Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Save Water - Save Money

I was reading on some trendy gadget/DIY website the other day and came across a little known (in the US) technology called Dual Flush that can save a lot of water in the bathroom. Widely used in areas where water is limited, environmentally conscious (or stingy) folks are starting to pick up on it. The article said that retrofit kits cost less than $40 so it wasn't long before I was at the hardware store looking to pick one up.

The first one I purchased was for our old fashioned toilet that still uses about 4.5 gallons per flush. With enthusiastic potty trainers and drastically rising water prices I was glad to see that one get a tune up. Our other toilet was already a 1.6 GPF model, but same scenario, happy to save a few bucks/gallons a day. Here's the breakdown.

Upstairs on the old water hog I bought a One2Flush kit for $34. It promises to save 20 to 30 gallons per day for an average family which it estimates to be about $15 a month with water at $2.50 a gallon. Installation took about half an hour, mostly because it involved removing the tank. Depending on the age of one's commode this can be annoying but I had mine off with minimum difficulty despite thirty years of faithful service. The new flush valve threads in and the tank goes back on. Once filled and checked for leaks you snap in the new flush handle and make a few adjustments. There are separate floats for liquid and solid flushes, I adjusted mine so it uses just enough to clear the bowl for liquids and set the other float for max. The new lever is plastic and not super easy to read so I used the label maker to make it easier on the kids and house guests to figure out. The lever works easily and the short people declared it a major hit.

After that great success I purchased a HydroRight kit for our 1.6 GPF toilet downstairs. It was $25 on sale and promises to save $100 a year (that's $8.33 a month to compare to the other) Thinking I'd get a jump on things I spent a sweaty twenty minutes detaching the tank only to open the instructions and find out that it's not necessary with this model. After bolting the tank back on and restarting the clock I found the installation to take the promised ten minutes. (and no tools needed if you follow the instructions!) Similar to the other unit there were two floats to adjust for min and max flushes and after half a dozen tries I had it set. The flush mechanism is a push button rig which is a little more difficult for tiny fingers (although my three-year-old managed all right after a couple tries) but more easily readable. The smaller button on top has one drop, the larger button on the bottom has two. Unless I hear that visitors are confused I'll skip the extra labeling on this one.

So now all that remains is to wait out the remaining two months on the billing cycle and see how things add up. I know I hear fill valves running a lot less which is a good indicator. Another small fix I'm going to try is to throttle down the bathroom sinks. Both our bathrooms have short throw fixtures which make it easy to run them wide open. With little ones washing and brushing that can add up to a lot of water going down the drain. The simple fix is to open each tap in turn, wide open, and reach under the sink and slowly turn the shutoff valve until a satisfactory flow is reached.

Well, I know I'm not exactly Consumer Reports but I hope the information is helpful and that you won't be afraid to take the flush, er... plunge and start to save some water (and a little green) with some simple DIY around the house.



Middle Aged Woman said...

Or you could take a gallon milk jug, fill it with water and put it in the tank, thus decreasing the refill by a gallon per flush at a cost of exactly nothing. At least, that's what we do here.

Irish Gumbo said...

Whatever happened to the days of just using a brick? sigh. Talk about old school..

I like that trick with the short throw fixtures. The bathroom sink in my new digs is like that, may have to try it when the Wee Lass is here.

The Mister said...

I had tinkered previously with simply reducing the volume of the tank, but sometimes you just need full flushing power!

Coelecanth said...

Good on ya, even if the cost savings are minimal it's still the right thing to do.

The brick trick can cause problems. Over time they decay and the bits can interfere with the valve.

Here in Australia dual flush toilets are the law. In our rented farm house however, the septic system is so old and dodgy that we pretty much have to use the full flush every time. Mind you, we practice "If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down" and are pumping our water directly out of the aquifer so that's not so bad.

Ali Pappas said...

I have installed a dual flush kit from MJSI HydroRight. This made my old toilet into a modern water saving machine. With no help or tools, I had this installed and working in under 30 minutes. Now I save water and money off my water bill. Great product!