Don't let snowy days and freezing nights distract you from conserving water this winter. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average family in the United States uses a staggering 400 gallons of water per day
. You may not be watering the lawn again for a while but there are still plenty of opportunities during the cold season to cut back on your water consumption, lowering your water bill and helping the environment at the same time.
In the Shower:
Nothing beats a hot shower on a cold winter's day, but you can conserve while still enjoying the steamy warmth. Rather than wasting water while you wait for the shower to heat up consider investing in a new tankless hot water heater, or an instant hot water recirculating system. Both options produce almost instant hot water, so you reduce waste while trying to find the right temperature. If you have a conventional water heater you can place a bucket under the shower to catch the initial cold water flow and use it to flush the toilet or water some plants.
About 17 percent of a family's indoor water use goes toward the shower, so you should also install a low-flow showerhead if you haven't already. Switching from an old-school fixture will save you an average of nearly 3,000 gallons of water per year and lower your hot water heating bill as well.
The Kitchen Sink:
The winter holidays are a time for family and friends to gather and share meals together. Unfortunately, that can also mean massive piles of dishes to clean up. You can save water when tackling this unenviable task by scraping all the leftover food off the plates instead of rinsing them in the sink. Then let the dishwasher do the rest; this uses less water than washing by hand. For families who are without a dishwasher, use a basin full of soapy water to soak the dishes before washing, and don't run the facet continuously.
Believe it or not, the toilet is where we use the most water of all, accounting for 27 percent of an average family's indoor water usage. If you aren't the squeamish type, consider a policy of flushing only when there’s solid waste to cut down dramatically on the number of daily flushes. If you have an older model, upgrading to a low-flow toilet can save you gallons every flush. And whatever type of toilet you have, make sure it isn't leaking, which can cost you up to 200 gallons of water per day.
Mind Your Pipes:
The biggest threat to your wintertime water bill is a pipe freezing, then bursting. A disaster like that could send thousands of gallons of water rushing into your house, resulting in both a nasty water bill and enormous home repair costs. To avoid this worst-case scenario, keep your furnace in good working order and get it repaired immediately if it falters when the temperatures outside drop below freezing. You should winterize your pipes as well, insulating any that run outdoors.
If the heat does go out, you can turn the faucets on to drip while waiting for your plumber to arrive. This does waste a small amount of water but keeps it flowing so it's less likely to freeze, potentially saving you big money in the long run.
Finally, make sure you know where your main water shut off valve is, and get to it in a hurry if a pipe does burst. Your wallet will thank you.
It’s a good idea to have an annual maintenance check of your plumbing system to ensure everything is in safe working order. Your local Benjamin Franklin® plumber is here to help you with everything from an annual checkup to a frozen or burst pipe emergency to a leaking toilet.