(BPT) - Certain home appliances and features have a reputation for being energy and money wasters; everyone knows the air conditioner draws more electricity and old, leaky windows boost utility bills. But are you aware of the room in your home that uses - and wastes - the most water?
Americans use more water in the bathroom than any other room of the house, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The average family of four uses about 400 gallons per day, and most of it goes down the drain in showers, toilets and sinks. All that water use costs about $1,100 per year, the EPA says.
With warm weather arriving and dry conditions occurring across the country, conserving water not only saves you money, it can help preserve the water supply, too. State water managers are predicting shortages in 40 states over the next 10 years, according to a 2013 report by the United States Government Accountability Office. It's very likely Californians won't be the only Americans facing water restrictions in the coming years.
This summer, why not take steps to reduce the amount of water your family uses in the bathroom - and save yourself some money at the same time? These tactics can help:
Choose high-efficiency fixtures
Toilets account for nearly 27 percent of a household's overall water use, the shower nearly 17 percent and faucets nearly 16 percent, the EPA says. Switching to WaterSense-labeled fixtures can reduce the amount of water you use in the bathroom and save you $350 per year, according to EPA calculations.
Switching to a high-efficiency toilet can have a significant impact. If your toilet is older, it may be using as much as 3.5 to 7 gallons of water per flush. Standard modern toilets use between 1.5 to 2 gallons per flush, but high-efficiency toilets use much less. For example, the dual-flush Sanicompact and Sanistar by Saniflo use as little as 1 gallon per flush to remove liquid waste, and just 1.28 gallons for solids.
For homeowners renovating an existing bathroom or adding a new one in a basement, garage or attic, the up-flush technology of the Saniflo products delivers an additional bonus - lower installation costs. Installing a macerating toilet with above-floor plumbing eliminates costs like breaking through and repairing concrete for basement installations, or cutting through drywall and installing ventilation in other areas of the home. Both the Saniflo high-efficiency toilets are designed to be aesthetically pleasing, and hide the macerating mechanism within the base of the toilet.
You can also curb water consumption in the shower by switching to WaterSense-labeled products. EPA says standard showerheads use 2.5 gallons per minute, and the Alliance for Water Efficiency says the average American spends 8.2 minutes under the spray every time he or she showers. That means the average person uses a whopping 20 gallons of water in a single shower. A WaterSense showerhead can cut your family's bathroom water consumption by 2,900 gallons per year, the EPA says.
Adopt water-saving habits
Even if you have zero budget to update your bathroom with water-efficient fixtures, you can still reduce your water consumption simply by making some lifestyle changes:
* Check existing fixtures for leaks, which are significant bathroom water wasters. Repair leaky faucets, dripping showerheads and toilets that run constantly.
* Make a bath an occasional treat, rather than a weekly or even daily cleansing ritual. A bath uses far more water than a five- to eight-minute shower.
* Take shorter showers. Five minutes should be enough time to get the job done for most people, and trimming your shower time by just three minutes could save 7.5 gallons of water per shower.
* If you aren't able to replace your older toilet with a high-efficiency model, try placing a brick in the tank to displace water. The tank will fill with less water and you'll use less per flush.
* If you can't replace an older faucet, see if your model can be fitted with a new aerator that will reduce water flow.
* When brushing your teeth, turn the faucet off after you've dampened your toothbrush, and keep it off while you're brushing. Fill a glass with water and use that to rinse your mouth, rather than taking water directly from the faucet.
Conserving water can help you reduce your utility costs, and help protect your state's water supply through the long, dry summer ahead.