These days, “green plumbing” is getting increasing attention, especially in dry areas like the southwestern US.
“Green plumbing” helps the environment by doing one or more of the following:
- Saving water
- Saving energy
- Using environmentally-friendly materials
There are a wide range of green plumbing products that can make a big difference in how much water and energy your home uses. They range from simple accessories that cost less than $20 to major home remodels. Here are a few of them, ranging from the simple and immediate to larger investments with a longer-term payback.
- Low-flow showerheads and faucet accessories (often called “aerators”). Check the side of your current faucet and showerhead to see if they use more than 1.5 GPM and 2.0 GPM, respectively. If they do, you can benefit from an upgrade. Look for the EPA WaterSense label to be sure that your new showerheads and faucet accessories are water-efficient.
- Hot water heater blankets and pipe insulation.You don’t need to insulate your hot water heater and pipes to prevent freezing, but doing it will save money, water, and energy, and (as a bonus) you’ll enjoy hotter showers in the winter. This is a simple DIY job and the materials are extremely affordable.
- Touch-free faucets. When you’re not actively using them, touch-free faucets shut off. According to industry estimates, the result can be a water savings of up to 70%. Touch-free faucet technology has improved greatly in recent years, and sensors are now very reliable. If you like your current faucet and want to keep it, there are also touch-free faucet conversion kits.
- Dual-flush toilets. As the name suggests, these toilets have two different flushes: a “half-flush” for liquid waste, and a “full flush” for solids. Dual-flush toilets are standard in many European countries and are becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. because of their water-saving potential (up to 68% over conventional toilets) and sleek styling.
- Tankless water heaters. Unlike conventional tank heaters, which use energy constantly to maintain a reserve supply of hot water, tankless heaters only use energy when hot water is needed. Tankless water heaters are not quite “instantaneous”, as some manufacturers claim, but they provide hot water within a few seconds. Good quality heaters can provide hot water to multiple fixtures simultaneously.
- Sprinkler system upgrades. Much of the water from spray sprinkler systems evaporates. Trickle and drip irrigation systems can improve water efficiency by delivering smaller amounts of water directly to the base of the plant. Other products, such as pressure regulating spray heads and rotors and automatic rain sensors, can also save thousands of gallons a year. Another option is to re-use laundry waste water by diverting it into the garden. This can be a DIY project or can be built directly into your plumbing. Check with your local authorities to find out if this is permitted in your area.