Water is one of the most important utilities in the home, and one of the easiest to overuse. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the average home loses 10,000 gallons per year to leaks. The EPA has declared March 18-24 as Fix a Leak Week, but you can improve your home's water usage any time.
Follow these tips to conserve water around the house and save money while doing your part to use water wisely.
Update your appliances: Older appliances are some of the biggest water-wasters around the house. Newer toilets use as little as 1.28 gallons per flush. Older ones, especially those dating before 1992, can waste several gallons with every flush!
Inefficient faucets and showerheads account for as much as 3,000 gallons of loss a year. And older appliances use quite a bit more water than new ones. Look for water-based appliances marked with the Environmental Protection Agency's WaterSense label or Energy Star designation.
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Some municipalities offer free home audits and efficient fixtures free of charge. Check with your local utility company for programs in your area.
Fix leaky pipes and toilets: Pipes losing water behind the wall can be tricky to detect unless there's obvious damage. Pay close attention to your water bill. A jump in water usage from one moth to another may indicate a leaky pipe.
If you suspect a leak, check your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter changes at all, you probably have a leak. Call a plumber for assistance.
Even a small leak in your toilet tank can lose significant amounts of water, and you'll never detect it if you don't know what you're looking for. Put a few drops of food coloring in the tank and let it sit for 10 minutes. If the coloring bleeds into the bowl, you know water is leaking from tank into the bowl. Quite frequently, the culprit is a worn-out rubber flapper that decayed over time. It's a quick and easy fix to replace them with parts from your local hardware store.
Don't overlook leaky faucets, either. A faucet that leaks at a rate of one drip per second can waste 3,000 gallons in a year! If you don't feel confident fixing a faucet yourself, hire a plumber to handle the job.
Update your lifestyle: You can waste a lot of water without even realizing it. Turn off the faucet while you brush your teeth or shave, and plug up the sink if you do dishes by hand. Thaw food in the refrigerator overnight rather than use a running tap of hot water.
Make sure you run only full loads in your dishwasher and washing machine, and water your lawn in the morning or evening.
All these swaps can add up. The EPA estimates you can save as much as 38 percent on your water bill by maximizing efficiency!
Paul F. P. Pogue is a reporter for Angie's List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit AngiesList.com.