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Ideas for the Bathroom: Water Use

Painless ways to conserve water and save buckets of money!

FH07OCT_WATSMA_01-2Family Handyman

Bathrooms use more water than any other room in the house, but saving water there is easy with the new generation of low-flow faucets and water-saving toilets.

Photo courtesy of Kohler

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Start saving today

If your house was built before 1994 and you’re still using the original plumbing fixtures, you’re using 30 to 40 percent more water than a comparable new home.

Because water is cheap (about $1.50 for 1,000 gallons) and in most places always seems readily available, maybe you haven’t worried about conserving it. But as clean water gets harder to come by36 states will suffer some sort of shortage within the next decadeprices will rise. Add to that the cost of heating and sewer fees, and you can see how thousands of wasted gallons turns into hundreds of wasted dollars all going down your drain.

The good news is that you can turn down the tap without making a major ripple in your living habits. That’s because water-wasting fixtures are easy to identify and replace. (Use Figure A to help find the major water wasters in your home.) Updating the thirstiest room of your houseyour bathroomwith fixtures like the ones shown here will not only save water and money, but also give the room a fresh look.

Figure A: Where’s Your Water Going?

Bathrooms use more water than any other room in the house. More than a quarter of all the water used in the whole house is literally flushed down the toilet!

Low-flow toilet

Water-saver

Using a compressed-air boost, Kohler’s Pressure Lite toilets offer no-plug performance using as little as 1.1 gallons per flush. This can save 5,000 gallons per year.

Cost: $200 to $300
Water savings: Up to 23,000 gallons per year (for a four-person family)

Now’s the time to replace that old commode. Using 3.5 to as much as 7 gallons per flush (gpf), old-style toilets are the biggest water wasters in your home. Admittedly, poor flush performance gave first-generation 1.6-gpf toilets a bad rap, but with reengineered bowls and trapways, the newest models flush more waste with less water. According to recent surveys, most homeowners are as satisfied with their 1.6-gpf toilets as they were with their older 3.5-gallon flushers.

To save even more water, check out high-efficiency toilets. These models use 20 percent less water than the 1.6-gpf competition. Dual-flush toilets, such as Sterling’s Dual Force, are designed to let you choose either the half (0.8 gallon) or the full (1.6 gallon) flush option, saving you 6,000 gallons per year. Alternatively, pressure-assist toilets, such as Kohler’s Pressure Lite (photo), employ an air cartridge that’s charged by the water pressure from the supply line to push water from the tank using just 1.1 gallons of water. (Note: you may need a wax ring for updating your toilet!)

Low-flow showerheads

1.6 gpm water saver

At 1.6 gpm, Delta’s water efficient showerhead uses 36 percent less water, but the high-tech head still delivers what feels like a standard 2.5-gpm flow.

Cost: $20 to $100
Water savings: 7,800 gallons per year
Hot water savings: $90 per year (electric), $38 per year (gas)

Showerheads are not only the second heaviest water user but also a major energy eater. That’s because 70 percent of the water flowing through the head comes from your water heater. By reducing water consumption and water heating needs, a low-flow head saves money in two ways.

Saving water with an efficient showerhead no longer means settling for a drizzle instead of a downpour. Once, low-flow used to mean not enough oomph to rinse out the shampoo. That’s because the showerheads were simply choked with flow restrictors to meet the government’s 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm) mandate. Removing the restrictor was an easy way to boost shower power, but doing so negated any water savings. (To check the flow of your existing showerhead, see how long it takes to fill a 1-gallon container. If you fill the jug in less than 24 seconds, your 2.5-gpm fixture is using more water than it should.) If you’re using an older single or a newer multihead spa shower, an 8- to 10-minute shower can use more water than a 60-gallon whirlpool tub.

To provide a satisfying shower with less water, today’s high-efficiency fixtures have gone high-tech. Delta’s water-efficient showerheads (photo) change the shape and velocity of the water streameven the size of the dropsto provide the high-flow feel using just 1.6 gpm. (Make sure you also have Teflon tape for replacing a showerhead!)

Low-flow faucet aerators

Aerator solution

Want a five-buck, five-minute water-saving solution? Twist on a 1.5-gpm aerator and save money every time you turn on the tap.

Cost: $2 to $5
Water savings: Up to 1,400 gallons per year (per faucet)

How much water do you really need to wet your toothbrush or rinse a razor? If the aerator attached to the end of your bathroom faucet reads 2.2 gpm, you’re wasting water every time you turn on that tap. Installing a 1.5-gpm aerator on the end of the spout is a quick and inexpensive way to cut lavatory water use by 30 percent.

Want Help Choosing Water-Efficient Fixtures?

Look for the logo WaterSense logo. Like the Energy Star label, the WaterSense tag is an easy way to identify efficient products. To earn this label, products must use at least 20 percent less water and still perform as well as or better than other products in that category. For more info, go to epa.gov/watersense.

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you startyoull save time and frustration.

  • Adjustable wrench

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • Teflon tape
  • Wax ring