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Save Water With Faucets & Showerheads

Updated on July 12, 2014
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Susette worked with public water agencies in Southern California for several years directing water conservation teams and water auditors.

The simplest, quickest, and least costly way to save water in your home is to replace your bathroom and kitchen faucet aerators with water saving ones. The next simplest is to replace your showerhead/s. Both of these actions can be carried out easily by the average resident in a home. Kids can replace the aerators - just screw off the old ones and screw on the new ones, and adults can replace the showerheads using common tools.

Replace your old faucet aerator with a new, low-flow one. Note that the new one is plastic, whereas the old one is steel mesh that rusted.
Replace your old faucet aerator with a new, low-flow one. Note that the new one is plastic, whereas the old one is steel mesh that rusted. | Source

Description of Faucet Aerator

An aerator is the tip of the faucet that screws off. It holds a screen that filters particles from the water. Standard bathroom faucet aerators allow water to pass through at the rate of 2.2 gallons per minute (gpm), whereas the newest ones pass through only 0.5 gpm - a 77% reduction in flow! And there's still plenty of water to wash with. In addition to saving money on water bills, using less water can save the electricity or gas that heated it.

Aerators reduce water flow by making the screen finer, so that water splits out into a greater number of smaller jet streams, adding air to the mix. It also constricts the size of the faucet a bit, so a smaller amount of water is flowing through the opening. These two things have the added effect of increasing the pressure, making the flow stronger, which helps a lot in areas where water pressure is normally low - in a third-floor apartment, for example. The added force helps that smaller amount of water still wash things clean.

After replacing your aerator, you can save even more water by turning the water off when brushing your teeth, shaving, or washing your glasses. Even in the shower you can save by turning the water off while you soap up.

A low-flow kitchen faucet aerator has a useful flip switch. You can turn the water on and off with a flick of your wrist.
A low-flow kitchen faucet aerator has a useful flip switch. You can turn the water on and off with a flick of your wrist. | Source

Difference Between Kitchen and Bathroom Faucet Aerators

In addition to filtering and aerating in the same way, kitchen faucet aerators often come with an on/off flip switch to save more water, if you use it. You wet your dish, flip the aerator switch up to stop the flow while soaping, then flip it down again to rinse off. Since the switch is at the end of the faucet, not the handle, it doesn't cause a change in temperature and it's right there to flick off and on with the back of your hand.

Older kitchen faucet aerators allow a flow of 3 gpm or more, whereas the newer low-flow kitchen faucet aerators allow a flow of 2.2 gpm or less, with the same amount of pressure. Again, electricity or gas is saved with the lower amount of hot water you use.

Although replacing aerators alone can save you water, how about replacing your showerhead too? It's not quite as easy as replacing an aerator, but with the right tools, which most people have, an adult can do it easily.

Even detachable showerheads can be water efficient.
Even detachable showerheads can be water efficient. | Source

Replace Your Shower Head

Low-flow shower heads are available to replace both wall-mounted and hand-held ones. Whereas standard shower heads use 2.0 gpm or more, the newer low-flow ones use 1.5 gpm, again with better pressure, if you get the right one. Wall-mounted shower heads are available for purchase at most hardware and plumbing stores for $25-30 and have a life span of 10 years or more. You can replace them yourself.

There are also showerhead adapters you can purchase that turn the water to a trickle as soon as it's hot enough to shower. The water going off provides a clear signal that it's time to start your shower and stops you from wasting water in the meantime.

An additional way to save water in the shower is to shower less often. It is entirely possible, and healthier for your skin, to take sponge baths instead of showers every other day. It might feel odd at first to shower less, but you quickly get used to it. Showering every day can then seem like an extravagant waste of water, which in truth it is . . . unless you have a job that gets you really dirty.

Restrictions On Water Use

Changing out your showerhead for a low-flow one is meant to reduce the amount of water you use. Getting around that by installing several jet showerheads in one shower stall defeats the purpose, although many installers have done just that. In 2010 the U.S. Department of Energy cracked down on this overuse of water, stating that the entire shower complex had to use less than 2.5 gpm.

Free Services From Water Suppliers.

Before purchasing aerators or shower heads, look up the website of your local water supplier. It may be that they offer aerators and/or shower heads free of charge to help their customers save water and money. Here is an example from the Los Angeles area: LADWP Free Fixtures.

Checking Your Efficiency

How have you reduced water use in your home so far?

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Some water suppliers offer free water audits, along with the fixtures. If yours does, take advantage of it! Their water specialist will check to see how you use water, both inside and outside, and show you more ways to save water and money after you've replaced the simpler fixtures.

Go Green: Water Waste Prevention


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