Without water we can’t survive. That makes it critical to always have an adequate supply of water. By managing water use in our homes, we can help to ensure we can always take a bath, cook, clean our clothes and flush the commode.
A look at a globe or a map of the Earth makes it seem like we have an abundance of water. After all, water covers approximately 70 percent of our planet. Sadly, we have far less than 1 percent of it available for our use. While we can remove the salt from ocean water, it’s prohibitively expensive in most cases. The ice caps of Antarctica, Greenland and other parts of the Arctic remain far from any population centers. Underground aquifers too deep for drilling contain the rest of the water that’s pretty much out of reach for human consumption.
We know in metro Atlanta all about increasing demands on the water supply in the face of a booming population growth. The tri-state water wars made it to the U.S. Supreme Court over the waters of the Chattahoochee River, where most of us here get our water.
The Water Resource Foundation’s Residential End Uses of Water study shows where water gets used in the home:
Average Water Use per Single-family Home
Gallons per day
- 33.1 Toilets
- 28.1 Showers
- 26.3 Faucets
- 22.7 Clothes washers
- 17.0 Leaks
- 3.6 Bathtubs
- 1.6 Dishwashers
- 5.3 Other
- 137.8 Total Indoor Use
- 138.4 Total Outdoor Use
But what can we do to reduce our water use? Fortunately, many small steps can help conserve this natural resource. Approximately 95 percent of the water used in a single-family home comes from just a few sources:
Toilets – New construction homes use low-flush models. In 1992 it became the law that all new toilets had a mandatory maximum of 1.6 gallons per flush under the Energy Policy Act signed by President George H.W. Bush. While the housing booms in this area mostly happened after this date, plenty of older homes still lack low-flush toilets. Some of them can use 4 to 5 gallons per flush. Since toilets account for approximately 26 percent of the daily water use in the house, switching can really save water.
The old method of putting a brick in the toilet tank to reduce the water used was a bad idea. Crumbling bricks can cause serious clogs in your sewage lines. Fixing clogged or leaking sewer lines costs much more than a new toilet installation. Champia offers a 90-day Main Sewer and Water Line Warranty at no charge on all complete home inspections for home buyers.
Washing Clothes & Dishes –Nearly a quarter of the daily water use in a single-family home comes from washing clothes and dishes. Simply wait to run the dishwasher and washing machine when you have full loads. Or at the very least adjust the load size when washing clothes. As these make up 23 percent of the water used in the home, you could save as much as 1,000 gallons of water per month.
Showers – Replace a standard 4.5-gallon-per-minute showerhead with a 2.5-gallon-per-minute model. With 17 percent of the water use coming from our need to be clean, a family of four can save 20,000 gallons of water per year. Now you can justify getting that fancy showerhead with all the flow settings.
Faucets – You’ll use about 16 percent of your total water consumption by turning on faucets in the home. Install aerators to keep the flow strong but with less water used with the addition of air to break the water into small droplets.
Leaks – That annoying slow dripping in your sink or tub costs quite a bit. Leaks in a single-family home account for 14 percent of your water use, and it’s all wasted. Check joints in your pipes, sink and tub faucets, showerheads and even the flapper in your toilet tanks.
With pipes covered by drywall and ceilings, finding leaks presents a challenge if you don’t see telltale stains or dripping water. That’s where thermography testing by Champia Real Estate Inspections can help. Thermal imaging can locate hidden conditions such moisture from plumbing or rainwater issues, heating and cooling loss caused by improperly insulated areas; air movement through an enclosure, and even potential electrical problems.
Other Tips to Save Water in the Home
Our inspectors at Champia Real Estate Inspections see that many homeowners already tackled those big water use problems. What else can these families do to save water – and save money in the process?
- Compost food waste instead of running water while using the garbage disposal.
- Handwash dishes in a sink full of water rather than running the water while washing. Only run the water while rinsing a dish.
- Get clean in the shower in less than 5 minutes and save thousands of gallons of water each year.
- Taking a bath? Plug the drain before turning on the water. Yes, it takes time to get hot. But you won’t use just hot water for a bath. By the time it’s full, you’ll have it just how you like it with fewer gallons used.
Champia’s certified inspectors check on the hot water status in your home or commercial building. Take a look at the example on Page 24 of this sample inspection report.
- Use that water bottle or a single glass to drink water throughout the day, rather than washing a glass for every time you take a drink.
- Direct downspouts from the gutters to plantings. Better yet, install a rain barrel to collect this rainwater from the roof.
- Don’t leave the water running while brushing your teeth. You only need it on to rinse your toothbrush and your mouth.
- Insulate hot water pipes so it takes less time to warm up at the sink, tub or shower. This is especially important if you have pipes in crawl spaces or an unheated basement or garage.
What tips do you have to save water in the home? Share them here!