Drip . . . drip . . . drip . . .
That leaky bathroom faucet probably feels like a small nuisance, but add up all those drops and that’s a lot of water down the drain.
Consider these numbers from scientists at the United States Geological Survey (USGS), who measured the drips from a number of kitchen- and bathroom-sink faucets. Using 0.25 milliliter as the volume of a faucet drip, they estimated that 15,140 drips produce 1 gallon of water. So one faucet leaking one drop per minute uses 34 gallons of water per year without the tap turned on.
Overall, it’s estimated that 12 percent of residential water is lost to plumbing leaks. That equals hidden costs on water bills, which averaged $70.39 per month for a household of four in 2018.
But with climate shifts causing longer periods of drought in many areas, the benefits of conserving this vital natural resource go beyond your pocketbook. And limiting your water consumption is only one way to save money while doing your bit to ease the pressure on our fragile planet. These simple eco-friendly strategies are economical, too.
Water You Waiting For?
Roughly 60 percent of residential water usage occurs indoors through flushing toilets, washing clothes, and showering. Try these tips to ensure that you’re using and paying less.
Adjust water temps. Heating water is responsible for a quarter of residential energy use worldwide, so use cold water whenever possible. Also, setting your water heater thermostat to 120 degrees F is sufficient to get comfortable hot water for most uses.
Install a low-flush toilet and you’ll use 1.28 gallons of water per flush instead of 1.6 gallons or more. That will save you, on average, about 50 percent in annual water costs ($10.76 instead of $21.27).
Switch to an efficient showerhead. The average American shower lasts 8.2 minutes and uses 17.2 gallons of water. That’s a flow rate of 2.1 gallons per minute (gpm). If you’re using a 5.5 gpm or 2.5 gpm showerhead, replacing it with a 2.0 gpm unit conserves water and keeps money in your bank account.
If your water heater is electric, switching from a 2.5 gpm showerhead to a 2.0 gpm unit could save you $25 annually; if it’s natural gas, you’ll save $15. Look for units marked with the WaterSense label, which certifies the unit uses no more than 2.0 gpm.
No matter what type of showerhead you use, try limiting your showers to five minutes.
Front-load your savings by using more-efficient appliances. Top-loading washers use about 40 to 45 gallons per load, but front-loading machines can cut that in half, and they tend to get your clothes cleaner. Wash less by laundering only full loads.
Take It Outside
About 30 percent of our residential water usage occurs outdoors, and over half of that is used for watering lawns and gardens. You can turn down the volume with a few simple strategies.
Cut the grass. Removing all or part of your lawn and replacing it with native plants reduces water usage, runoff, and flooding; improves biodiversity; and supports pollinators like bees, birds, and butterflies, as well as other wildlife. To find a list of plants native to your area, visit www.plants.usda.gov.
Minimize water usage by capturing rainwater in barrels or installing a drip system for irrigation.
Avoid evaporation by watering in the morning or evening; ensure that your sprinklers are not watering your sidewalks.
Make a clean sweep by tidying driveways, walkways, and garages with a broom instead of spraying them with a hose.
Lighten the Load
The average household contains 24 consumer-electronics products. Along with lighting, these account for about 12 percent of home energy costs.
Use dimmers, timers, and motion sensors to reduce lighting usage.
Switch to LED bulbs. They use 70 to 90 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and last at least 15 times longer, saving about $55 in electricity costs over a bulb’s lifetime.
Power up home electronics — like TVs — with power strips, and switch the strip off when the equipment isn’t in use.
Smart-stream by watching media on smaller screens or smart TVs, or with digital media players like Roku. For more tips, visit www.energy.gov.
Beat the Heat and Keep Your Cool
The U.S. Department of Energy reports that the nation’s 113 million residences use an estimated 22 percent of the country’s power. The average annual household energy bill is more than $2,000. The following tips can help you reduce the amount you spend by up to 25 percent.
Plant a tree in the right location and it’ll grow to provide shade during the summer, which reduces air-conditioning costs. Trees also capture and remove carbon from the air.
Keep your window coverings closed during the hottest part of summer days and open them on south-facing windows during the winter. Installing insulating blinds and shades can also help lower energy costs.
Seal leaks with caulk or weather stripping around windows and doors, and where plumbing, electrical, and ducting comes through walls, floors, and ceilings.
Service your heater or boiler annually to extend its life and improve its efficiency. Repair any problems before they become expensive emergencies.
Replace your air filter. Changing it regularly can save you 5 to 15 percent on your utility costs while improving the air quality in your home.
Smarten up by installing a programmable thermostat and creating timed settings that adjust the temperature when you’re away or in different rooms. You may save as much as 15 percent annually by dialing the temperature up or down 10 to 15 degrees, depending on the season, for eight hours a day.
Insulate your home. Heat naturally moves to cooler areas until equilibrium is reached. This air infiltration accounts for some 25 to 60 percent of energy used to heat and cool a home. Insulation’s capacity for thermal resistance reduces this heat exchange, and while it can seem like a pricey investment, it’s one that can last up to 100 years, meaning it will benefit your pocketbook in the long run.
This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of Experience Life, Life Time’s whole-life health and fitness magazine.