Energy Efficiency Tips — Water Usage | The Light Lab

Energy Efficiency Tips — Water Usage

Thinking about some Do-It-Yourself (DIY) home improvement projects for your Texas home, but you’re not really sure about what to do or where to start? You’ve come to the right place! Welcome to the DIY Energy Efficiency Tips series from First Choice Power. We’ll show you how to improve the energy efficiency of your home, including hints that make the jobs easier.

Energy Efficiency Tips — Water Usage | The Light Lab

Water Usage Tips

In some parts of the country, water and sewer charges can add a significant cost to your monthly bills. While Texas has relatively low water and sewer costs for residents, a bill for 7,000 gallons of water and sewer service in Houston can add up to $85.17. If your home has leaky plumbing or appliances and fixtures that use lots of water, or you water your yard and garden or own a pool, then it’s likely that you’re spending a lot of money on water.

The good news is that there are a lot of simple things you can do to reduce both your water and energy usage to save you money.

In Hot Water

Most Texas families own a tank-style heater that keeps 40 to 50 gallons of water hot waiting for someone to use it. While that might seem convenient, tank-style water heaters waste a lot of energy standing by for someone to use the water. When you’re away at work for 10 hours a day, 5 days a week, then your hot water heater is keeping the water hot for 50 hours each week for nobody.. Water heating alone accounts for about 18% of a home’s total energy use. How much could it cost you? At 50 hours/week, an electric water heater equipped with the standard 3800 watt heating elements can use 9,880 kWh per year in stand by mode. At 10¢/kWh, that adds up to nearly $1,000 a year.

There are a few things you can do to reduce that energy cost:

  • Older tank water heaters are under insulated. You can improve the insulation by wrapping a water heater blanket around it.
  • Insulate water pipes at least 6 feet leading to and from the water heater. This slows down heat loss through the water pipes. Insulating hot water pipes also reduces your waiting time for hot water — so you won’t waste as much water.
  • If your heater is over 10 years old, replace it with a qualifying Energy Star model.
  • Laundry in hot water is no longer the rule. Wash in cold water—detergent formulation has changed, making them more effective at lower temperatures.

Energy Efficiency Tips — Water Usage | The Light Lab

Using Less Water

Reducing the amount of water consumed in your home can sound daunting, but it’s actually easy.

Water Saving Shower Heads —Showers use much less water than baths. Still, those can still use a good amount of water. Showers are typically the third largest water use after toilets and clothes washers. The average American shower uses 17.2 gallons (65.1 liters) and lasts for 8.2 minutes. If you like lingering in the shower, you can still save water by using a low flow shower head. Shower heads manufactured in the U.S. have a maximum flow rate of 2.5 gpm. WaterSense qualifying shower heads use no more than 2.0 gpm. You’ll save on both energy and your water bill without noticing much of a difference.

Use Less Water Per Flush—If your home has a toilet made before 1994, it probably uses between 3 and 7 gallons per flush. New toilets use only 1.6 gallons per flush. There also low flush toilets that use even less water. However, if you have one of those pre-1994 monsters, you can reduce its water usage a little bit by adjusting the tank’s float height and placing filled water bottles inside the tank.

Fix Those Leaks

About 10% of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more per day —that’s 270 gallons a month, adding about 10% onto your monthly water bill. Luckily, some of the biggest and most common problems are the easiest to fix!

The Flapper Valve— The most common leak in a home comes from a leaky flapper valve in the toilet tank. When the toilet is flushed, the flush lever pulls a chain that pulls the flapper valve off the tank drain to release water into the toilet bowl and flush waste from the bowl. However, the flapper valve will get hard as it gets older and will fail to seal when it closes. As a result, the tank will refill as water leaks out. Sometimes, it might be intermittent without being used or it could run constantly. Luckily, replacing the flapper valve is cheap and easy to do.

Leaky faucet valves — A couple of drips doesn’t sound like much but they add up. For example, one faucet dripping 10 drops per minute ( 14,400 drops) wastes just under one gallon per day (one gallon = 15,140 drips ). That’s close to 30 gallons per month and more wasted water on your water bill. For many faucets, fixing the valve’s washer is the common fix. However, some newer valve assemblies use preassembled valve cartridges that conveniently just drop into place.

Energy Efficiency Tips — Water Usage | The Light Lab

Saving Water with Appliances

  • Whenever possible, wash clothing in full loads.
  • Dishwasher—only run when the machine is completely full.
    Skip the extra rinse. By using the right amount of detergent, you won’t need to use the extra rinse cycle.
  • Washer over ten years old? Think about replacing it with a newer efficient model that uses much less water.

Getting Hosed —Saving Water Outdoors

Nationally, outdoor water use accounts for 30% household use — 10% MORE than showering. Outdoor usage amounts are even higher amounts in homes located in dry climates such as the southwest. To reduce your outdoor usage, there’s some simple things to do:

  • Use a broom or leaf-blower to sweep leaf debris off of side walks and driveways.
  • Check above ground and in-ground pool plumbing for leaks and check for signs of cracks. Covering the pool when it’s not in use reduces the amount of water lost to evaporation.
  • Plant the right kind of lawn for your local environment. You’ll save a lot money and aggravation by planting what works best with the soil type, weather, and rainfall in your part of Texas.
  • Place compost and mulch around trees, shrubs, and plantings. Mulching recycles yard waste by providing nutrients to your soil and helps retain moisture for growing plants. It also reduces the amount of yard waste sent to landfills.
  • Harvest rainwater from your downspout. One inch of rainfall on a 20’ x 50’ (1,000 sq. ft) roof can provide nearly 600 gallons of water. Setting up a rainwater harvesting system is easy and many home centers sell inexpensive kits.

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Vernon Trollinger is a writer with a background in home improvement, electronics, fiction writing, and archaeology. He now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.