heat loss that occurs when your water flows from the heater to the faucet.
In between uses, it also helps to keep the hot water that sits in the pipe when the faucet is off from cooling so much. That means the water will be warmer when you turn the faucet on, and you’ll waste less of it waiting for your water to heat up.
4. Consider getting a tankless water heater
A traditional water heater holds forty gallons of water or more in a tank, which it keeps near a target temperature (usually just below 120 degrees F). Keeping that water hot consumes energy, and when you’re sleeping or at work—or any other time you’re not using the hot water—that energy is wasted.
A tankless water heater instantly heats the water by running it through coils on its way to your home’s hot-water supply line, which saves most of that energy. And the money that pays for it.
5. Collect gray water for outdoor use
Your home’s gray water doesn’t have to go straight into the sewer. While you wouldn’t want to use it for bathing, drinking, or most other household uses, you can use it on your property outdoors, such as for watering the garden.
There are now kits available for gray water collection, which is becoming an extremely popular home improvement project, even in areas with high rainfall. Especially for homeowners who use (and pay for) city water, recycling gray water for use in the irrigation system can make real financial sense.
6. Replace pipes with PEX
One facet of plumbing system efficiency concerns the supply of hot and cold water. Another concerns the disposal of waste water. A third concerns repair and maintenance.
Most homes today are plumbed with copper or PVC and CPVC pipes. While these materials are perfectly acceptable, the recently introduced PEX plumbing material is much easier to work with and less prone to damage. Replacing existing plumbing with PEX whenever repairs are required will gradually improve the overall efficiency of your plumbing system.