How to Do a Home Water Audit

How to Do a Home Water Audit

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It’s so easy to turn on the taps that a lot of us don’t notice how much water we send down the drains every day. But when you add up all those showers, lawns, and dirty dishes, you end up with a lot of wasted water. In fact, the EPA estimates that the average American family of four uses up to 400 gallons of water a day! If you want to turn this around and start conserving water in your home, a home water audit is the best way to figure out where to begin.

Know where your water goes

Check your bills: The easiest way to see how much water you use is simply to look at your water bill – it’ll give you an idea of your monthly usage and also help you keep track of seasonal changes. For example, peaks in the summer can show you’re using too much water for gardening or lawn care. If you live in a stand-alone home, you can also read your own meter to get a better idea of your day-to-day water use and to figure out how much water you use for tasks like doing a load of laundry, running the sprinkler, or a washing the car. If you get a communal water bill, you’ll have to be more creative about how you measure your water use. Try keeping a written record of all the times you use water over the course of a week and then estimate the total amount from the average usage figures for your fixtures and appliances.

Monitor your usage: It can be difficult to figure out which appliances and fixtures in your home use up the most water, so it’s important to pay attention to your behavior to find opportunities to save. Do you leave the water on when you brush your teeth or run small loads of laundry when you could combine them into a single, larger one? Some of the best ways to save water involve making changes to your everyday routine, so get to know how you and your family use your faucets, showers, and washers.

Inspect your home

Be smart with appliances: If you’ve got older dish washers or washing machines, think about replacing those old appliances with new appliances certified by the EPA’s WaterSense program. These appliances are at least 30% more efficient than other models but maintain the same level of performance.

Look for leaks: A staggering 14% of the water that goes into American homes isn’t used at all—instead it spills out of leaky faucets, hoses, and toilets. Most of these leaks can be easily fixed, so make inspecting your fixtures a priority during your water audit. Look for taps and hoses that drip, and pay attention to how long it takes your toilet to refill—if you have to jiggle the handle or it periodically refills when it hasn’t been used, you probably have a leak.

Update your fixtures: The flow rate on your faucets and showerheads will have a huge impact on your home water use, and it’s easy to test how much water your fixtures use—just run your taps on full for six seconds into a large measuring cup and multiply the volume by ten to get the flow per minute. You’ll want your taps to run at or below .5 gallons per minute (gpm) and your showers to run below 2.5 gpm.

Flush less: It’s also easy to measure how much water your toilet uses per flush. First, shut off your toilet’s water supply and mark the water level in the tank. Then flush and refill to tank with a pre-measured amount of water. New, high-efficiency toilets can use as little as 1.5 gallons per flush, so if your toilet uses more replace it or install a toilet dam.

Build a plan

Once you have a list of all the areas where you can improve, it’s time to put that information to good use. To put together a plan that will meet the needs of your home and fit within your budget, start by dividing your list into categories:

Changing habits: Look over your water use journal to find changes you can make in your daily routine that will cut down your water use. Examples include turning off the water while you brush your teeth, skipping the extra rinse cycle on washing machines and dish washers, and setting sprinklers to run at night.

Easy fixes: Next group together the simple, cheap fixes. Examples include installing toilet dams, putting in low-flow fixtures, and patching leaky pipes.

Big investments: The last items you’ll want to include on your list are the big changes you can make to your home. Examples include: replacing appliances, updating plumbing, and relandscaping your yard.

Once your list is ready, you can decide which changes will work best for you. And remember to keep an eye on water bills or your meter so you can gauge how successful your updates have been. Lastly, always keep in mind that even the smallest changes can make a difference!

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