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Category:  Utilities

Summer Water Use Tips That Save You Money

By Liz Pauley

Unless you live in the permanently arid Southwest, summer usually means more water use and higher water and sewer bills. Even if you draw water from a well, the increased water use also means higher electric bills and more wear on the pump. But for many, this summer, the concern isn’t just about higher bills. With parts of the country suffering from prolonged dry spells and drought, many communities have implemented water use restrictions and water conservation has become a summertime necessity. The good news is that a few small changes to your daily routine and a couple of quick fixes around the house can save you both water and money -- this summer, and year 'round!

In the house

-- Turn that faucet off. While you brush your teeth, that is, and save about 2 gallons a minute. Do that every time you brush and save an extra 240 gallons a month. Turn the faucet off while you shave and save even more.

-- Use the shower; skip the tub. You’d think it would be the other way around, right? But, a five-minute shower typically uses only 10-25 gallons of water while a full tub uses about 70 gallons. To keep shower time to a minimum, don’t run the shower while you shave. If you like your leisurely soaks, stopper the drain right away and adjust the temperature as you fill up.

-- Wash a full load of clothes. With the average washer using about 41 gallons a load, the more loads you do, and the more water you use. To cut down on water use, wait until you have a full load.

-- Fix that leaky toilet. You know the sound: the sudden hissing of water as the tank fills itself back up, but you didn’t just flush. Or, you might notice a regular damp spot on the floor below the tank. A leaking toilet can waste about 200 gallons of water a day!

-- Fix leaky faucets and showerheads. A little drip might not seem like much, but a faucet dripping at the rate of 1 drop per second wastes about 2,700 gallons a year.


In the yard

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a typical single-family household uses about 30 percent of its water outside, on lawns, landscaping and gardens. As much as 50 percent of that water is wasted through evaporation or runoff. To avoid this kind of waste and lower your water bill use the following tips.

-- Outdoor faucets leaking? Those little drips can be costly, too.

-- Water early or late in the day, while the sun is low and the air is cooler, so less water is wasted through evaporation (be aware, your community may have watering restrictions in effect, and observe those).

-- If you hand water, aim at the base of the plant, where the roots are; you don’t have to water the entire plant.
Set sprinklers (preferably the droplet and not the mist-type) so they water only your vegetation and not your driveway, sidewalk or street.

-- Time your sprinkler use so you don’t overwater (overwatering can be as harmful to your landscape as not watering enough). Simple timers are available for under $15 that hook right up to your faucet.


What else you can do

These steps involve a little more effort and/or money but have a timely payback and offer long-term savings through consistently lower water bills.

-- Think about a new toilet. Toilets made before 1992 use anywhere from 3.5–7 gallons per flush. Newer models use, on average, less than 2 gallons per flush. High-efficiency toilets use about 1.3 gallons per flush resulting in a 10-year cost savings of about $1,000 for a family of four – without compromising performance. But, if you’re worried about the “flush factor” (will it all go down?), consider a dual-flush toilet that uses less water for liquid waste removal, and more water for solid waste removal.

-- Consider an automatic irrigation system. If you’re spending a great deal of time hand-watering, or moving your sprinkler from place to place, an automatic irrigation system is an excellent investment. Of course, a system that waters even if it’s raining won’t save you much, but PC programmable and self-adjusting systems are available now that offer a drop in water use of 8-60 percent (depending on how arid your particular climate is) and can pay for themselves in as little as 8 months to a couple of years (again, depending on climate).

-- Use a soaker hose or drip irrigation. If an irrigation system is out of the question for your entire yard, consider using a soaker hose or drip irrigation around your landscaping and garden. A soaker hose emits water gently along its entire length directly to the base of the plant and little is lost through runoff or evaporation (you can even make your own soaker from a length of old garden hose). Drip-irrigation systems accomplish the same thing, with drip holes called emitters spaced at intervals along the hose. Drip systems will cost a bit more. With either of these methods, you’ll find you’ll have to water less often and use less water when you do. Attach a simple hose timer and you can save even more.


Sources: U.S. EPA,
Popular Mechanics, Natural Remodeling (2006, Lark Books).

About the Author: Liz Pauley is a staff writer for ranchrevival.com, a website devoted to owners of ranch style houses, old and new.

 

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