Water is a valuable resource. In fact, most areas of the world are experiencing water shortages at varying levels. We can each do our part to remedy the problem through diligent water management. While we’re at it, we can save some money on our utility bills.
In and around your home, consider the many ways you can make your water usage more efficient and cut back on the amount of water you use.
1. Irrigation Systems
If you have a lawn and/or garden, you’ll be watering them. An underground irrigation system is automated, so it’s not only convenient for you, but is a great way to conserve water.
Installing an underground sprinkler system takes a bit of planning, but once you understand the layout, the actual project is DIY-accessible.
Make sure to create zones for each area of your yard, from the corners of the lawn to the vegetable garden and the flower beds. You can also include a drip system for hanging plants.
With the irrigation system in place, you can control how often and for how long it waters. Each zone can be set individually to accommodate the differing needs of each zone.
Underground sprinklers increase water usage efficiency, saving you money in water expenses.
If a full-yard underground sprinkler system isn’t an option, consider above-ground, hose-fed sprinklers that can be set up on a timer.
There are endless options, from a basic sprinkler and budget timer to sprinklers equipped with advanced technology you can control from your phone.
For additional savings, you can also add a water monitor to the system that will detect leaks.
2. Rain Sensors
If you already have a sprinkler system, make it more efficient by adding a rain sensor. This device senses when a moderate amount of rain has fallen and overrides the sprinkler system in response.
There’s no reason to continue watering when Mother Nature is doing it for you.
Rain sensors are inexpensive, starting at around $25 and reaching around $200 on the high end. There are wired and wireless types.
Both are easy to install and basically just require wiring the unit into place and mounting it in an appropriate location.
3. Replace Toilets
Toilets, especially older models, use a massive amount of water. When the need or opportunity arises, replace your older toilet with a new, water-efficient, model.
If you don’t think it makes a big difference, consider the fact that toilets built before 1982 use between five and seven gallons of water per flush! Yikes.
Modern toilets average around a gallon and a half per flush. If you’re not ready to replace all the toilets, even one or two will help significantly.
Toilet replacements aren't difficult. It simply requires disconnecting and removing the old unit, followed by a bit of clean-up and the installation of a new toilet wax ring.
When you're done with that, place the new unit and reattach the plumbing. Most toilet replacements only take a few hours.
If replacing toilets isn’t in the cards right now, you can revert to old school motto: “If it’s yellow let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” By limiting the number of unnecessary flushes, you’ll save hundreds of gallons of water each year.
4. Install Rainwater Collection System
Think about the many ways you use water around your home. Showers, that thirsty toilet, dishes, laundry, lawn, and garden all drink it up.
Many of those water uses don’t require potable water. With this in mind, collecting rainwater provides a valuable resource for saving money and increasing your water supply.
There are countless ways to go about rainwater harvesting. You can add a diverter to your gutter downspout to redirect a portion of the water into storage. You can funnel the water directly into storage tanks beneath or next to the house.
You can even link rainwater collection systems into the home’s plumbing so it feeds toilet tanks.
5. Place Water Barrels
Rainwater is typically collected from roofs, since it’s the easiest way to direct it as it runs off. At that point, it can be stored in rain barrels. Rain barrels can be attached to the downspout diverter via hose so the runoff is immediately stored.
However, rain barrels can also stand independently of the roof collection process. In areas that receive a lot of rain, place rain barrels in the open and simply allow the rain to fill them as nature provides.
Barrels are particularly convenient in the garden because they are equipped with a spout at the bottom where you can attach a hose for targeted, and on-demand, watering.
6. Insulate Pipes and Water Heater
Inside the house, water efficiency means limiting the amount of water that runs from any tap. Wrap your pipes in pipe insulation to keep water warm as it travels. Also give your water heater a blanket.
Reducing heat loss in your water supply means the water heater runs less often, saving you money.
In addition, keeping the temp up on the water that has already been heated means you won’t have to run the tap as long, waiting for warm water to arrive.
If you do have a long wait time, one hack is to keep a bucket around. In the shower, for example, place the bucket under the showerhead as the water warms. Use the collected water for houseplants or those on the patio.
7. Replace Water Heater
Just like toilets, an older water heater is likely costing you money and water. Replacing a water heater is a DIY project you can tackle weekend warrior style, with big water savings.
Efficiency is the key for appliances so choose an energy star-certified option for the best long-term results.
8. Install On-Demand Water System
Even better than updating the water heater is swapping it out for an on-demand water system. These units warm the water as it runs through the system. That means the unit isn’t constantly working to keep the water warm.
It results in huge energy savings, but also reduces the amount of water used while waiting for cold or hot options.
