Going with the flow: look at energy efficient plumbing

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ November 21, 2011

Low-flow plumbing fixtures can save you money in the long haul. The jury is still out whether you can quickly gain a return on your investment since water savings may only tally $100-$150 a year. But in the day when many of us are counting nickels and dimes on our water bills, everything that helps should go on the home improvement radar. If the fixtures end up increasing home value at the time of sale, it's definitely worth investigating.

Green shower heads for the bathroom

If you're looking to green your home, low-flow and hand-held shower heads are a great idea for the bathroom. Hand-held shower heads let you shut off the water supply while you soap up. Plus the head is closer to your body when you turn it on, allowing the hot water to hit you without having to travel through the cooler air.

You can also install flow-control inserts into existing shower heads. These are basically washers that reduce the gallons-per-minute (GPM) level. Low-flow shower heads cut the GPM rate in half. Of course, whenever you use any new low-pressure shower solution, you'll have to help family members change their learned behaviors. After a little discomfort, they're sure to get used to the new arrangement.

Consider low-flow toilets

New low-flow toilets use about 1.6 gallons of water per flush, about half of what traditional toilets use to handle the job. The process is governed by a chain float that closes the flapper to the level set by the manufacturer.

Some models of low-flow toilets employ supply line pressure through a compressor or vacuum pump, facilitating quick, efficient drainage. Dual-flush toilets will go a long way into turning your home green.

Introduced in Australia in the 1980s, dual-flush toilets allow you a choice when you activate the unit. Push one button for liquid waste and another for solid waste. You'll get a shorter blast of water for liquid waste. These models come with a larger trapway than found in conventional toilets.

If you're looking for the Rolls Royce of dual-flush commodes, consider the Power Lite by Kohler. The manufacturer claims you'll save 2,000-5,000 gallons of water every year if you use the pump-assisted unit as recommended.

Are you a chronic overflusher? Kohler sponsors a Facebook page called Multi-flushers Anonymous.

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