Check your water flow to save water

Ever wondered how to find out how much water your shower or sink uses?

Most faucets have a number etched into the aerator. Unscrew the aerator from your sink and it will say “3” or “2.0” or if you are fortunate, “1.5.” This refers to the gallons per minute your water fixture spews into your tub or sink. Two, 2.5 or fewer gallons per minute is low flow.

If you want to check the showerhead without unscrewing it, put a five-gallon bucket under the shower, turn the shower on at normal flow, and time one minute. If the bucket is half full, the shower uses 2.5 gallons per minute. If it’s two-thirds full, it uses more than three gallons per minute.

Low-flow aerators and showerheads come in many varieties. Many sink aerators cost $5 or less. Showerheads can run $10 to much more, depending on how many bells and whistles you want. But if you can save a gallon per minute in the shower, and two people shower for five minutes each per day, you’ll reduce your use by at least 3,600 gallons of water per year, plus the fuel to heat the water. My new low-flow showerhead also has a switch to turn it down even lower while sudsing up, saving still more water.

In addition, keep your bucket in the shower to catch the water that runs from the faucet while you’re adjusting the temperature or after you shut the shower valve. Use this water for plants or, if you’re a scofflaw like me, for flushing the toilet when necessary.

This site offers a great overview of low-flow fixtures and how to install them. The bottom line is that it’s really easy. You’ll need your new low-flow fixture, pliers or wrench, and some plumber’s pipe tape (this is a very thin, almost soft tape that comes in a roll to wrap tightly around the threads of a pipe joint to prevent leaks. At my local Home Depot store they had a display tower of it right next to the cash register).

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