Hello and welcome back! Today we will continue our mini series on saving water.
In the previous post the Handy Millennial showed you how to make one small tweak to automatically save water – change faucet aerators. Now it’s time to step up the game and add a couple more advanced tweaks.
To get ready for today’s post, check out an older post on changing your shower head. This post will give you all the background you need to tackle today’s material.
Now think a little harder about where to save water
In the last post, we covered all the easy stuff. What’s next? Laundry? No, next… Dishwasher? Too expensive, next… Aha I got it! What about the shower head. Previously Handy Millennial wrote about methods to pimp your shower head (bonus points if you know the 90s reference).
Today we will again change that shower head, only this time with reference to saving water. Now you might be surprised to learn that shower heads come labeled by the same water use measuring system as faucet aerators. (huh? check back here to understand) In fact, your standard faucet aerator and the standard shower head have the same flow rate: 2.5 Gallons Per Minute!!
Interesting! Now stop and think about that for a second. Your shower and your faucet use the same amount of water, despite the fact that the shower is mean to rinse an entire human being! Are you starting to feel silly not cutting your faucet water use?
Good, I was hoping you’d feel that way. So the original shower head that the Handy Millennial recommended is this:
A luxurious rain shower device that includes a Bluetooth driven speaker over which you can stream your favorite tunes. Water use rating? 2.5 GPM.
At the other end of the spectrum is a miserly shower device that hoses you down but sips water at 0.5 GPM. As hard as the Handy Millennial tried, Millennial Rosie was just not going to let him keep this one. Something about long hair and shampoo. In the end, I like her hair way more than I like saving water apparently ;).
In all seriousness, this device belongs in extremely constrained water use situations such as on an RV, or when water is being consumed from a tank. This is clearly not the case in most modern American metro areas.
In between these two devices is this:
A beautifully crafted water saving device that can even be switched between shower and hose mode. Total water consumption? 1.25 Gallons Per Minute!
After having used this device for a full year, I can honestly tell you that it’s a good shower, it has definitely saved me money, and Millennial Rosie is only marginally upset at the loss of her beloved Bluetooth shower head.
And if you do the math, it works! Let’s say that you shower for 10 minutes per day, 5 days a week. In a week you will save 12.5 Gallons, and in a year 650 Gallons! That’s nothing to sneeze at. For the Handy Millennial in his HCW area, that’s almost $100, just by switching the shower head.
Now, if you do decide to try one of these devices, log into your favorite online retailer *wink* and check out the installation cost! Now look here, laugh, enjoy.
Creative ways to reduce toilet water use
So now that we have optimized our shower, again, it’s time to tackle the last big water user that is not a big ticket machine: the toilet! And this gives me the perfect opportunity to use a frog image and a plumber image!
But in all seriousness, this is where I might lose some readers. You see, here again, the naysayers will tell you that you need to run out and replace your toilet. This is not too difficult actually and it is something the Handy Millennial has done. But suppose you are renting. Are you going to have to call a plumber and pay for it?
Nope! You see, toilets are over-engineered. They have way more flushing power than you need. This of course means that you use way more water than you should. But how can we cut back on this water use?
Simple! Look at your toilet tank. You see that lip near the top of it? That is a lid, and this lid is something that simply sits on top.
Lift the lid up (be careful, it’s heavy!) and place it neatly to the side, revealing the insides like this. Now don’t worry! This is where the clean water sits. Nothing in here is dirty.
Now look in the tank. What do you see?
If you guessed bottles, you’re right! But nevermind that for now. If you guessed space, then that’s the answer I was looking for. You see, your water tank is full of empty space, which is filled with water.
You see that ugly big black rubber ball on the right? That’s a flotation device. When the tank fills with water, the device rises and shuts off the water supply to prevent your toilet from running.
To decrease the amount of water your toilet uses per flush, we need to decrease how much water is sitting in that tank. So how do we do it? We simply add something that uses up the space where the water used to sit.
In my case, I chose to add old bottles of mouthwash. Just fill the bottle with water and put it in the tank. You can see one of these bottles on the left. Old jars work well too because they are heavier than water and will sit on the bottom. Old bottles and jars have an additional benefit of being pre-measured. This means we can be scientific about how much we decrease the tank water.
For example, one gallon of water has roughly four liters of water in it. This means that a 1.5 gallon toilet will have 6 liters of water in its tank. If we have a jar that holds 1 liter of water, then placing that jar in the tank will decrease how much water that tank holds to 5 liters.
The obvious question is, how many bottles/jars/balloons do you put in the tank? Well, my dear reader, that’s up to you! Everyone likes a different strength flush and everyone has a different model toilet. I recommend you experiment by adding one container to the tank until your flush is no longer *ahem* acceptable.
Remember to place the the jar/bottle so that it doesn’t interfere with the flap in the center of the tank. If it does, your toilet may begin running, and this would of course waste water.
Oh, and I should mention that you can get fancy and buy one of these inflatable bladders to put in the tank. But who needs to be that fancy?
So in summary, no need to call one of these guys. Just live your life – add jars.
Bonus: Do something healthy for yourself
OK, so we’ve done a lot of good work here optimizing your house to use less water. And the Handy Millennial hopes that you have enjoyed this mini-series. But before we conclude, lets talk about a nice upgrade to your shower that can be a really healthy addition: the shower filter.
This is what the Handy Millennial‘s shower looks like.
You’ll notice the bulbous drum that sits right behind the shower head. This is the filter. It’s purpose is to remove contaminants such as rust and sediment from your shower water, as well as chemicals like chlorine, before they hit your body.
Now you may be skeptical of this at first, but for you, my reader, I offer the following anecdotal observations. Since installing this filter, the steam in my shower is much lighter. Gone is suffocating feeling that you get when you fog up a small room, and instead we have a light pleasant mist. In addition, the shower curtain and walls exhibit significantly less buildup than we previously observed. Finally, chlorine is known to dry out your skin and hair. Both are noticeably less dry after taking a shower using this filter.
And if this isn’t sufficient for you, do a quick Google search on the effects of chlorine on the body. It turns out that chlorine will collect in your tissues and may be linked, in the long term, to scary things like cancer.
The filter itself is fairly cheap at $20 and you can find it here. You do need to replace the cartridges every 6 months or so and you can find those for $13 here. A pretty cheap upgrade with a good bit of upsides for you.
Oh, and if you’re curious about the red handle, that’s a valve you can use to shut off the water without having to re-set the temperature. This is useful for anyone who does extra body grooming in the shower.
In the last couple of posts the Handy Millennial has shown you how to reduce your spending by: changing your faucet aerators, changing your shower head, and reducing the amount of flush in your toilet. At this point you might be curious how much the Handy Millennial has saved from these tweaks and how much he has spent.
- One 1/2 GPM Aerator – $1.50
- One Switchable Aerator – $5.20
- One low flow shower head – $12
- Bottles to put in toilet tank – free
Annual Savings in Year 1:
- Around $300.
So you see, my dear reader, this small effort has really paid off for the Handy Millennial!