Of all the ways you can make your home more eco-friendly, plumbing is a great place to start. Green plumbing is the combination of a few practices and steps that work together to reduce your water and energy usage. This makes your home and the world more sustainable. You can get starting with green plumbing by addressing the appliances in your home, being conscious about your water usage, and watching for damage in your plumbing.
Benefits of Green Plumbing
You lead a busy life, so why put your time and effort into greener home plumbing? Check out the ways green plumbing could improve your everyday life (and your wallet):
- Lower utility costs. When you waste less water, you’ll waste less money.
- Reduce energy use. A home optimized to waste less hot water reduces electricity and gas needed to heat it. Less water use, in general, minimizes your carbon footprint.
- Make your home healthier. Going green with your plumbing not only protects the environment, but it protects your family from harmful pollutants.
- Keep costs low overall. Sure, the initial cost of installing green plumbing may be steeper. But you’ll actually spend much less in the long term than you would with traditional plumbing.
Take Care of Your Pipes
Now that you know why green plumbing is a good thing, it’s time to look at the things you can do to get started. One of the first places to look is your pipes, since pipeline damage wastes over $9 billion per year in the United States. It’s especially important to periodically check the pipes in your water heater.
Pipelines move large amounts of water over long periods of time, which often results in the breakdown of the pipe material. Water traveling through pipes may contain chemicals that slowly react with pipe material, breaking it down. Other factors such as the temperature of the water and its speed of movement may cause slow erosion of the pipe material as well.
To prevent pipe corrosion and erosion, test the water that’s being transported through your pipes. You’ll want to make sure it’s not a danger to the pipe materials. Inspect pipes for high-pressure points and weak spots, and then strengthen these areas. Insulate your pipes with pipe wear pads to prevent damage from metal on metal contact and moisture penetration.
Reduce Water Flow
Simply reducing your home’s water flow can make a huge difference for the environment. For starters, install energy-efficient appliances when you can. Energy-efficient dishwashers, washing machines, and water heaters can all help your home reduce water usage. Even updating your water heater with a new one can reduce the amount of water used.
You can also replace traditional showerheads, sink faucets, and toilets with those designed to reduce water flow. You can go from using about 4.5 gallons of water per minute with regular showerheads to 2.5 gallons per minute with low-flow showerheads. Faucet head flow reducers can reduce water flow by up to 40%. While traditional toilets made before the 1990s use about five to seven gallons of water per flush, newer low-flush toilets reduce that amount to just 1.6 gallons.
Watch For Leaks
Leakage is a huge water-sucker, too. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), household leaks waste up to 1 trillion gallons of water per year! Simply reducing leaks in your home is a great effort to become more eco-friendly.
Pay close attention to your water bill, watching for gradual increases or spikes in water usage. If you notice an increase in water usage, inspect your home for leaks. The EPA gives this guideline: during the coldest months of the year, if a family of four uses more than 12,000 gallons per month, there are definitely leaks somewhere in your home.
Another way you can tell is by checking your water meter, waiting two hours with no water usage, and checking it again. If the number has changed, then that water went somewhere. Check for toilet leaks, which can waste up to 200 gallons of water per day, and take a look at other areas like sinks, showers, outside fixtures, and water heaters. Dripping faucets count, too.
Use Innovative Systems
As technology increases, more home systems are popping up that can help you save water and energy. If you want to save the amount of hot water that’s wasted, try an on-demand hot water circulation pump. Instead of storing heated water like a traditional water heater, this pump heats water on demand, sending it instantly to the faucet. You don’t have to run (and waste) cold water while waiting for hot water to make its way through the pipes.
For cleaner water, you could install a whole-house water filtration system. This would absorb chemicals and pollutants from your household water at once, cleaning it before it ever reaches the faucets. Your family can rest easy knowing the water coming from the faucets is safe.
Water that you won’t be drinking, like that used in your washing machine or the shower, can be filtered through a greywater system, which cleans the water and stores it in a take to be reused. With a greywater system, you’re literally recycling your own water.
Change Your Everyday Habits
Once you’ve done what you can to make your plumbing system greener, your household can save even more water by changing some daily habits. Choosing showers instead of baths is a great place to start, as showers use much less water. When brushing your teeth, shaving, or doing dishes by hand, shut off the faucet until you need to use the water again.
You can also use cold water more frequently when washing clothes and choose high-efficiency settings on appliances when available. Dishwashers and laundry machines should be filled to capacity with each load to reduce the number of cycles you use. All of these mindful choices to not waste water and energy will reduce your home’s carbon footprint.
Do What You Can
Your home’s plumbing can have a large impact on the environment. Luckily, it’s a part of the green home equation that has many solutions. You don’t have to implement every single strategy to make your plumbing eco-friendly. Start with just a few steps to begin saving water, and you’ve already begun to make a difference.