Save dough by reducing water flow

Charlotteans may be accustomed to water conservation measures following last decade's droughts, but there are still ways to save in the bathroom, according to Cam Coley, spokesman for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities. "When there were water supply concerns, people did a great job of finding ways to use less," he says, but more can be done inside the home, such as fixing leaky toilets. "Because the leaks are generally silent, people don't factor that into how much water they're using."

Jim Dickerson of highly rated Jim Dickerson Plumbing & Electrical in Charlotte agrees and estimates most toilet repairs cost $200 or less. "If it's leaking, the commode is the biggest water waster in the home by far," he says, adding that gurgling or running when it hasn't been flushed are good indicators. "It's obvious when drippy faucets need to be fixed, but commodes are sneaky."

Angie's List member Cyndi Hall says she hired highly rated Brian W. Long Plumbing in Charlotte to repair her toilet because she knew its constant running signaled long-term water loss. Reducing water use in her home makes financial and environmental sense, she says. "Knowing we live in a drought-prone area makes a huge impact on the decisions I make," Hall says.

The average American flushes five times a day at home, says Dave Parker, owner of highly rated E.R. Plumbing Services in Matthews. Older toilets use 3 to 3.5 gallons every flush, which translates to 19,000 gallons a year for a three-person household. By installing a new high-efficiency model that uses only 1.28 to 1.6 gallons per flush, that household could reduce its annual water consumption to 7,000 to 9,000 gallons.

Although many homeowners complained about loss of flushing power when low-flow toilets debuted in the 1990s, the newest generation of water-sipping water closets have made great advancements, says John Divine, owner of highly rated Divine Plumbing in Charlotte. "The new models are like comparing a Cadillac to a Yugo," he says.

Last decade's droughts also made an impression on Angie's List member Jennifer Willson of Charlotte. She calls dwindling water supplies "scary" and utilizes as many efficiency measures as possible, such as switching her appliances to water-saving settings and installing a low-flow showerhead. "I'm always looking at materials for sustainability and energy efficiency," she says.

Using less than 2 gallons per minute, instead of more than 2.5 gallons that a conventional head consumes, a new WaterSense fixture can save the average household up to 2,300 gallons per year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. "They do use less pressure, but that's a commitment you have to make," Divine says.

Water-saving upgrades also add convenience, Parker says. Installing a recirculating pump to a home's water heater, which reduces consumption by delivering heated water to fixtures more quickly, saves the average household up to 11,000 gallons a year. "It's the No. 1 thing people can do to save money on their water bill," Parker says.


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