Tag Archives: Water

Water, water, not everywhere…

Few things are taken for granted as much as clean water. We see downtrodden nations fighting for it to survive, and the mere mention of a power outage has people running into stores hoarding bottles of it. However, as the world is busy fighting over other natural resources and developing fuel alternatives, we are letting our most precious natural resource go down the drain (pun intended).

Did you know?

  • A water-efficient washing machine uses only one-third the water of an inefficient model?
  • An old-style single-flush toilet uses up to 12 litres of water per flush, while a standard dual flush toilet uses just a quarter of this on a half-flush?
  • A standard shower head uses up to 25 litres of water per minute, whereas a water-efficient shower head uses as little as 7 litres per minute, which is less than a third?
  • A standard faucet aerator on your taps can reduce water consumption by 25 – 50% per tap?

Water heating is the second largest energy user in the average home, just behind operating appliances. With higher hot water usage, come higher energy bills. Even the inefficient use of cold water can cost you, since we still pay water and sewer fees—and believe me, these costs will only continue to rise as the scarcity of our clean water supplies dwindle with time.

In the meantime, here are a few simple steps that will help reduce your water consumption, and consequently bring down your monthly energy and water bills:

  • Install a low-flow showerhead. At a cost of approximately $30/shower head, a family of three can easily save $200/year in energy costs alone.
  • Aerators are a great way of adding bulk to your water, without compromising the flow and/or pressure. At a cost of between $2-4, these can quickly reduce your tap consumption by half, and do not require a handy-man to install. In fact, here’s a great article on how to install aerators yourself.
  • Replace that old 6- or 12-liter toilet with a dual-flush toilet. Switching from a 12-L to a dual flush will save you almost 70% water consumption, while the switch from a 6-L to a dual flush will save an additional 26%–of course translating into more money in your pocket. A quick scan of online forums seems to suggest Toto has the best brand of dual-flush toilets—and here’s a nifty comparison of Toto toilets based on a variety of factors, even letting you see the toilet in full 360 degree rotation!
  • Consider a front-loading washer instead of a top-loading version. Not only will you save $50-90/year in direct water costs, you will use less laundry detergent because the rinse cycle is more efficient and less water is needed to wash your clothes. Clothes come out of the washer with less residual moisture, cutting your drying time in half and saving you more money on your electricity bills.
  • Consider running your dishwasher with fewer, larger loads, instead of frequent, emptier ones. If you wash your dishes manually, turn down the water to a gentle, laminar flow and enjoy how easy it is to remove the soap instead of allowing water to gush down the drain needlessly.
  • Water your lawn in the late evening instead of the morning or afternoon. This allows the water to actually seep into the ground instead of evaporating from the heat and sun. Your plants will thank you for it!
  • Install a rain barrel—I bought one for $50 from a local vendor and have enjoyed watering my plants all summer without having to turn on the tap! There are many new versions being introduced into your local hardware store that incorporate planters and exquisite designs that mask that “cylindrical” look.

REBATES:
Municipalities are always offering rebates and programs for interested water-conscious consumers (here’s an example of one in Canada, and another in the U.S.) Contact your local authorities to find out if you can receive some money back for investing in a water-saving device, and reap the rewards of saving even more money!

Green living in the country

Many North Americans realized their dreams of moving to the country to escape the pollution, traffic and crime that goes along with city living.  An article in today’s New York Times proclaims:

“Suddenly, the economics of American suburban life are under assault as skyrocketing energy prices inflate the costs of reaching, heating and cooling homes on the distant edges of metropolitan areas.”

The article quotes Phil Doyle, a homeowner in the countryside of Denver, who says about his daily hour-long commute to the city, “Before it was ‘we spend too much time driving.’ Now, it’s ‘we spend too much time and money driving.’ ”

In less than five years, the average suburban household is paying more than double what they used to pay for their gasoline consumption, amounting to a yearly increase of over $1700.  This contributed to larger and earlier drops in the prices of these homes than those in the city. 

I’m all for city living, reducing urban sprawl and densification if you live AND work there.  However, a lot of infrastructure has already been built out to suburban areas, including multi-billion dollar investments in mass transportation systems to increase access to the city core.
 
Maybe it’s time to start investing in renewable energy technologies for lighting, heating and cooling in these faraway developments, to offset the higher costs of commuting.  It would be an interesting exercise to calculate the household payback of installing solar photovoltaic panels, solar hot water heating systems and geothermal systems for homes in these areas.  I’m sure it’s a lot more attractive than it was just a year ago.  If you also eliminated all the long-distance commuting, you would spend less time and money driving and be doing the planet a big favour too.  

So— my dream house is a net zero energy home in the boonies that’s totally self-sufficient in water use and onsite waste management.  I can grow much of my own food onsite.  And I don’t have to commute anywhere for a living.  :)