Water is one of our most precious resources, yet many of us are guilty of overusing and wasting it every day. With rising populations and climate change leading to more frequent and intense droughts worldwide, it’s more crucial than ever that we conserve water in our homes. Luckily, there are numerous simple yet effective ways you can dramatically reduce your household’s water consumption through daily habit changes and efficiency upgrades. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the various tips, tricks and technologies available to help you reduce water usage across your home.
Conduct a Water Audit to Understand Your Usage
The first step is taking time to fully understand exactly where and how much water you currently use in your home. Completing a water audit allows you to identify problem areas of excessive use and establishes a baseline that you can measure improvement against over time. Here are the key things you’ll want to analyze and track:
- Check your water bill – This shows your home’s total water usage over the last billing period. For a standard sized home with average occupancy, you’ll want to aim for a total usage of below 4,000 gallons per month. Two months of water bills will show you a trend.
- Note toilet flush volumes – Older model toilets can be used anywhere from 3.5 to 7 gallons of water per flush, while newer high-efficiency toilets average just 1.28 – 1.6 gallons per flush. Knowing your toilet’s flush capacity allows you to estimate this major component of your indoor water usage.
- Time your showers – Showering is another water intensive daily activity. Anything over 5-7 minutes means water is likely being wasted going down the drain unused. Time a few typical showers in your home to identify if long showering is an issue.
- Monitor faucet use – Observe sink use in kitchens, bathrooms etc and take note of any taps being left running unnecessarily during tasks like washing dishes or brushing teeth. Faucet leaks also waste a surprising amount of water.
In addition to usage auditing, also walk through your home with an eye out for any visible leaks. Listen to dripping faucets, check under sinks and along pipes for signs of wetness or moisture, and examine your water meter over time for evidence of flows even when water is not in use. Even a small consistent leak can waste hundreds of gallons per month.
Armed with usage data from your audit, you can zero in on problem areas and measure progress as you implement water saving fixes. Now let’s explore solutions!
Install High Efficiency Plumbing Fixtures
One of the most effective ways to reduce wasted water in your home is upgrading old, inefficient plumbing fixtures to new, high-efficiency water-saving models. The latest faucets, showerheads, toilets and appliances have a huge conservation impact.
- Low-flow showerheads restrict the shower’s water flow rate to around 1.5 – 2 gallons per minute yet still provide satisfying water pressure. Old showerheads often exceed 5 gallons per minute, so upgrading can conserve significant water over time.
- Faucet aerators introduce air into the water stream while maintaining a consistent wetting feeling. This amplifies the effectiveness of water coming out of the faucet using less volume overall. Aerators are easy to install yourself using basic tools.
- High-efficiency toilets have evolved tremendously in recent years. Models meeting EPA WaterSense standards must use no more than 1.28 gallons per flush, versus old toilets which use 3.5 gallons or more per flush. New dual flush toilets let you choose between light and heavy flush options.
- On-demand hot water circulation systems reduce the water wasted while you wait for hot water to travel from the water heater to distant faucets and showerheads. Recirculating systems provide instant hot water.
- Smart weather-based irrigation controllers adjust your sprinkler system’s watering schedule and volumes based on current weather, eliminating waste.
Replacing all your outdated plumbing fixtures with new efficient models can feel daunting. Focus first on the fixtures you use most frequently to get the biggest bang for your buck. Prioritize toilets, showers and faucets first.
Choose Water-Efficient Kitchen and Laundry Appliances
Beyond plumbing fixtures, kitchen and laundry appliances also impact household water use. When older water-hogging machines need replacing, try choosing new high-efficiency models:
- ENERGY STAR certified dishwashers use advanced technology to get dishes sparkling clean while consuming only 3-4 gallons of water per cycle, versus more than 10 gallons used by standard models. Select machines with soil sensors that match the cleaning process to load size and how dirty dishes are.
- Front-loading washing machines use 30-50% less water (and energy) per load compared to older top-loading designs. Front-loading machines spin clothes faster, extracting more water to reduce drying time as well.
- Air-cooled refrigerators consume far less water than older style models which relied on water-cooled condensers, especially if you have high water pressure.
