With home builders offering more eco-friendly design options each year, there has never been a better time to incorporate these methods and products when planning your new home. A water efficient home will not only help an owner save money, it will help preserve water. Below are a few ideas and products to help educate you on the basics of designing and building a new water efficient home.
Sinks, showers and toilets – WaterSense makes it easy!
Much like the federal Engery Star program does with electrical appliances; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created a program called WaterSense, which provides rigorous testing standards that manufacturers may utilize with their plumbing product lines in hopes of receiving the WaterSense designation and label. Products displaying the official WaterSense label offer both consumers and home builders a quick and easy way to know they are purchasing and installing some of the most water efficient products available.
A standard, non-efficient sink faucet will dispense water at a rate of 2.2 gallons per minute (gpm). A water efficient, WaterSense approved faucet cuts that flow rate down to 1.5 gpm with little to no performance issues, reducing water usage by 30% or more. The WaterSense agency states an average home owner may save upwards of 700 gallons of water annually simply by installing these more efficient sink faucets in their kitchen and bathrooms. That type of water savings is roughly equivalent to the amount of water required to take 40 showers per year. In addition, low flow faucets will reduce demand on a home’s water heater tank, which will provide owners with energy savings on top of water conservation benefits.
WaterSense states that showers account for nearly 17% of all indoor water use within the average American residential home. A standard shower head typically includes a flow rate of 2.5 gpm with a WaterSense approved model reducing that flow rate down to 2.0 gpm. This reduction allows for up to 40 gallons of water conserved per day within an average household. That’s over 14,000 gallons of water saved per year! Low flow efficient shower heads will provide owners with electrical cost savings as well by demanding less from the hot water tank system that supplies them. WaterSense approved shower head are available in many different styles and configurations so home owners will not need to sacrifice style and quality in the pursuit of water conservation.
Usually the main water use culprit in the average residential home, toilets can account for up to 30% of household water usage. Before the current government standard of 1.6 gallons per flush was mandated, older toilets were known to use as much as 6 gallons per flush. WaterSense approved toilets take the government standard one step further by reducing the gallons per flush rate down to 1.28. Water efficient toilets frequently include what is termed “dual flush” functionality. A dual flush toilet includes two separate flush buttons so liquid only waste may be flushed, utilizing less water than a solid waste flush. With the amount of water saved compared to a standard 1.6 gallon per flush toilet, a water efficient 1.28 gallon model will quickly pay for itself with reduced utility bills.
Tankless – On-demand Water Heaters
Available in both gas and electric models, an on-demand tankless water heater system will supply your home with instant hot water, negating the need to waste water as you wait for it to heat up. In addition, a traditional tank heating system will continually heat the stored water even when no one is home. They provide home owners with both water and electrical savings.
To learn more about tankless water heaters, read this article.
Turning grey into green – greywater systems
The term “greywater” refers to water produced within the home that has not come into contact with any type of feces or hazardous waste products. Most common greywater sources include kitchen and bathroom sinks, showers, tubs and dishwashers. While not suitable for drinking, greywater is an excellent way to water outdoor landscaping and gardens with water that would have otherwise been lost down the drain. Greywater systems vary greatly in complexity depending on a home owner’s requirements, but can be as simple as a pipe run from under a kitchen sink, through an exterior wall, to a garden area below all the way to a system designed to channel faucet and tub water into a toilet reservoir tank for flushing purposes. While not yet common in most residential homes, greywater systems are ideal for home owners looking to take water conservation to the next level.
Putting Mother Nature to work with rain barrels
What better way to keep your lawn and garden areas well maintained and watered than by utilizing the natural water source they prefer most – rainwater! Depending on the amount of annual rainfall your region receives, you may be able to easily collect and store sufficient amounts of rainwater to fully irrigate your gardens and landscaped areas year-round without negatively impacting your utility bill. While collected rain water is not suitable for drinking, it is a great way to wash cars and pets, and keep gardens irrigated in regions where periodic drought conditions may occur and water restrictions are enforced.
Designing a water efficient lawn and garden
It is important to properly plan the type of lawn and garden you wish to plant, as keeping them properly irrigated will be a big water conservation challenge aside from your home.
If you plan on having large sections of lawn to maintain, be sure to work with a local lawn expert to select the proper type of grass that offers a good balance between drought resistance and the cosmetic look you are hoping to achieve. When it comes to water conservation, some grasses require a tremendous amount of water to thrive, so be careful not to select your grass simply by cosmetic appearance.
Be sure to select as many native plants and trees as possible when planning your new lawn and garden areas, as they have already adapted to your local climate and will most likely only need your area’s average amount of natural rainfall to flourish. Install drip irrigation lines within your garden areas, as they provide direct water where it is needed most versus watering the entire garden area.
For home owners seeking maximum water conservation, consider a xeriscape layout based on plants designed to thrive on the least amount of water possible. Properly planned, xeriscape exterior areas are more than capable of providing year round color along with a very distinctive appearance.