Monday, December 10, 2007

Being frugal (and green) with home water usage in the bathroom

This is the first part of three posts. Caution: some of the ideas in this post are not suitable for everyone. In fact, some may find my methods objectionable. Continue at your own risk. This warning is not meant to scare you off, but some of my practices are not for the faint of heart. That said, let us move onto some options for water conservation.

Water is an increasingly scarce resource. While water may cover over 70% of the earth, most of that water is salt water. Only a fraction (~3%) is freshwater and much of that is locked up in glaciers. Freshwater resources are increasingly threatened by chemical runoff from fields and lawns, inappropriate disposal of chemicals and raw sewage. Therefore, any steps we take to conserve resources is not only better for the environment but the pocketbook as well.

Half of my home water conservation tips are used in the bathroom. Water restricters are one way to reduce the amount of water used in the shower. However, a simpler method that works for me (and prevents pain to sensitive body parts) is to turn down the volume of the water coming out of the faucet and shower. Fewer gallons are used with little loss in washing efficiency. If the showerhead has a valve to turn off the water, use it. Wet yourself down, turn off the water, lather up and turn it back on to rinse. I wish I had this option but I can only control the water from the faucet. This is an inefficient method to get the water to the right temperature and volume as I use a lot of water to get it exactly where I like it.

Also consider if you need a full shower every day. I wash my hair every other day and sometimes do not take a shower on the weekends if I will be working at home. For those who would like to feel cleaner, a washcloth bath of strategic locations may be enough to carry you through the day without using 10-20 gallons of water for a shower.

Since the water that first comes out of the pipes is cold, I have an ice cream bucket that I put into the bathtub and use to capture that first bit of water. This can be later used to flush the toilet, water plants or cook without additional water usage. You have already been charged for the water so reuse it for another purpose.

Speaking of the toliet, I also use the "if it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down" philosophy. Some people find this replusive, but I generally save three to five flushes a day. That is a savings of at least 9 gallons a day. That can add up over time. My utility charges per 1,000 gallons and I can monitor my usage with the water meter in the basement. Saving 100 gallons or more per month can help me stay at 1,000 gallon usage per month instead of pushing me to the next level and costing me more money.

For the bathroom sink, I only run the water to wet my toothbrush and shut it off as I am brushing. The hot water pipes have also been insulated to help retain heat better. This means less running of the water to get it to the temperature you want. Again. less potable, usable water going down the drain and a few more dollars in your pocket.

Two more posts will cover water usage in the kitchen, outdoors and for laundry. The second post on laundry is here.

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