You can also reduce water use with your existing appliances by only running full loads. Partially loaded dishwashers and washing machines waste energy and water. Also consider scraping rather than rinsing dishes before loading into the dishwasher – modern detergents are designed to handle scraps just fine.
Modify Daily Habits Around the House
Beyond fixtures and appliances, simple modifications to your daily household habits can significantly reduce unnecessary water usage and waste:
- Take 5 minute (or shorter) showers instead of long indulgent showers.
- While brushing teeth or washing hands, turn off the faucet intermittently when water isn’t needed.
- Let dirty dishes and laundry accumulate over a couple days before running full loads. Avoid the half-load or quick wash cycle.
- Limit toilet flushing whenever practical. Remember the old saying “if it’s yellow, let it mellow…”
- Capture “used” water like from fish tanks, boiling pasta, etc and reuse it to water indoor plants.
- Fix leaks immediately upon noticing them. Even a small drip can easily waste 100 gallons per month.
Check out even more habit change tips in our guide on how to create a sustainable kitchen. Small daily adjustments to how you use water at home produce surprising savings.
Strategically Limit Outdoor Water Usage
Outdoor water usage from activities like car washing, maintaining pools, and landscape irrigation accounts for a major chunk of home water consumption. You can cut down in this area by:
- Washing cars or pets on gravel or grass so the water nourishes plants rather than disappearing down the storm drain.
- Covering pools with an evaporative cover when not in use to significantly reduce water lost due to evaporation.
- Replacing real grass lawns with artificial turf or adopting xeriscaping landscaping techniques which utilize native plants adapted to low watering.
- Adjusting the spray pattern, times and flow of irrigation sprinkler systems to avoid pavement runoff and only spray when the soil actually needs watering.
- Choosing drip irrigation techniques and soaker hoses which slowly release water right at a plant’s roots saving significant volume compared to sprinklers.
- Collecting rain in covered barrels during wet weather and using it to help water plants during dry periods.
Monitor Usage Frequently and Check for Leaks
Vigilant monitoring of your water usage ensures you maintain savings from any water reduction steps taken. Check your water meter often and compare total gallons used week-over-week or month-over-month. Abnormal spikes warrant investigation – do you have an unknown leak?
Also periodically walk through your home visually checking for leaks. Drips usually signal easy fixes like worn toilet flapper valves or loose joints needing pipe thread seal tape. Tiny leaks that slowly drip continuously can waste hundreds of gallons each month.
Additionally, when possible show family members the water meter itself so they visibly understand how much flows through the home. Involving kids makes them invest stakeholders in reducing water usage. Awareness of consumption is vital for conservation.
Consider Installing Smart Water Saving Devices
New smart home technologies make conserving water easier and more automated. For example:
- Smart water leak detection valves monitor flow rates across your home’s plumbing and can automatically shutoff water when they detect anomalous spikes indicating a leak.
- Smart weather-based sprinkler controllers integrate with local weather forecasts and self-adjust scheduled irrigation run times and durations based on predicted conditions. This prevents watering when nature does it instead.
- Smart showerheads with usage tracking encourage shorter showers by visually displaying time spent and water consumed. Some models even change temperature if you go over a preset limit!
- Smart toilets with built-in occupancy sensors detect when someone approaches and pre-emptively enter a power save mode to conserve between flushes. Touchless flush activation also saves water.
Over time, investments in smart water saving home technologies can pay for themselves through ongoing automatic usage and leak reductions.
Consider Adding a Greywater Collection System
For even more significant water savings, a greywater system allows you to capture gently used water from bathroom sinks, showers, washing machines and other household sources and reuse it for landscape irrigation. Greywater represents 50-80% of residential “waste” water. Though adding a greywater system requires proper planning and an initial investment, it can reduce household water usage by up to 30 percent. Consult your local municipal codes first as greywater regulations vary regionally.
Conserve Water to Conserve Our Future
With climate change challenges like drought, depleted aquifers, and water scarcity intensifying worldwide, reducing household water usage through these suggested tips benefits all of us. A few small daily habit changes combined with strategic efficiency upgrades in fixtures and appliances can make a huge cumulative dent in your home’s water consumption. What steps will you pledge to take today to slash your water usage? Every gallon counts when it comes to conserving our precious water supply for the future.