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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog

Water, Water everywhere…You are Using More than You Think.


Water is a resource that we often take for granted. We simply turn on a tap and have fresh clean water to drink, bath in, and have fun in during the summer. Our feelings about water change. It is never the same week to week or month to month. But water is a finite resource and also accounts for a large portion of utility bills.  There are several ways that you can reduce the amount of water you use. Here are a few tips to reduce the amount of money that you spend on water.

  • Take a shorter shower - Depending on when you bought your showerhead, you could be using anywhere from 2.5 gallons of water per minute up to 5 or more gallons per minute. Reducing the time you spend in the shower will reduce the amount of water that you are using. Taking a six minute shower instead of a 10 minute shower could save 70 gallons or more a week. Not only will you reduce the amount of water that you are using, but you will also reduce the cost of heating that water as well.  In the average home, water heating accounts for 14% of the total energy consumption. Taking a shorter shower can significantly reduce that number. If you were to reduce your 10 minute shower by four minutes, you could almost see a 6% reduction in your energy costs. For the average family of four that could mean a savings of as much as $165 each year on energy bills alone.
  • Change your showerhead - This tip follows all of the same rules as taking a shorter shower. New showerheads are limited to a maximum of 2.5 gallons per minute. Many showerheads go much lower than this, but choosing the right one for your needs is important. Make sure that you choose a showerhead that will provide enough pressure to fit your needs. Showerheads are an inexpensive way to help reduce the amount of water that you are using.
  • Turn your water heater down - Most people do not know that they can turn their water heater up or down. Setting your water heater to 120°F will not only reduce the cost of heating your water, but will also reduce the likeness of scalding yourself. For every 10° reduction, you can save 3-5% on your water heating costs.
  • Maintain your water heater - Proper maintenance will ensure that your water heater is working efficiently. Water heaters often get a buildup on the bottom of the tank making the heater less efficient. Regular flushing of the water heater will help to prevent this from happening and will ensure the water heater is working efficiently.
  • Consider replacing your water heater - Water heaters have about an 8-15 year life span depending on the manufacturer. If you have a water heater older than this, consider replacing it with a more efficient one.  Don’t limit yourself to just storage water heaters. There are many different types of water heaters available. Look at all of the options. Tankless water heaters are estimated to be able to save a typical family $100 or more per year. In addition to this, the life span of a tankless water heater is 20 years or more making them more durable and less expensive to use.
  • Store water for outdoor use - We use water outside as well. Using a rain barrel to use in our gardens and flowerbeds can help reduce the water we have to purchase.

Water use in not something we always think a lot about, but little changes in our water usage habits in and around our homes can translate into big savings. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Jason Haupt (jdhaupt@illinois.edu).

 



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