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Thu, Feb. 20

Ask the Contractor: New technology, methods help conserve water

Estimates of residential water usage. (Sandy Griffis/Courtesy)

Estimates of residential water usage. (Sandy Griffis/Courtesy)

Now that low-flow toilets, showerheads and faucets have gone mainstream, one might expect that home water usage would decline each year.

That’s not so, however, according to data from the U.S. Geological Service. The most recent data tells us that total water demand has leveled off for several years.

Are we using less per person? Yes.

The population in the United States rises by about 5 percent each year, so by maintaining the same overall water use, we are making modest gains in water efficiency. I guess we are treading water.

I admit; I am spoiled. Water to me is like air, like electricity; it is there for me.

Yes, we all know that clean, fresh, water is becoming scarcer, and every year everywhere it is also lost to pollution.

What’s the best way to improve water conservation?

There has been a lot of talk for a long time by now about how to reduce water consumption. Increasing water prices has had a minimal impact in many areas. When I saw my water rates whet up, my behavior was modified slightly.

Many of us can still do more to modify our water-consumption behavior in relation to price per gallon.

Other than the price we see on our water bills, what is the real cost of water is? How can we figure that out? If you know, let me know.

We all need to do more to converse water, and I want to help get that process started. Here are several water-saving ideas, so let’s all be water smart and do our part.

New toilets, like the Boulevard from American Standard, have reduced water usage to 1.0 gallons of water per flush, the standard that goes by the abbreviation “gpf.”

Other water-conserving improvements include dual-flush valves, which drop water use to as little as .8 gpf. Replacing old toilets with new ones is one of the best ways to save water.

When I purchased my home 10 years ago, I unscrewed the low-flow aerator in the showerhead. I wanted more water dousing me during a shower. Recently, however, I purchased a new showerhead, an efficient, water-saving devise and not a water guzzler. My new showerhead provides ample water pressure and uses as little as 1.5 gallons per minute (gpm). I am happy.

When shopping for a dishwasher, check for the yellow Energy Guide label. It ill tell you how much energy is needed to operate that dishwasher. Use the Energy Star label to compare the energy use of similar models and estimate annual operating costs.

And be sure to choose the right size dishwasher for your home. Standard-capacity models hold more than eight place settings and six serving pieces while compact-capacity models hold up to that amount. If you have to operate a compact dishwasher more frequently, over time you may use more energy than you would with a standard model.

Choose a dishwasher with several wash-cycle options. If your dishes are only slightly soiled, use a light or energy-saving wash cycle. Those cycles use less water and un for a shorter period of time.

As far as clotheswashers, did you know that the average American family washes about 300 loads of laundry each year?

Energy Star appliances help homeowners cut costs for energy and water. Energy Star-certified clotheswashers use about 25 percent less energy and 45 percent less water than regular clotheswashers.

So what’s the difference between the old clotheswashers and those that are certified by Energy Star? Energy Star clotheswashers have a greater tub capacity, which means fewer loads to wash the same amount of laundry.

That’s one of the ways Energy Star clotheswashers use less water. A full-sized Energy Star-certified clotheswasher uses 13 gallons of water per load, compared to the 23 gallons used by an older, standard clotheswashing machine. The difference amounts to a water savings of more than 3,000 gallons each year.

Energy Star clotheswashers are available in front-load and top-load mo dels. They utilize new technologies that do not require the tub to fill with water. They clean using sophisticated wash systems to flip or spin clothes through a stream of water. Many of these clotheswashers have sensors to monitor incoming water levels and temperature. And they rinse clothes with repeated, high-pressure spraying instead of soaking the laundry in a full tub of water.

Energy Star clotheswashers also use less energy. On average, a new, Energy Star-certified clotheswasher uses 280 kWh of electricity and can save homeowners about $45 a year on utility bills, compared to standard clotheswashers.

Is your clotheswasher over 10 years old?

Altogether, old, inefficient washers cost American consumers an extra $2.9 billion each year in energy and water costs. If you have a standard clotheswasher that is more than 10 years old, it’s costing you, on average, $210 a year.

Oops! My washer is 10 years old! I had better make a trip to Quality Maytag and do my part to be water smart with a new, energy-and-water-efficient clotheswasher.

It’s estimated that of the 76 million top-loading clotheswashers in use throughout the United States, 25 million are at least 10 years old. And clotheswashers built before 2003 are significantly less efficient than newer models.

If every clotheswasher purchased in this country was Energy Star- certified, Americans could save a total of more than $4 billion each year and prevent more than 19 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions, an amount equal to the annual emissions from more than 1.7 million vehicles.

A terrific website — — offers reliable information on appliances, water-saving measures and other helpful hints for homeowners who want to save money and water. The website includes calculators, in which you can enter various details and determine your dollar savings.

In the yard, xeriscaping goes a long way to conserving water, and synthetic lawns, which don’t require watering, are also becoming the “thing” in our area.

Traditional lawns waste water. Residential lawn irrigation can account for as much as 30 percent of home-water use. There are some cool, new digital controls that give homeowners the ability to set watering schedules accurately to help in water conservation.

Rainwater harvesting also offers many benefits. Rainwater contains less salts since rain is not treated with chlorine or fluoride. Plants seem to grow better when water with rainwater, rather than tap water. We have several local companies that sell rainwater harvesting units and several local landscapers are well versed in installing rainwater-harvesting units.

YCCA’s Hammer Time airs twice each weekend, Saturday and Sunday mornings at 7 on KQNA 1130 AM, 99.9 FM and 95.5 FM or the web Sandy and her wingman Mike talk about the construction industry and local community partners and contractors. Happy spring!

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