Water Saving Upgrade Results

HET Toilet Upgrade

Reduce Reuse Recycle

About four years ago I started a project to reduce my household water usage. I first posted about this effort last fall.  My focus has been on finding ways to reduce my water usage without changing my behavior or actively trying to conserve water.  My project encompassed the following strategies:

  1. Inspect and fix all water leaks in the home.
  2. Upgrade fixtures to low-flow hardware.  This includes faucet aerators and low-flow shower heads
  3. Upgrade all toilets in the home to 1.28gpf High Efficiency Toilets (HET)

As promised, I tracked my water usage using monthly utility bill and a spreadsheet and have preliminary results to share in this post.

Here is a timeline of the upgrades I made in the home:

May 2007 - Upgraded to low-flow shower heads

November 2007 - Had plumber inspect and fix all water leasks in the home including adding faucet aerators.  Most of this work revolved around leaky faucets and toilets.

November 2010 - Replaced all four 5+gpf toilets with 1.28 gpf high efficiency toilets.

Note: Upgrading to low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators had negligible results compared to fixing water leaks and upgrading toilets.  While I still think these are worthwhile upgrades since every little bit helps, I'm not going to try to calculate the savings since I had the plumber in only a few months after the shower head upgrade. I have chosen a couple of data points to illustrate my water saving results.  Based on the timing of the upgrades, the easiest method of comparison is to take 3 months of data in the first quarter of each year before and after the upgrades.  Here are the data points that I have chosen and believe illustrate the relevance of my upgrades:

  1. Compare Q1 2007 to Q1 2008 water usage.  This illustrates the savings after fixing the water leaks. (and technically the aerators and shower heads too but this is negligible... see Note above)
  2. Compare Q1 2010 to Q1 2011 water usage.  This illustrates the savings after upgrading the toilets in the home..
  3. Compare Q1 2007 to Q1 2011 water usage.  This shows the overall reduction in water usage for all of the upgrades.
  4. Show average water savings for several data points including overall, per upgrade and per day/per person data as well.

Water Saving Results from Fixing Water Leaks: Q1 2007 Total Water Usage - 36,711 gallons Q1 2008 Total Water Usage - 15,796 gallons Year over Year (YoY) Water Savings from upgrades - 20,915 gallons The upgrades reduced my quarterly water usage by 43%

Water Saving Results from Replacing Toilets: Q1 2010 Total Water Usage - 19,454 gallons Q1 2011 Total Water Usage - 12,818 gallons Year over Year (YoY) Water Savings from upgrades - 6,636 gallons The upgrades reduced my quarterly water usage by 34%

Overall Water Savings from All Upgrades: Q1 2007 Total Water Usage - 36,711 gallons Q1 2011 Total Water Usage - 12,818 gallons Year over Year (YoY) Water Savings from upgrades - 23,893 gallons The upgrades reduced my quarterly water usage by 65%.

If I extrapolate the overall quarterly water usage out for the whole year, my annual water savings for the upgrades is 95,572 gallons. If I get eleven of my neighbors with the same water habits to make these upgrades, we could save over one million gallons of water annually!  How about that for a call to action? I hope this will convince you to act in your own home and save water.  Keep in mind that my upgrade choices didn't require any behavior changes on my part.  If you have teenagers in the home, you will appreciate this conservation strategy even more! I made some other calculation based on the number of people in my household that should help with personalizing the results.  I have five people in my home that are over 12 years of age.  I calculated the daily water usage per person for each of the data points for the upgrades performed.  Here are the figures based on the average quarterly water usage numbers above.

Q1 2007 Average Daily water usage per person - 82 gallons

Q1 2008 Average Daily water usage per person - 35 gallons

Q1 2011 Average Daily water usage per person - 29 gallons

I just polled my three teenagers asking them if they feel like they are using less water than they used four years ago.  All of them said they feel like they are using more now that they are older.  When I told them they are using 65% less water than they used 4 years ago, their response was, "really?" Note: You will notice I didn't include water cost savings.  In my community, water is still very cheap.  I pay $.005 per gallon for water.  I am including my water data going back to 2007 in case you'd like to play with the numbers and come up with other analyses.

