When you realize that half of a household’s water usage occurs in the bathroom, and that greener versions of toilets and faucets — like those found in new homes from green builders — can save an average American family up to 11,000 gallons per year, it’s easy to consider the cost-effectiveness of making the changes.
But going green in the bathroom is not nearly as expensive as you may think! In fact, up-fitting your faucets, fixtures and toilets with more efficient and eco-friendly options can be one of the most frugal updates you can make. Here are some inexpensive remedies to the biggest guzzlers in the bathroom:
Low-Flow Faucets and Fixtures
The first step towards a greener bathroom is replacing your faucets and fixtures with low-flow options. The best part: quality fixtures can be as inexpensive as $20 each!
The screw-on tip of the faucet is called the aerator and is what determines the maximum faucet flow rate. Replacing the aerator on your current faucet is a much cheaper fix than swapping out your entire faucet!
For bathroom faucets, aerators can restrict the rate of flow from 1.5 to 0.5 gpm (gallons per minute), which is down from the pre-environmentally-friendly rates of 2.5 gpm or more.
When you replace your aerators, take the one you’re replacing to the store with you to ensure a proper fit and make sure to get one that is in keeping with the style and finish of your current faucet.
Low-flow fixtures can cut water usage by 25-60% and are simple to install. For maximum efficiency, select one with a flow rate of less than 2.5 gpm from these two basic types: aerating and laminar-flow.
As their name suggests, aerating showerheads incorporate air into the water which forms a misty spray. On the other hand, laminar-flow showerheads produce streams of water. Laminar-flow is best for those living in more humid climates as they cut down on the amount of steam and moisture.
The other bathroom culprit is a furiously flushing toilet. Here are some ways to fight back!
Invest in a Dual-Flush Toilet
Low-flow toilets have one major flaw: They only have a low-flow function, which means their minimalist means of waste removal may not cut it for every flush! A better solution is a dual-flush toilet that gives you two options. In addition to the low-flow flush (for “number 1”), you also have a more robust flush (for “number 2”).
Displace Space in the Tank
When you have less water in your tank, you have less to drain and refill every time you flush. Rather than purchasing a brand-new tiny-tank toilet, a simple way to achieve this is to place a solid item in the tank that will not break (no glass!), degrade, or corrode, such as a brick, or a crushed plastic milk jug.
There are other ways to cut down on wasted water in your toilet. For example:
- Only flush when necessary
- Don’t use the toilet like a wastebasket and toss used tissues in the trash
- Don’t drop things in the commode that will not flush or will end up blocking your pipes
Collect and Conserve Catch-All
The final area in which you can conserve water in the bathroom is by controlling or collecting water that would otherwise run down the drain.
Turning off the water when you are brushing your teeth or shaving and lathering up in the shower is a great way to conserve water. At the same time, there are even more specific and cost-effective ways to squeeze every drop out of every drip!
Place a clean bucket under the faucet in the shower to collect the water that runs while it heats up and then place it aside and use it to:
- Water your indoor plants or your outdoor garden
- Cut down on the amount of water you need to wash clothes by dumping the extra water into the machine
- Freshen up your dog or cat’s water bowl
- Fill empty water bottles and jugs and keep them for the next time you want to wash your car
- Boil vegetables or pasta
- Fill your coffee maker
- Create your own 100% natural drain flush! Simply boil the water and pour it down your shower or tub drain with a cup of vinegar to freshen up and deodorize your drain while unclogging congested pipes!
If you have other cost-cutting methods you use to conserve water, I’d love for you to share them with the rest of us!
About the Author
Chris Long is a Home Depot store associate in the Chicago suburbs. He also writes for the Home Depot blog.
Photo Credit: runron
Doable Finance says
Invest in a Dual-Flush Toilet
Never knew it existed. Next time around, I’ll check it in Home Depot or Lowe’s. Thanks for the info.
jane savers @ solving the money puzzle says
My city has been installing water use metres in all home and soon we will pay for every drop we use.
I am hopeful that it will stop the driveway washers in my neighbourhood. Too many people wash any leaves or grass clippings out of their driveway instead of reaching for a broom or waiting for the wind to move it along. Wasteful people.
Money Beagle says
The issue with many of the low flow or dual flow options is that they can be pricey, and if you calculate how long before you recover the costs, it often can take years. With quality of items these days making it so you replace stuff like this a lot more frequently than you used to, you have to wonder if it will need replacing before it pays for itself.
I resist anything low-flow. I just haven’t had good experiences with them. I know the numbers look good as far as saving water, but living with them is another story. I’ve yet to find a low-flow showerhead what will get all the soap out of my hair. If I have to stand in the shower three times longer trying to rinse my hair, I can’t believe it is really saving me anything.
Kurt @ Money Counselor says
I take ‘navy showers.’ Get wet, turn the water off, lather up, turn the water on and rinse. Saves energy too!
