According to the Unites States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American family of four uses 400 gallons of water per day. While about 70% of that is for indoor use (with toilet flushing dominating the discussion), leaks around your home account for 13.7%. Just leaks – all on their own!
And since many parts of the United States currently experience severe to extreme drought conditions, more and more communities are restricting water usage. For some folks, such restrictions mean you can’t water your lawn or your car as frequently as you’d like, but here at Direct Energy, we like a resource usage challenge.
To help you better understand when, where, and how your home wastes water, we’ve assembled a list of the most likely ways and places this waste happens – including solutions for fixing them. Not only do we hope you’ll be able to conserve water more effectively going forward, but we want you to feel more flush from a lower monthly water bill.
Getting Hosed Outdoors
The average U.S. household uses more water outdoors than most American homes use for showering and washing clothes combined. By some estimates, that adds up to 29% of total water usage, and it doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s examine areas where you are most likely to waste water outdoors and how to correct the situation.
- Washing sidewalks and driveways. Use leaf blower – or go super-energy saving with a broom! – instead.
- Leaking hose spigots. Consider having these replaced with frost-proof faucets. These come in a single piece and have long valve stems so the valve is located inside your home, out of the cold weather.
- Leaking pools. Check your above-ground pool for signs of tiny water leaks. For all pools and spas, check connections at pump and filter connections, and if you see leaking water, keep an eye out for loose or cracked fittings.
- Planting the wrong lawn. A classic turf lawn doesn’t grow everywhere. For example, in eastern Virginia, homeowners doggedly try to grow a turf lawn every single year. They water and fertilize relentlessly, only to watch their investment whither and die. Instead, plant native grasses or varieties known to thrive in your area. You’ll spend less money, use fewer chemical fertilizers, and use less water — plus you’ll get to enjoy your lawn much more.
- Over-watering your lawn. Opt for a soaker hose or drip irrigation in flower beds, as this can save up to 50% of water used compared to sprinklers.
- Not using compost. Mulch and compost reduce water runoff and evaporation. A hundred pounds of average soil with a pound of compost mixed in will hold an additional 33 pounds (4 gallons) of water. By composting and mulching around trees and in flower beds – as well as adding it to lawns – reduces the need for extra watering.
Feeling Drained Indoors
Ten percent of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more per day. This equals more than 1 trillion gallons annually nationwide and is equivalent to the annual household water use of more than 11 million homes.
As a baseline, if a family of four exceeds 12,000 gallons per month, it’s likely the home has some serious leak problems. By finding and fixing leaks promptly, a homeowner can save 10% on their water bills. And it all starts with the toilet – the biggest single water-using feature of a home.
Residential toilets made prior to 1993 use almost 2 gallons more water per flush. Older ones use as much as 6 gallons. If your home has either one of these old fixtures, replacing it with a water-saving toilet that follows the current federal standard of 1.6 gallons per flush should instantly reduce your water usage.
- Leaking toilets leak money. Has this ever happened to you? You wake up in the middle of the night and hear the toilet running. But after a minute, it stops, only to start up again intermittently throughout the night. It’s very likely the flapper valve, a small rubber flap which can become stiff, develop slimy wear spots, or even tear over time. When this happens, the valve won’t seal properly, which allows water to flow out of the toilet tank. Replacing a flapper valve is both cheap (about $3 for new valve) and easy (takes less than 15 minutes). Not sure the flapper valve is leaking? Put a drop of food coloring in the toilet tank. If any color shows up in the bowl after 10 minutes, bingo — it’s a valve leak.
- The toilet is not a garbage can. Tissues, most wipes, feminine hygiene products, and dental floss collect sewage material on them. And this gradually build into blockages that will back sewer water into your home. Unless you enjoy expensive visits from plumbers, put the trash in your trash can.
And the toilet is just for starters! There are plenty of places in your bathroom and kitchen where you can stop wasting water with a little bit of home improvement acumen.
- Leaky Faucets. Worn or cracked washers or O-rings in valves will drip and dribble water either through the faucet or even around the valve stem. There are as many ways to fix a faucet as there are manufacturers and models. Though not usually difficult, the task can be tricky and time-consuming.
- Poorly attached shower heads. If a shower head wasn’t attached properly, it will leak and dribble, reducing the water pressure coming out of the head. That dripping water also goes straight down the drain without being use. A shower head leaking at 10 drips per minute wastes more than 500 gallons per year. Fixing a shower head takes a few minutes with pliers and Teflon plumbers tape.
- Appliances — If you’ve bought your appliance from a major brand at a large retail electronics store, it should be quite reliable, but sometimes dumb things happen. This means you should always Watch out for pooling water on the floor.
- The vibrations of your washing machine and dryer can sometimes pull at hoses and connections. Pooling water could indicate a supply line leak or connections near the pump.
- if your water heater is over 10 years old, regularly check beneath the tank for pooling water, rust, or other signs of leakage.
- Your average refrigerator does’t move that much, but plastic connectors can get brittle over time. Water on the floor either means a leaky water supply line or air is not circulating well inside, which means there could be a defrost cycle problem.
Finally, by correcting a few basic water-wasting habits, you’re setting a good example for your family and friends.
- Don’t let the water run while you’re brushing your teeth, shaving, or washing dishes by hand. This is wasteful because most of the water doesn’t get used at all.
- If you’re washing dishes or shaving, use a stopper and fill the sink with water.
- If you’re brushing your teeth, turn off the water until you’re ready to rinse your mouth.
Do you have any recommendations on how to fix and/or prevent the many ways your home wastes water? Share with us in the comments!