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Water Efficiency: Steps You Can Take

Water efficiency may not be a familiar concept, but it’s one that you’ll be hearing about a lot in the near future. The term “water efficiency” describes a “right-sizing” approach to the amount of water you use for a particular purpose. Using the right amount of water, rather than using less water, is the goal of becoming more water efficient.

Naturally, the biggest consumers of water around your home include the washing machine, the dishwasher, the shower and the toilets. You may also have some “jumbo” consumers if you have a swimming pool or lawn irrigation system. If you’re serious about improving your home’s water efficiency, here are a few steps you can take.

The biggest consumers of water may not be the biggest water wasters. Before you get started on water efficiency, make sure you’re not wasting water needlessly. Dripping faucets, run-on toilets, plumbing leaks and broken shower diverters all send water down the drain before it can fulfill its intended purpose. These sneaky losers do nothing except raise your water bill.

A dripping faucet may need a new washer or gasket, but more often than not, newer fixtures are sealed, making a repair impossible. If that’s the case, plan to replace the fixture. It’s usually a simple matter of “out with the old, in with the new.” This kind of project typically doesn’t take more than a few minutes and common hand tools. In addition to getting a new fixture, you may want to invest in some Teflon tape to discourage leaks along the fixture threads.

Repairing a leaking toilet often involves replacing the flapper valve at the bottom of the toilet tank. Over time, this valve can crack, causing water to enter the bowl. Your bowl won’t overflow; instead, once the water reaches a certain level in the bowl, it will drain on its own. You can get standard replacement parts for toilets at your favorite hardware or home improvement store.

Plumbing leaks should be addressed immediately. A leak may happen at a weak joint, or could be caused by over-pressure or damage to the plumbing. Whether the leak is out in the open or enclosed in a wall, getting the leak repaired is Job Number 1. Leaking water can cause damage to floors and walls, and can promote the growth of mold and mildew.

A diverter is part of your bathtub/shower fixture. When you use it, you close off the tub spout to force the running water through the showerhead instead. A broken diverter can cause a loss of water pressure or weak water flow at the showerhead or throw off the balance of hot and cold water flow to the shower. If it’s not working at all, it will route water out through the tub faucet and straight down the drain. Broken diverters can also be very noisy!

Some shower fixtures use a diverter cartridge, which can be taken out and replaced. Others have a mechanical diverter that’s part of the spout. You can usually find standard cartridge-style replacements at the hardware or home improvement stores, but you may need to order one directly from the manufacturer. If you have a spout-mounted diverter, you can remove the entire spout and replace it. Tub spouts are either mounted with a setscrew or just thread directly on to the pipe. In either case, you’ll notice the difference on your water bill once you address this problem!

In my next post, I’ll talk about some other ways you can right-size your water-using appliances and fixtures. In the mean time, if you have a plumbing leak or problem that you want us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating to address, give us a call anytime at (617) 288-2911. We offer true, 24-hour emergency plumbing service, and we’re happy to lend a hand.

Photo Credit: Zhang Jing, via FreeImages.com