Jenny @ Frugal Guru Guide says
This article isn’t fully correct. 🙂 The dual flush toilets have a regular low flush setting for #2 and a SUPER low flush setting for #1. They do NOT use more water for #2s than regular low-flush toilets. That would be illegal.
The problem with low-flush toilets in the 90s and early 00s is that the trap was still 2″, and low flow toilets need bigger traps to flush the same amount of waste efficiently. All manufacturers have since switched to a 3″ trap, and so the clogs are no longer a problem.
You can displace some water in your tank with a brick if you still have a 3.5 gal flush, but otherwise, leave it alone!
Buying a new toilet will only pay off if you have among the most expensive water and sewer charges in the country, and even then, it will take more than five years. If you buy a dual flush toilet, all of which are expensive, it will take something like 30 years to pay back in most areas. In most areas, switching out to even a cheap dual flush takes around 15 years to pay back.
Bottom line: If you need a new toilet, low flush is great. If you don’t, it’s probably a bad investment to replace the one you have.
Joel @ SaveOutsidetheBox says
Low flow devices have come a long way in the past few years. I just installed 2 new low flow toilets (with rebate from my water company) and they are awesome! Couldn’t be happier, especially since they were free.
Water conservation is a smart way to minimize waste water and be environmentally conscious. Some of these methods are simple but so effective, especially over time.
KC @ genxfinance says
We are doing what we can to save on our utility bills; electricity and water. Yeah, not just to save money but help the environment as well.
Do not use bricks, either. They will also break down.
My water cost is $4/1000 gallons. And it’s one of the great pleasures of the modern world to be able to wash one’s hands or shower in hot water without having to summon the servants to fetch the water, heat it, and wait around while one showers. I’m sure it was very quaint, but yes, we have it better than royalty did back then, a fast, private shower.
I’m all for keeping it cold in the winter and a few degrees warmer in the summer. The savings there is significant. The water, not so much.
Len Penzo says
Yeah, Joe. I pay exactly one-half cent per gallon of water — $5/1000 gallons — even here in arid Southern California.
We pay $16/1,000 gal water and $38.25/1,000 gal sewer in Northern Michigan. We do conserve by using gray water for watering plants etc.
Chris Long says
You are quite right, and I could have worded this section better. A dual flush toilet will use its full rated water capacity just as a regular toilet for one setting, and a lesser amount of water for the other.
Yes, most toilets now use a 3″ flapper and drain to help compensate for less available water. The larger drain empties the tank very quickly, giving more force to each flush while using less water.
I suppose that clay bricks would break down over time. Just wrap one in a plastic bag and that issue goes away.
I was thinking of paver type bricks we sell at Home Depot, which are concrete and are pretty inert.
Thanks to all for your replies. I appreciate the help, interest and input!
Our water comes out of a spring on our property up high enough on the mountain to gravity feed it to the house/rest of the place. When the storage tank is full, the excess over flow from the tank feeds my two fish ponds via a second line installed when I built the system.
So either we use the water, or it goes into the ponds (about 99% of the day), and then on down a series of creeks and rivers to the Gulf of Mexico eventually.
Water saving devices in my house do nothing for the environment nor the budget.
Len Penzo says
Yep. And after the water dumps in the Gulf of Mexico some of it returns to the sky and gets dropped back over your Tennessee home. It’s a closed system called the water cycle. It even works here in Southern California (!) — which would never have to worry about a drought again if it only used a small fraction of the $100 billion it is currently spending on the “bullet train to nowhere” for additional catch basins and reservoirs to capture and hold what little rain we get here every year, rather than seeing 99% of it eventually return to the Pacific Ocean.
RD Blakeslee says
First thing first: Thanks, Chris for interacting with your readers here – most contributors don’t.
When one is dependent on a cistern (rainwater) for water, one does not think like city folks, where water has been “just there” all the time, inexpensively. We think in terms of the weather and the prospects for a refill if needed and use water accordingly.
For our trouble, we get soft water filtered by the atmosphere – ground water contaminants aren’t there. Organic matter is easily eliminated. Most importantly to this old guy, Me and God (rain dances, anyone?) are the only ones “providing” my water.
Low flow rate faucets ate silly, IMO, – Years ago, (when it mattered) I got a “satisfactoy” mark for self-control on my grade school report card. I f I need less water than full-flow, I turn the faucet handle. Once again, the idea of do-it-yourself. Let the bureaucrats who devise this stuff use it on themselves. I do appreciate modern washerless faucets, however. Flow regulation is smoother and I don’t have to contend with replacing washers as the faucets begin to leak.
The modern pressure-flush, low water use toilets are a blessing, too.
Maintenance of the flush mechanism in the tank is super-simple and there couldn’t be a better tool to help us who conserve water because we, personally, actually need to, for reasons other than saving a few pennies or demonstration our politically correct virtue.
Len Penzo says
Couldn’t agree with you more, Dave.
Plumb Bob says
Depending on your toilet, you could be wasting anywhere from 4 to 11 litres of water every fush. If you have an old system you could choose to replace your system with a low-flow model.