Conservation Begins at Home

Summer has finally hit southern California with a vengeance. We blogged on the official coming of Summer on June 21, but the real heat of Summer has just started. As we mentioned in that blog, Summer is the most challenging time for most water systems, because demand is much higher than during the rest of the year. We also noted in that blog that the biggest use of water in a typical household is outdoors. But what is the second biggest user of water?
Perhaps our photo today provides you with a subtle hint?
Wow! You guessed it! It’s the toilet!
In a typical home, about one-quarter of the water used indoors is for flushing the toilet.
If your home toilets are a little old, they use more water. The design on toilets changed in California around 1992, and now use about 1.6 gallons per flush. Toilets built prior to this time require at least 3.5 gpf — more than twice as much.
I am not suggesting that you discard your old toilets this weekend as a way to save water. However, it is something to consider, especially since many water agencies will pay you to upgrade your toilet. And with that rebate, changing your toilet might just “pencil out.”
On average, a household has four people and, on average, each person flushes five times per day. That’s 20 flushes. Saving 1.9 gpf times 20 flushes per day would save 38 gallons per day, or about 1150 gallons per month. or about 1.5 hundred cubic feet. This last unit is the normal one used to measure consumption — your home water meter is probably graduated in “ccf” — which means hundreds of cubic feet. Water rates vary from agency to agency, but my rate is about $1.25 per ccf. That means the savings on my water bill would be about $2 per month. If that new toilet cost me $50 after the water agency rebate, the toilet would pay for itself in about two years. So, it might make sense to consider replacing an older toilet.
But all toilets — old and new — will leak over time. Some studies have estimated that 25% of all household toilets leak. Actual numbers are probably much lower, but it is really easy to check: just listen! Unless your toilet is in the flush cycle — which usually lasts less than a minute — you should not be able to hear any water flowing. If you do, you have a leak. And the most likely culprit is the flapper valve.
I just bought a replacement flapper valve for a leak at my house. Cost: less than $3. Time to replace: about 10 minutes. Water savings: estimates vary, but probably close to 100 gallons per day! If that estimate is right, that leak costs about $5 per month. So the $3 flapper valve replacement is a real winner.
Check your flapper valves about twice per year, especially if you get chloraminated water — chloramines are tougher on rubber-like materials than chlorine. C’mon! Go check right now!

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