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My 1.28 gpf toilet definately flushes better than my 2 1.6 gpf toilets.
I used dual flush conversions that I found on E Bay. At the time Home Depot did not sell conversion kits.
Steve A, I have American Standard 1.6gpf toilets in a condo and Glacier Bay 1.28gpf toilets in my home. After several months of usage, my impression is that the 1.28gpf flush is more powerful than the 1.6gpf flush. Has anyone else noticed this? Powell
I am quite surprised that you downplayed the savings of low flow shower heads! Years ago we installed a low flow shower head that I measured at 1.6 gallons per minute yet it has good pressure and an invigorating spray. 15+ years ago, average showerheads delivered about 5 to 8 gallons per minute at 80 psi (normal city water pressure). The current standard for low-flow heads is 2.5 gpm at 80 psi. The pressure from our well pump is a nominal 45psi which aids in reducing flow. Also FYI regarding cost savings, I installed Hydroright dual flush adapter kits from ACE Hardware in both our toilets. At about $25 they are affordable and simple to install, it took me about 20 minutes. A round fixture replaces the handle, it has 2 buttons - the top one is low flush and the bottom larger button provides a full 1.6 gallon flush. MUCH cheaper than replacing the whole toilet! See my site for more info.
At our 8,000 sq/ft, 25 person office we did this: -Eliminate outside irrigation, by replacing lawns and planting ingenious plants (this yielded the largest savings). -Install and test multiple toilets, from American Standard, Toto & Kohler. Some were dual flush (0.8 & 1.6 GPF) and some were low flow (1.28 GPF). The low flows have given us better performance and less clogs -Install 0.5 GPM faucet aerators -Install 1.5 GPM showerhead in locker room. By doing these improvements, we dramatically lowered our consumption and costs. During the summer of 2007, we consumed, on average 1,500 gallons a day. (60 gallons per person). Since the improvements, we average, year-round, 60 gallons a day, (2.8 gallons per person). This is a reduction of 95%. We save approximately $400 a month on water & sewer costs. It was well worth it.
I've used the hydroright adapters too, I think they are a great option. Home Depot has them too. A bit more plastic, but a lot less waste, compared to replacing the whole toilet - assuming they last. I swapped out aerators too - the Neoperl low-flow aerators are really nice, I got mine in semi-bulk from at a good price compared to the hardware stores. But I think the biggest reduction in our home was when we switched to a front-loading clotheswasher. With kids and many loads of laundry, that adds up <i>very</i> fast...
Guy, Good point and I debated how to word that part of the post. What I'm trying to avoid is encouraging people to go buy low-flow shower heads and don't do anything else. Compared to calling the plumber to fix leaky faucets and toilets, the savings for me were pretty small. However, I love our low-flow shower heads. I put them in all three showers in my home. They are called Eco-Showerheads and I bought them through Realgoods. They are 1.2gpm heads with a push-button to shut off the water while lathering. Unfortunately, I'm the only one in the house that uses the push-button even though that does save close to a gallon or more of water per shower for me. (based on flow) Realgoods has their online store closed right now and I couldn't find these on Gaiam. Here is a link to a treehugger article with a picture of the shower heads I have:
ckmapawatt's picture
Wow, those are dramatic savings! This is the type of example I always counter with when people oppose water price hikes to counter falling budgets. People say they can't afford a price increase, but they usually haven't done everything they can do be more efficient.
FWIW I've found this one to be pretty good, at 1.5GPM (no shutoff though):
Over a year ago I installed low flow shower heads and faucet aerators. I also installed two dual flush toilet conversions and one 1.28 gpf toilet. We do not water our lawn and all garden irrigation is provided by 5 rain barrels. My water usage is down about 50%.


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