5 of the home’s biggest water wasters

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Authored By Ashley Hopkins

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average person wastes up to 30 gallons of water per day. That’s a huge amount, especially when you consider that the average person also uses 100 gallons per day for basic household and personal needs.

Given that water is a limited resource and that many states have faced water shortages in recent years, combined with a recent surge in going green initiatives, now is as good a time as any to examine your water use (and waste), as well as take whatever steps necessary to cut back. To do so is not only for the preservation of a limited, natural resource, but also to save money on your family’s bills.

Below are the home’s biggest water-wasting culprits, fixes to help you limit their wastefulness, and other tips for saving and monitoring water usage.

Toilet
Though one of the smallest rooms in the home, the bathroom is where the most water is wasted at. Although flushing the toilet is unavoidable when nature calls, what is avoidable is being careless about what you flush. Save water by putting things that don’t belong in the toilet-baby wipes, contraception, feminine products-in the garbage where they belong.

The fix: Make sure all your toilets are in proper working order. Just because a toilet isn’t running all the time doesn’t mean it is functioning 100 percent as it should. Toilet leaks are some of the hardest to detect because they are sporadic; if you hear them running at random times or for longer than normal, this is probably a sign of a problem. Put some food coloring in the tank; if it has made its way into the bowl in 15 minutes or so, it’s leaking. Older toilets also use a lot of water because of their design, so a replacement will pay for itself in water bill savings over the period of a few years.

Washing machine
Washing machines are the second-biggest water users in the average home. Although just how much they use depends on how often they run, they still account for almost a fifth of the water usage in most homes. Depending on whether you have an older washing machine or a more water-efficient one, each load uses between 15 and 40 gallons.

The fix: Only do laundry when you have a full load; if you need to wash something that was recently stained or your daughter’s school uniform in a pinch, scour the rest of the hampers in the home to find enough items to make up a complete load.

Shower
Long showers and hot baths waste a ton of water. Although we all deserve to indulge in some alone time soaking every once in a while, long showers or deep baths need not be daily habits. You should shower just long enough to clean yourself and avoid standing in the shower or sitting in the bathtub after the job is complete.

The fix: Low-flow showerheads are relatively inexpensive and can go a long way toward saving water in the bathroom.

Faucet
Washing dishes and brushing teeth are household necessities, but it’s easy to get lazy during these daily tasks. Instead of turning the water off while scrubbing a pot or reaching for the floss to get a tough-to-reach place before finishing with the brushing, lots of us have the tendency to leave the water running.

The fix: Don’t let faucets run while brushing your teeth, shaving or scrubbing your face. If you need water for an extended period of time, it’s better to fill the basin and cut the faucet off. With the kitchen sink, wait until you have many things to wash before catching a sink full of water to clean the dishes; don’t waste the same or a comparable amount of water just to clean one or two things.

Leaks
It’s easy to glance at a faucet that’s only dripping a few times a minute and think it’s not worth fooling with. But just about everything in your home will leak in some way or another over time, and little drops can add up. Plus, leaky pipes can cause more expense than just on your water bill-cabinets, floors and carpet can all need replacement if leaks spring and are left untreated.

The fix: Be diligent about your home’s fixtures and appliances. Don’t shrug off what seems to be a minute faucet drip or toilet that runs out of nowhere every couple of hours. Teach yourself to fix basic pipe problems, and invest in a plumber when the situation is more serious than you feel comfortable tackling-the cost of calling in a professional will be offset pretty quickly with what you will save on your water bill, not to mention the cost of repairing other damages it could cause.

Other things to consider
Time of year can play a role in how much water is being used. During the summer, we are likely to wash cars, run through the sprinkler and water plants, all of which contribute to upticks in our water bills. And during the winter, broken pipes can triple our water bills before we even realize there is a problem. Take water-saving advice during the summer and the steps necessary to avoid frozen pipes in the winter.

What else can you do?
When it comes time for new appliances or fixtures, check for the EPA’s WaterSense label. Just like Energy Star labels mark a product as energy-efficient, WaterSense labels let consumers know that the product saves as much water as possible. Since the initiative began in 2006, WaterSense has helped consumers save a cumulative 1.1 trillion gallons of water and more than $21.7 billion in water and energy bills. Even if your current appliance or fixture is still functioning, it might be worth replacing if it is a constant source of water waste.

Click here to calculate how much water you use. 

Daphne Kirksey is external affairs manager of Tennessee American Water. She works to promote water conservation to customers and in her own home with her three teenagers-a challenge in itself.

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