If you’re like other residents of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, you’re probably hearing the word sustainable a lot these days. So, what exactly does sustainability mean? National Geographic puts it simply: “Sustainability is the practice of using natural resources responsibly today, so they are available for future generations tomorrow.”
You’re likely implementing sustainable practices at home already. For example, many households in Dallas recycle. Fort Worth has some catching up to do. A recent article reports that at 1,161 pounds per household to Fort Worth’s 649 pounds per household, Dallas recycles at a rate almost 80 percent higher than Fort Worth. Food waste accounts for as much as 30% of household waste. Do you compost? That’s another sustainable practice that many North Texans have embraced.
Sustainability can also be a consideration as you make choices related to your plumbing. Sustainable plumbing practices and products reduce waste, require fewer chemicals and use less energy and water than other options, minimizing your household’s environmental impact. Happily, reducing your consumption also tends to result in lower utility bills, so it’s a winning proposition both for you and for the planet.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers a program known as WaterSense®. It’s a kind of “sustainable stamp of approval.” When you see the WaterSense® label while you’re shopping, you can trust that the equipment you’re considering meets rigorous standards for efficiency. These models are certified to use at least 20% less water than standard options.
Four places that you can embrace sustainable plumbing products and practices are in your toilets, showers, faucets, and hot water tank. Let’s look at how:
A leaky toilet can waste as much as 200 gallons of water per day. That’s about three bathtubs full or as much as you would use to take ten showers! You can test to see if the seal formed between your flapper and your toilet tank is intact. Just put a few drops of food coloring in your toilet tank and wait 20-30 minutes. If the color of the water in the toilet bowl has changed, you have a leak and should call a plumber for help.
In the market for a new toilet? WaterSense®-certified toilets use only a maximum of 1.28 gallons per flush. This is a significant reduction from the 1.6 gallons used by most standard toilets. You can also choose a toilet with two buttons – one for liquid waste and one for solids – that will use only as much water as it needs for each job.
Finally, consider your paper products. You can purchase sustainably-produced or recycled toilet and facial tissue and switch from paper towels to washable items in the bathroom and kitchen.
The average American uses 15.8 gallons of water in a shower that lasts eight minutes. The best way to save water in your shower is to shorten the amount of time you spend in there. Cutting down even just one minute each day would save more than 150 gallons each year. You can also save energy by heating your water to a slightly lower temperature.
It takes less time to rinse bar soap lather off your body than it does to rinse shower gels. Not only will making that switch save water, you’ll reduce the number of plastic bottles that you’re buying each month.
Some showerheads use up to 2.5 gallons of water per minute. In contrast, WaterSense®-certified showerheads use a maximum of two gallons of water per minute, a 20% savings.
If your household is like others, you’re wasting as much as 10,000 gallons of water annually through leakages in taps, pipes, and showers. The first sign of a leak is often a sudden and unexplainable uptick in your water bill. Don’t sit idly by as your money goes down the drain. Check your taps for drips and have any problem fixed as quickly as possible.
You can also practice sustainability at the sink by making sure you turn the faucet off when you’re not actually using water, such as while you’re brushing your teeth or washing the dishes. Consider trading plastic toothbrushes and dish scrubbers for items made of recyclable or compostable products and, like at the shower, replace liquid soaps with bars.
Swap your old faucets for new ones, which will have more efficient aerators and will allow for a slower maximum flow of about 1.5 gallons per minute. Standard faucets allow for up to twice as much – 3 gallons per minute.
Hot Water Tanks
The typical hot water tank holds 50 gallons of water and keeps it warm at all times. Keeping that water hot whether you need it or not can account for as much as 20% of the average household energy bill. That’s more than your dishwasher, refrigerator, and washer/dryer combined.
Newer options, including hot water circulation pumps, provide hot water on demand without a tank. These systems save money by eliminating the reservoir. Instead, the pump funnels cold water into a coiled pipe above a gas or electric-powered burner which activates when water begins to flow through the unit. Water is then heated to meet demand and sent to a bathtub, shower, sink, or other device. Households with a tankless system use only the energy needed to heat the water in use at any given moment.
If you do swap your old tank for a newer one, be sure to choose an ultra-efficient, Energy Star-rated high efficiency heat pump water heater (HPWH). Unlike traditional tanks, which heat water with gas or another fuel, an HPHW uses an energy-efficient compressor that gathers heat from the atmosphere and concentrates it in a water storage tank. The Department of Energy says that a family of four will save approximately $3,750 over the lifespan of an average HPWH.
To learn more about how you can save money and reduce waste by improving the sustainability of your plumbing, or to resolve any other plumbing issue in your home, schedule a free consultation today. Our team members will come to your home, conduct an assessment, and offer expert recommendations for installation, repair, or replacement.