Working in the green building industry, I’ve learned that most people don’t care that they are renting or buying a LEED Platinum residence, beyond the expectation of high quality that comes with it. The good news is, conservation and quality often go hand in hand, and saving water/energy/materials can also mean saving money. As long as the change is made, I care less about the reason for it. Quality/environment/cost savings, the outcome is the same.
The average person in the US uses 80-100 gallons of water per day, and a lot of this is wasted simply by using higher flow plumbing fixtures, something that brings no value over a water efficient version. In the last decade, there has been serious improvement in low flow fixtures to the point where you can’t pick them out just by using them. Gone are the days of struggling to get your hair clean from the sluggish flow of your “green” showerhead. My mother is very particular about her showers, and she’s been perfectly happy with the low flow versions that are available now. Try them out, they’re great, I promise. And you’ll save a ton of water in the process without having to skip your shower.
When we moved into our house, one of the first things we did was replace our two shower heads with Niagara Conservation 1.25GPM shower heads (there is also also a 1.5GPM (gallon per minute) version if you are really particular, but the 1.25 works great). We also replaced our two toilets with the ultra high efficiency 0.8 GPF Stealth toilet. A standard efficient toilet is 1.28 gallons per flush, and a dual flush averages out slightly lower than that, so the toilet we chose saves even more water than that. And really, all toilets work the same 😉
Finally, we added 0.5GPM aerators to our bathroom faucets. Aerators spread the water out in tiny droplets so a lot less water comes out per minute without negatively impacting your ability to wash your hands or brush your teeth. We left our kitchen sink alone so pots full quickly.
Once we made these changes, our water bill dropped significantly. The previous owners used an average of 1200-1600 cubic feet per month, and we lowered that to 600-800 cubic feet. Also, there were 2 of them and now 4 of us, so the savings was even more dramatic.
Our bill this month (we get one every other month) is for 800 cubic feet of water, which is on the high side for us – Seattle has broken a record and we are currently at 53 days of no measurable rain! That being said, we’ve had to water our garden, so our water bill has gone up some, though not terribly because we reuse water where we can and only water once the sun begins to set (less evaporation to contend with) and mulch the garden heavily.
800 cubic feet = 5984 gallons of water.
5984 gallons / 60 days X 4 people = 25 gallons per person per day (including washing cloth diapers for our son).
Without making sacrifices to the way we live – we still shower regularly! – we’ve been able to cut our water use down to about 3/4 to 1/2 of the typical American household. In the winter, this drops to about 19 gallons per person per day.
Our current water bill is $188.52. Even a conservative 25% increase to that bill would be an additional $47/month. (Some of the bill is a base charge so we don’t see a full 1/3-1/2 reduction in that cost).
So what does it really cost to replace those fixtures? Not very much.
- Two toilets: $169.20 x 2 = $338.40
- Two shower heads: $8 x 2 = $16
- Six pack aerators: $8.95
$363.35 + 10% sales tax = $399.69*
*these numbers don’t include a plumber to do the install, but they are all very simple change outs. YouTube is a great resource if you haven’t done it before.
If you divide that $400 cost by the $47/month savings, you would have these fixtures paid off in 9 months. Since we’ve had them installed for over 5 years, we’ve saved a significant amount of money for very little effort – no lifestyle change required.