On-demand systems can be a single unit, smaller than a traditional water heater, that provides water to the entire house. For larger houses, you may need more than one central unit.
For the ultimate efficiency, install individual on-demand systems for each room that requires them. These small units are about the size of one two-liter soda bottle and mount beneath the sink or other similar location.
Each unit supplies water heating services to the sink and/or shower, plus appliances such as the dishwasher or clothes washing machine.
On-demand systems are a financial investment, but with some research and a solid understanding of how the process works, it’s a plausible DIY endeavor.
If you don’t feel comfortable about the installation process, call in a professional. As is often the case, sometimes it’s cheaper to pay a pro than to pay to fix your mistakes.
However you go about getting the system installed, the water and energy savings will be notable.
9. Replace Faucets and Showerheads
Solidly in the DIY realm, replacing faucets in the kitchen, laundry, garage, outside, and bathroom sinks can save water, especially if your previous models had a leak.
Dripping faucets are the cornerstone of water inefficiency. If you’ve tried repairs but the faucet still leaks, invest in a new one.
Like most other products, recent innovations have improved efficiency in nearly every type of faucet, but watch for the energy-efficient label when selecting your new faucet to be sure you’re achieving your water-saving goals.
While you’re at it, check out your showerheads. Long showers are a morning ritual that makes up a considerable amount of your water bill. Lower that impact with water-efficient showerheads in each bathroom.
Showerheads are easy to replace, with a set of instructions, a few tools, and the essential plumber’s tape in your arsenal.
If a replacement isn’t on deck for faucets and showerheads, improve water savings through the addition of an aerator. These devices are very easy to install. They basically screw onto the faucet.
They work by replacing some of the water with air. The result is a water pressure similar to what you had before, but with water output cut by 50% or more.
Depending on the demands of your household, adding aerators could save two to sixteen gallons every day!
11. Plant Native Species
We all know plants need water to survive. However, there is a vast variation between the water consumption needs of different plants.
One way to significantly cut back on the amount of water plants need is to be vigilant when selecting plants in the first place.
Native plants are plants that have successfully established in an area because of the symbiotic relationship they have with the existing soil, climate, and surrounding resources.
This means they are adapted to the environment and perform well without a lot of attention--or as much water.
When selecting plants, check with your local extension office and do some research to find plants that are native, not only to your geographical location but to the ecosystem around your house.
For example, if you live 1,000 feet above the city, surrounded by trees that throw heavy shade, your native plant selections will be different than those selected for the suburban lot with a sunny yard down below.
12. Water-efficient Appliances
It’s obvious, yet worth mentioning. In fact, it’s so important that we have a water-efficiency rating in place to make it easy for consumers to source water-efficient appliances.
Look for the energy-star savings when you decide to replace the washing machine, dishwasher, and water heater.
All of these appliances can be tackled DIY style, but be sure to turn the water off at the source before starting and use extreme caution when dealing with anything electrical, especially where water is involved.
13. Mulch the Garden and Flowerbeds
Back outside, let’s give nature a boost with natural materials that help plants conserve water. Mulching means placing a layer of bark, newspaper, straw, or other material over the root systems around flowers, shrubs, and trees.
Mulching insulates the ground temperature, resulting in less evaporation of the water in the soil. Reducing water loss through evaporation means the plants need to be watered less frequently.
14. Smart Devices
We’ve mentioned several devices throughout the house and garden you can replace to increase water efficiency. Most of those devices are also available with smart technology, which makes them even more efficient.
The wireless rain sensor for the irrigation system is one example. Many of these smart devices can be linked to your phone so you can control them from anywhere.
Each time you decide to invest in a replacement part for your home, consider whether a smart device is right for you.
For example, there are dozens of types of smart showerheads. They do everything from spraying colored water to simultaneously controlling the music in the shower.
When it comes to water savings, they make efficient use of every drop by sensing when the water temperature has reached your set preference and then shutting the water off in a holding pattern until you get into the shower.
Similarly, a water monitor is a smart device that is attached to the water meter. It monitors how much water is being used and some models even detect if there is a leak.
Being able to identify a leak early results in a quicker response time and considerable water savings.
15. Divert Water
Harvesting rainwater to store in collection tanks provides a source of water to draw from at a later date. However, the systems can be very expensive if you’re doing extensive plumbing or burying a storage tank.
There are also limitations to how much water you can collect. For example, if you’re diverting water from a downspout to rain barrels, they will fill up during rainy periods.
Depending on the climate in your area, directly diverting the water may be a better solution. It can also be used as an overflow option.
Diverting water simply means redirecting it to where the water is needed. Consider directing it into a dry river bed, a drain field, or a pond.