How to tap into added savingsIf the recession has you feeling more tapped out, use less out of your tap.
By: Gregory Karp, The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)
If the recession has you feeling more tapped out, use less out of your tap.
Reducing water use is a nice way to feel green, especially as Earth Day approaches its 40th anniversary April 22, and it can keep some cash in your pocket.
The average American household uses 260 gallons of water a day. Potential savings from a few free and cheap actions total hundreds of dollars per year.
Here are some of the best, and some unusual, ways to save money on water, indoors and out.
Milk-jug your toilet: Fill a half-gallon plastic milk jug with water and affix the cap. Flush the toilet and place the jug in the tank, away from moving parts. This will save half a gallon per flush. Use pebbles or sand in the bottom of the jug if it doesn't stay put. Toilets use more water than anything else in a house, accounting for nearly 30 percent of indoor water use, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Think "on and off": Continuous flow uses more water than intermittent use. Turn the faucet on and off while brushing teeth, shaving, scrubbing kitchen pans and soaping the car.
Use less: It's obvious, but shorter showers and running the dishwasher and clothes washer only when full helps.
Let your grass grow: Use a higher wheel setting on your lawn mower — 3 inches or more. Taller grass retains moisture better, requiring less watering. And it inhibits weed growth, saving money on weed-killer.
Fix leaks: It's a no-brainer to fix leaky faucets, but your toilet might be leaking without you knowing and wasting 200 gallons a day, or about 50 flushes worth. Place a drop of dark food coloring in the tank. If it reaches the bowl within 15 minutes, you have a leak worth fixing.
Get WaterSense: The EPA has a relatively new program called WaterSense for labeling plumbing fixtures certified to save water, about 20 percent on average. It's similar to the EnergyStar label for products that use electricity efficiently. The label goes on water-efficient models of such fixtures as toilets, sink faucets and showerheads. Learn more at epa.gov/watersense.
Don't rinse dishes: You don't need to rinse dishes before loading them in the dishwasher. Not rinsing could save 6,500 gallons of water per year.
Use sink disposal sparingly: Using the garbage disposal requires a lot of water. Instead, put food waste in a compost pile, which reduces the need for fertilizer.
Water smart outdoors: Water in the cool morning to reduce evaporation and aim sprinklers at plants. Use drip hoses where appropriate.
Do the math: Some appliances, notably a new clothes washer, will not pay for themselves in water savings alone. But combined with electricity savings, you might save $135 a year over a decade-old washer, says Consumer Reports. Add in such tax incentives as cash for appliance clunkers (see energysavers.gov) and incentives from states and utilities and you can get your money back quickly.
One circumstance where you should use as much tap water as possible? For drinking. It's a far better choice than bottled water for your wallet and the environment. Keep a gallon in the refrigerator rather than running the faucet until water gets cold.