Watching the news recently, it struck me how often just after winter, the news starts predicting drought warnings, regardless of how much rain we appear to have had fall, it seems that our consumption is outstripping natures seasonal “top-ups” but what can we do to help? Well, saving water in the home or work place is a good place to start. We all know the obvious tips, like making sure that our taps are turned off properly and replacing leaky pipes, but what about the less obvious ones? In this article we aim to give you some helpful advice if you want to save water in your home to help ease the burden on your wallet, as well as the environment.
Most of the water usage in the home is unsurprisingly done within the building itself, accounting for almost 93% of a persons typical water usage. This includes personal washing (Showers, baths and washing hands), Kitchen usage (including drinking, water to cook with, boiling kettles, and putting on the washing machine, etc) and flushing of the loos. Even small changes to our behaviour can reap large rewards in water savings.
Did you know that:
- Your toilet uses approximately 30% of all the water used within your home?
- That an estimated 2 billion litres of fresh water are flushed every single day from the 45 Million or so UK home toilets?
- There are still over 7 million single flush toilets (your standard loo) which use an average of 13 litres of water for every single flush?
- An average household in the UK flush their loo approximately 5000 times in a year?
What can I do to reduce the amount of water wasted by flushing my toilet?
There are several things you can do to help reduce the water used by flushing your toilet, some of which are free, others that can seem expensive on the outset, but over time will actually save you money as well as ease the load on the environment.
The options include:
- Installing a Cistern Displacement Device (or CDD) – these are available for free from most water companies upon request. They are placed inside your cistern and work by taking up space that would normally be filled with water, reducing the amount of water used each flush by approximately one litre.
- Detecting and repairing any leaks – This isn’t just about the obvious leaks you may have at the back of your toilet, but also about internal leaks. The easy way to check if you have any internal leaks in your toilet is to put a few drops of food dye into your cistern, don’t flush the toilet for at least an hour, and if after that hour you have food colouring in the water of the toilet bowl, there is a slow leak that needs to be investigated by an experienced plumber.
- Installing a grey water tank – “Grey water” is water that you have previously used for bathing, washing clothes, washing up, or cooking that is stored to be used for flushing your toilet. This can either be a special tank plumbed into your system which will automatically save the grey water for you when you pull the plug/your machine drains, and deliver it when you press the flush of your toilet or, if you have the room and don’t mind doing it manually, you could have a plastic dustbin and bucket that you use to drain/store the water from your bath and just pour a bucketful down the toilet to flush it instead of using the flush.
- Installing a water efficient toilet – possibly the most expensive option of the list, but the one that will help you save the most water/money in the long term (especially if you team it up with a grey water system). These “dual flush” toilets have two buttons on the top which allow you to decide which to press depending on the amount of water needed to flush the toilet.
Society is already making progress in this area as far as water savings are concerned as time constraints encourage more and more people to shower instead of bath. Over the past 30 years or so, showers have become more popular, with approximately 85% of homes now having a shower installed compared with just 20% back in the 1970’s. However there is still a long way to go as so called “power showers” remain popular and can actually use more water then running a bath.
There are alternatives to power showers that can be used that will save you water and energy without reducing the enjoyment. By changing your showerhead you can reduce your water consumption drastically.
Water saving showerheads include:
- Aerated Showerheads – These showerheads maintain the pressure by mixing air in with the water, reducing the amount of water in the flow. Just like normal showerheads, the produce a nice steady, even spray.
- Low Flow Showerheads – These showerheads simply reduce the amount of water that is used, but still give a perfectly acceptable shower.
What else can I do to help reduce the amount of water wasted in my bathroom?
- Install a “Shower saver” – This clever little gadget takes minutes to fit. It isn’t suitable for electric showers or those with multiple jets but will give a lifetime of savings for suitable shower owners as it helps you save approximately 12,000 litres of water a year.
