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A drop or a gallon

Save Water, Energy & Your Septic System
By Britta Reque-Dragicevic
Published: February 1, 2008
With an eye to keeping your vacation home or cabin eco-friendly while watching your bottom line, take a look at your water-using appliances and devices. Are they older models that could be upgraded? While there is an upfront cost when making a switch to newer versions, the savings in both energy and dollars along with environmental impact makes the switch a wise investment. Plus you prolong the life of your septic system when you are a water-miser.

The Environmental Protection Agency has begun a program called WaterSense, which identifies appliances and devices that meet strict standards for using less water. Look for the WaterSense label when shopping for your new items.

Toilets account for 30 percent of residential indoor water consumption. Current federal standards require all new toilets to use 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf ). High-efficiency toilets often use 1.3 gpf or less. Toilets made between 1980 and 1994 use 3.5 gpf, while anything made prior to 1980 can use 5 gallons or more per flush.

Consider other options such as a composting toilet, which can save approximately 2,000 gallons a year (based on four flushes a day). Residentical urinals, which are becoming more common in homes, use less than one gallon of water per flush. A waterless urinal can save thousands of gallons of water per year depending upon usage.

Lastly, there is the dual flush toilet that has two different buttons, one uses 0.8 gallons of water per flush and the other uses 1.6 gallons of water. This half flush and full flush technology can reduce water usage by up to 67 percent compared with a traditional toilet.

Showerheads account for 17 percent of indoor residential water usage. Older showerheads can use 3.5 gallons per minute or more; water efficient ones as little as 1 gallon a minute. If your shower can fill a 1-gallon bucket in 20 seconds, it is not water-efficient. You can also find showerheads that feature shut-off valves for soaping and devices that sense the water temperature, so once the water is hot but you’re not ready to get into the shower yet, the device stops the flow. There are also shower timers that automatically shut off the water at a predetermined time.

As for those relaxing baths: A full tub takes approximately 40 gallons of water; a shower uses 10 to 25 gallons.

Washing Machines & Dishwashers
While moving your old washing machine to your cabin might save you money up front, in the long run, using an older machine costs more in water and energy. There are a variety of water-saving washing machines on the market in the traditional top-loading and the newer front-loading versions. You may not want to go to the expense of a front-loading machine, but they can save up to 40 percent more water than traditional vertical spin washers. Make sure you adjust the water level for your load size.

As for washing your dirty dishes, your best dishwasher might be your own hands. A sink filled with hot water and another filled with rinse water uses less water than a dishwasher. If you do opt for a dishwasher at your cabin, look for one that uses five or less gallons of water per load.

Old faucets are standard in many generational cabins. Repair leaks and replace faucets that use 3 to 7 gallons per minute with new ones that use less than 2.2 gallons.

You can also install a device that turns your regular faucet into an infrared no-touch faucet, allowing water usage only when it senses movement. Another option is to attach an aerator to your faucet, which mixes air into your water flow, reducing water consumption up to 30 percent.

Outdoor Watering
When watering gardens and lawns in hopes of enjoying a lush, natural environment right from our porch door, we unwittingly may not be performing a worthwhile task. Much of our watering just ends up as run-off, with no effect on the plants. By using a weather-sensitive watering system that bases watering amounts and timing on weather reports and plant types, you’ll assure your outdoor watering is efficient.

You can also attach a water meter to your hose that will tell you exactly how much water you’re using. A running hose can discharge up to 10 gallons a minute.

Soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems slowly and literally leak water through tiny holes allowing the water time to absorb into the ground. Just be wary of over-watering.

Before tackling her projects for the day, Britta Reque-Dragicevic hand-washes her dishes.
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