We all assume there are lifestyle changes we could make that would amount to a big difference in the water we consume. We’d all like to do a better job of conserving water especially now that conservation is on everyone’s mind, but what changes would offer the best return?
According to the EPA’s Watersense Website (www.epa.gov/watersense), more than 30% of indoor residential water usage is consumed by your toilet. Using the Epa’s figures, your toilet is the single largest consumer of water inside your house. So if you are interested in making changes that will net you the biggest results, you need to start with your commode.
Federal law mandates that all toilets manufactured today use 1.6 gallons per flush. However, if you have an older toilet, you might be flushing more than that or if you have an HET you might be flushing less. To qualify as a High Efficiency Toilet (HET), a toilet must only flush 1.3 gallons per flush. So, why would you want to a HET anyway? Let’s talk toilets.
If your toilet was made between 1980 and 1994, then it probably flushes 3.5 gallons each time you use it. If that isn’t bad enough, if your toilet was made prior to that, then the numbers are more like 5.0 gallons per flush. Installing a new HET could mean a whopping 3.4 gallons savings per flush. Now let’s run the numbers. On average you will flush the toilet 140,000 times in your lifetime (Yes, there are actually people out there that research this stuff). If the average life expectancy is 75 years, that would be roughly 1867 flushes per year. Let’s assume that you use the bathroom at your house for half of those visits. Now we are down to 933 times per year. If you live in an average family of four then we are back up to 3733 per year. Wow, those numbers are climbing. If you were to go from a pre 1980 toilet to a HET model, that would be a water savings of 12,693 gallons of water in just one year.
Before we even calculate the cost of a gallon of treated water both coming and going (for those on city water), you can see the benefit of switching your toilet out. The EPA’s calculations come to a $90 savings on your water bill per year adding up to a $2000 savings for the life of the toilet. However, they say that this number can be doubled if you are replacing a leaky old toilet.
How do you tell if you have a leaky toilet? Put a couple of drops of food coloring in the back of your toilet and wait. If any of the color has seeped into the toilet bowl in 15 minutes, then your toilet leaks and needs to be repaired or replaced.
But are HET’s any good? The fist lines of low flow toilets that came out were pretty wimpy at best. The good news is that the past few years have seen great improvements in the toilet world. In addition to the advancements in technology, the EPA has set up a way of rating HET’s. Watersense ratings have been showing up on toilets much like Energy Star ratings on appliances. The new labeling makes shopping easier.
If every household in the United States switched to HET’s, the country as a whole would save over 900 billion gallons of water in one year. That is equal to the amount of water that flows over Niagara Falls in a two week period.
If you are a bit of a geek like me and love running numbers, and you want to calculate how much savings you would have if you were on well water, send it to me, I’d love to see it. If you have any topics that you would like to see in future Green Corners, drop me an email, send me your questions, I’d love to answer them.