- Install a “Tap Insert” – These clever little devices can be fitted to both hot and cold water taps, and are available for free with a little bit of looking around. They don’t change the look of your tap as they are fitted within the tap, replacing the plastic inner of your existing tap. The “Tap Insert” uses an intelligent flow control which helps your reduce the amount of water used from approximately 18 litres a minute in some homes, to a far more reasonable 3.5 litres a minute – which although sounds a lot, you won’t really notice in normal tap usage.
- Timing your showers – No-one denies that a nice long shower can sometimes be just what the doctor ordered, but longer showers don’t get you any cleaner. If you restrict your shower to just 4 minutes, that is adequate time for the average person to get clean, and will save water and energy. If everybody in the UK used a shower-timer, then the water saved every day would be enough to supply one million homes.
- Turn off the tap whilst brushing your teeth – everyone has done it, you brush your teeth and leave the tap going while you do, but there is no need to do so. You could just turn it on to wet your brush and paste, switch it off while you brush, and then switch it on again to rinse the sink and your mouth. As mentioned before, many homes have the water from their bathroom tap delivered at 18 litres a minute, and the average length of time spent brushing your teeth is 4 minutes… it isn’t hard to see how this one could save you a lot of water.
Kitchen water usage:
The kitchen is another area where there exists a huge opportunity to save water as the average usage of water in your kitchen accounts for between 8 – 30% of your total home usage.
Kitchen taps across the country differ greatly in the flow delivered to them, but it varies from as low a 2 litres a minute up to approx 25 litres a minute. If you wash your veg or washing up under a running tap you could be wasting dozens of litres of water a minute which is easily saved simply by running that water into a bowl, or putting a good fitting plug into your sink.
Despite having a reputation for wasting water but modern dishwashers can actually help you save water as well as time – they use an average of 10 litres per cycle, which depending on your washing up habits, could be less then you washing by hand.
To maximise your water saving by using a dishwasher try to make sure you only put it on when there is a full load, play with the settings, many modern dishwashers have an “Eco” or “Economy” setting that will allow the machine to use less water whilst still cleaning your dishes. Try not to use the “pre-rinse” setting if there is one, as many detergents these days have a built in “pre-rinse” agent that softens the tougher dirt, just make sure you scrape off the loose food items before loading.
Old washing machines used to us up to 150 litres a day, which is the average a person will use a day, but luckily advances in technology over recent years have now reduced that by about a third, even so, washing machines use a considerable amount of water (approx 50 litres a wash).
So it is important to maximise the savings where you can, some ways to do this include:
- Make sure you do a full load of washing – Surveys around the country have shown that most people will usually put in much less then the maximum capacity of the washing machine, which wastes water as the machine will still use the water for its maximum capacity unless it has a “half load” setting which is used which may reduce it a little.
- Keep in mind “two halves don’t make a whole” – if you use the “half load” setting on your washing machine, bear in mind that is isn’t actually using half the water, most half washes still use almost the same amount of water as a full wash.
How else can I save water in the kitchen?
So far we have high-lighted the two major (and obvious) users of water in the kitchen and what you can do to get the most out of them. But there are other areas where you can make small changes to your habits to get the most out of your water.
- Running the tap to get cold water to drink can waste upwards of 10 litres a day, far easier and quicker to put a bottle of tap water into the fridge so that you can have cold, fresh water whenever you want it.
- Only fill the kettle up with the water you need for a drink, if you are only making a drink for yourself there is no point in boiling a full kettle (the steam lost from repeated boilings all adds up).
- If you can’t finish a glass of water, use it to water your plants or top up your pet’s water bowl rather then throwing it down the sink.
- Put a lid on your saucepans when you cook, it helps them to boil faster, you don’t need so much water as it isn’t lost through the steam, which all helps make the food taste fresher – just be careful they don’t boil dry.
So as you can see there is much more we can do to save water then just replacing leaky pipes. Water is a resource, and something our body needs to survive – so although we should be careful not to squander it needlessly, we should still make sure we use what we need to, and enjoy it. Saving water in the home is important, but our health and happiness is even more so.