In the United States, the average family of 4 uses about 400 gallons of water every day. Over 26% of the water used goes through the toilet. Showers consume almost 17% of the water being used. Leaks account for nearly 14% of water usage.
Older toilets, in fact, may even use more water than indicated here. Toilets that are 10+ years old may use up to 7 gallons of water for every flush. If an older toilet happens to be leaking as well, then an additional 200 gallons of water might be used – just in the bathroom.
With about half of all water in a home being used in the bathroom, the first steps for conservation must begin there. Here are some easy steps that you can implement today to make your water use more efficient.
1. Turn off water when you’re not using it
One common habit that many households have is to leave their faucet running when something is being done at the sink. If you turn the water off when brushing your teeth, shaving, or doing some facial cleansing, you can save about 2 gallons per incident. Assuming you brush your teeth twice per day, a family of four could save 16 gallons of water each day with this one simple habit change.
When shaving and other miscellaneous bathroom tasks, which include water, are included, the average family of 4 in the U.S. can save 600 gallons of water per month just by remembering to turn the water off.
2. Install a low-flow aerator for your sink and/or shower
Low-flow aerators can restrict the amount of water that is used while the faucet is on. They are usually installed in older faucets, though some newer ones may require one as well. For a 5+ year old faucet that offers a flow rate of 3 gallons per minute (GPM), a low-flow aerator could reduce the amount of water used to 1.5 GPM.
For the average family of 4, installing these aerators in every bathroom faucet and the kitchen faucet can save up to 200 gallons of water per day, or about 6,000 gallons of water per month.
Adding a low-flow aerator to an older shower or replacing an older shower head with a new one, can save about 40% of the water that is used during a 10-minute shower. That means a 20-gallon shower turns into a 12-gallon shower… or less.
3. Fix any faucets that are leaking
Toilets that are leaking are obviously problematic. Don’t forget about the faucets when checking for leaks. Just one dripping faucet can waste up to 20 gallons of water every day. You’ll also stop that annoying drip, drip, drip sound that you hear when the house is quiet at night.
Most leaking faucets can be repaired by giving it a new seat washer. You’ll want to pry off the decorative cap that is on the handle of the faucet. Then remove the handle screw. At this point, you can pull the handle off.
Take a crescent wrench of the appropriate size and unscrew the packing nut. Once you’ve unscrewed the stem, you can remove, then replace, the seat washer. It will be held in place by a brass or stainless-steel screw. Once you’ve completed this task, you reassemble the faucet in reverse order.
4. Keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator
Ok, so not really bathroom related, but it’s still a good tip. If you are feeling thirsty, the faucet is a great place to get some water. On a warm day, however, the initial flow tends to be warmer than most people prefer for drinking water. What happens next? The water is allowed to flow until it gets cold enough to drink.
The best way to avoid this issue is to keep a pitcher of water in your refrigerator for those moments when you get thirsty. If there is not enough space to do this, then keep some ice in your freezer that can be used in the water.
For the average faucet, 30-60 seconds is required to provide water at the desired temperature. That means 1.5-3.0 gallons of water could be wasted to obtain a 12-ounce glass of water.
5. Upgrade your washing machine to a high-efficiency model
Some homes are designed with a separate laundry room. Smaller homes tend to keep the laundry room in a downstairs, basement, or garage half-bathroom. If your washing machine is in your bathroom, then it will be responsible for one-fifth of your home’s water use.
Traditional washing machines, from older models, may use 50+ gallons of water for every load that is run through the machine. That means the average family of four will use about 300 gallons of water each week for their laundry needs.
High-efficiency washing machines can reduce the amount of water used in each load by 23 gallons or more, when compared to older traditional models. If 6 loads of laundry are run through the washing machine each week, the average family of four will save over 550 gallons of water every month.
6. Upgrade your toilet to a dual-flush model
Many of today’s new toilets are required to be high-efficiency models. The average toilet today flushes on 1.28-1.6 gallons. If you haven’t upgraded your toilet in the last 10 years, then this one investment can dramatically reduce water consumption that happens in the home.
If you have already upgraded your toilet to a newer model, you do have another option available to further reduce water consumption. Dual-flush, or dual-tank, toilets provide users with the option to flush with half of the tank instead of the full tank. Homes that use the dual-flush design and consistently flush liquid waste with a half-tank can save between 20%-50% on their overall water use.
7. Upgrade your water heater to a tankless model
The best tankless water heaters give you a double-dose of savings when they are installed in appropriate homes. If your household uses 41 gallons of hot water or less each day, then a tankless water heater can be over 30% more energy efficient than a storage-based water heater.
Even in homes that use 80+ gallons of hot water each day, a tankless water heater is at least 8% more efficient than a storage-based water heater.
When purchasing an Energy Star tankless water heater, the average family of four can save about $100, if not more, on their energy costs.
Tankless water heaters reduce water waste for showers and faucets as well because they naturally restrict the output flow rate. The on-demand nature of its design provides hot water when required, increasing water access by 25%-50%, depending upon the home and where the water heater is installed.
Electric and gas-heated models are available. For additional benefits, consider installing separate tankless water heaters for important appliances, allowing each to operate independently. Have one for your showers, another for your dishwasher, and a third for your washing machine.
When properly installed, the best tankless water heaters have an expected lifespan of 20 years. With proper maintenance and the occasional repair, when necessary, homeowners can extend the lifespan of their water heater by up to 50%. In comparison, a storage-based water heater usually requires replacement every 10-15 years.
8. Place a bucket in your shower or bath
If you do experience heating delays with your water before a shower or bath, try capturing that water in a bucket. Instead of the water going down the drain, you can then use this captured water for your garden, your house plants, or even for general cleaning needs. In a pinch, if you lose power or water pressure, this water could even be used to flush your toilet.
You can also reduce a lot of water use by reducing the amount of time you spend in the shower. A good rule of thumb is to keep showers to 4-5 minutes whenever possible. You’ll still be using 10-20 gallons of water, though that is better than the 20-40 gallons which are used for longer showers.
9. Stop taking baths altogether
If you’re used to taking a bath, transitioning to a shower can be a good water saving habit to develop. The average bath might use 50 gallons of water or more. Showers that utilize a low-flow showerhead that are 10 minutes in length will use 25 gallons of water.
For families that are already taking showers instead of baths, a final option is to limit the number of showers that are taken. 29% of families take two showers each day. Almost 10% of households take three showers each day.
There is no official guidance as to the true number of showers that are required to stay healthy. If you are taking multiple showers per day, however, it might be a good idea to try reducing that number to one each day.
How Can You Start Saving Water Today?
Every home is different. There are unique needs that must be met with every family. There are also specific ways, using ideas like these, that every family can save some water each day.
Some families may not be able to afford a new washing machine. A tankless water heater might be out of the question right now. If you take each step as you can afford to do so, you’ll still be able to make a big difference in the amount of water you use.