The water supply crisis and lack of access to safe, clean drinking water has afflicted many towns and cities around the country, and has compelled many of us to reconsider the way we use water.
Quite obviously, the most effective way to conserve water is to use less of it on a daily basis. Making water-efficient upgrades to your home's plumbing can significantly cut back your household's water usage.
There are numerous rational reasons to upgrade your home's plumbing, ranging from efficiency gains to environmental protection. Eco-friendlier plumbing appliances and fixtures also improve the appearance of your property, making it look more modern. As with many home improvement projects, however, implementing these modifications will entail a financial investment.
7 Plumbing Upgrades for Water Conservation
Given the plethora of plumbing upgrades available, how do you know where to begin? Here are some effective plumbing upgrades to consider:
1. Pressure-Reducing Valves
The majority of households consume more water than necessary due to excessive water pressure in their pipes. Most plumbing systems operate at 70 psi, but the truth is that the plumbing in average homes can operate perfectly well at 35 psi.
Installing pressure reducing valves, or PRVs will regulate the amount of pressure that goes into your home's pipe system. A skilled plumber can help you determine the water pressure in your property during one of your scheduled plumbing maintenance and add a PRV, if necessary. This will not only help you conserve water, but also extend the life of your pipes.
2. Low-Flow Faucet Aerators
Sinks may not appear to use as much water as showers or toilets, but they can discharge approximately three gallons of water each minute (gpm). These additional gallons can pile up easily, especially if you leave the tap running when shaving or brushing your teeth.
Fitting your sinks with a low-flow faucet aerator can halve your water consumption, saving you thousands of gallons of water each year. Also, faucet aerators are the most cost-effective water conservation upgrades out there. You can buy one.
3. Water-Saving Toilets
Out of all home plumbing fixtures, it’s the toilets that usually waste the most water. Toilets can consume as much as seven gallons of water per and can account for more than one-third of a household’s total water use. Fortunately, advances in toilet technology over the past years led to the development of water-efficient models.
Water-saving toilets generally fall into three categories:
● Low-flow toilets – engineered to consume substantially less water than older toilet models.
● Dual-flush toilets – allow users to choose between two flush modes (liquid or solid) based on the type of waste being disposed of.
● Pressure-assist toilets – utilize an air cartridge to push water from the tank. This type of toilet uses as little as one gallon of water per flush.
The potential to save thousands of gallons of water per year makes water-saving toilets a must-have for environmentally-conscious homeowners.
4. Low-Flow Showerheads
Like toilets, old showerheads also waste a lot of water. The typical showerhead uses around two and a half gallons of water per minute. By upgrading to a low-flow shower, you can save up to 40% on your household water use, without compromising water pressure.
Low-flow showerheads come in two types: aerating and non-aerating.
Aerating showerheads conserve water by adding oxygen into the water just before it flows out of the showerhead, which results in a soft but high-pressure water spray. Non-aerating showerheads, on the other hand, save water by forcing small amounts of water into tiny holes, which results in a high-pressure and intense water spray.
Any of these low-flow showerheads will not only help save you water but also on energy expenses because you end up using less hot water every time you shower.
5. Pipe Upgrades
Most old homes use galvanized pipes. The problem with this is that this type of plumbing pipe tends to corrode internally. The corroded material can contaminate your water and, when they accumulate, choke your pipe to the point of bursting.
If your home is still using galvanized plumbing, consider upgrading to polybutylene, lead, or copper pipes. These pipes are less likely to waste water due to leaking and may even benefit the value of your home.
In the process of upgrading your pipes, consider insulating them as well. Insulated pipes retain heat better than their uninsulated counterparts, resulting in even more water and energy savings.
6. Recirculating Hot-Water Systems
Hotels and businesses have been utilizing recirculating hot water systems for quite some time now, but it wasn’t until recently that this water conservation technology has been available for use in homes and smaller establishments. Essentially, what this system does is send hot water from the tank to your faucet or shower faster. This prevents you from wasting cold water as you wait for the water to get hot.
The idea of a recirculating hot water system in your home may seem expensive and complicated, but it is relatively easy to install with the help of an experienced plumbing professional. Additionally, having one in your home may also qualify you for special task breaks, depending on the laws of your state.
7. Green Sprinkler Systems
Inefficiencies in landscape irrigation are one of the biggest sources of water waste in the United States. As such, homeowners and businesses alike are encouraged to use smart or automated sprinkler systems instead of manual ones.
One of the best things about having an automated sprinkler is that you can program it to run at night so less water is lost to evaporation. They also come with a timer that you can set to automatically shut the sprinkler off after a predetermined period.
More advanced green sprinkler versions come with a weather monitoring feature which allows the system to predict the weather and disperse the appropriate amount of water based on the forecast.
Go Green with Your Plumbing
The many innovations in water-conservation technology make it easier for home and business owners to dramatically reduce their water consumption without compromising performance. And while it’s true that some of the upgrades mentioned above will entail significant upfront costs, implementing these changes have long term positive benefits -- not only to the environment, but to your wallet as well.
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Rachel Watson is the Senior Content Editor of Precision Air & Plumbing, a full-service HVAC, plumbing, and home performance contractor operating in Chandler, Arizona. Rachel enjoys yoga and writing articles about how to make home living more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly.
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