Want to conserve water around the house? Start in the bathroom. That’s where we’re using, and wasting, water the most, according to David Johnston, a green building expert. Johnston owns the sustainable building consulting firm What's Working in Boulder, Colorado. If it’s been a while since you've made improvements to the bathrooms in your home, it’s time to swap the existing shower heads, faucets, and toilets for more energy efficient, water saving models. Johnston suggests the following green upgrades.
Most of us turn on the shower and let the water run for a bit to heat up—maybe even as long as it takes to brush our teeth—and did you know that an outdated showerhead sprays five gallons of water per minute? If you let the water run for, say, three minutes, that's 15 gallons of wasted water before you even step in the shower.
Johnston explains that you can use 50 percent less water by swapping your current showerhead for a low-flow model. Look for one that has a flow rate of 2-1/2 gallons per minute or less. They are price from $20 to $50.
It's also worth investing in a showerhead with a filter that removes chlorine because our bodies absorb it and it dries out our skin and hair.
You could buy a new faucet that reduces water flow, but Johnston suggests a quicker, less expensive fix: buy a flow restrictor, a small attachment that screws onto your current faucet. A flow restrictor reduces water flow to 1-1/2 gallons or less per minute while a standard faucet has a rate of about 2-1/2 gallons per minute. You can find flow restrictors for about $1 to $2 at a hardware store, home improvement store, or online. A flow restrictor actually improves your water pressure while allowing you to be green.
Save water with each flush by installing a dual flush toilet. It offers two buttons for flushing—one is meant for liquid waste and uses about a gallon of water per flush, and the other is meant for solid waste and uses 1.6 gallons of water per flush.
Most toilets in U.S. households use 5 gallons of water per flush, according to Johnston. "There's no reason for that, if you're remodeling anything in the bathroom, swap out the toilet for a dual flush version." (Expect to pay about $250.)
Hot water pump
For most of us, getting hot water to stream out of the faucet means waiting for the water to go from cold to lukewarm to hot. Sure, it's a brief wait, but you're still wasting water.
There is a way to cut out that warming up period. Johnston suggests installing a Metlund Hot Water D'mand System, a pump that attaches to the water pipes underneath the bathroom sink. When you signal for hot water, it pushes the cold water out of the pipes and brings hot water to the faucet, before the faucet even turns on. You'll still wait a few seconds for the hot water to arrive, but you won't be letting wasted water run down the drain.
"If I were the building czar of the universe, (the D'mand system) would be code in every house in America," Johnston says.
Kits start at $366. For information, go to gothotwater.com.