Can a faucet aerator save hundreds of dollars on your water bill?
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You may be asking yourself: “What the heck is a faucet aerator? I’m not a plumber!”
Less than 1% of the water on Planet Earth is available for human use.
Translation? Water is a finite resource.
You may not realize that water is a precious resource because it seems to flow freely out of your faucet and high pressure shower head. You may also not live in an area that’s ever experienced water shortages or droughts. I certainly have.
As a kid, “water is gone” was a phrase yelled in my house on a regular. We didn’t have a water tank (or a water heater for that matter) and whenever the water supply company shut off the water supply (which was often), we had to conserve the water we did have and also take showers by my aunt who lived next door. She was lucky enough to have a water tank. I wonder if this is where my water mindfulness first came into being? I never really thought about it until just now. Anyways…
You may never have experienced the above in your life. And that’s an awesome privilege that many people don’t have. I use that word “privilege” very intentionally because even if you haven’t experienced water scarcity, there are many people who are facing droughts and water shortages at this very moment, like California. And just about every developing country in the world. And the truth is: we do need to be mindful of how much water we use, to make sure that there’s lots of water for everyone in the future (and even at present). As I said, water is finite.
How to practice water efficiency
You can do the basics you’ve already heard about:
- turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth and washing dishes
- only run your dishwasher or washing machine if its full
- take shorter showers
But you’ve heard all of those a million times before. And the truth is, there’s so much more you can be doing and it’s a lot simpler than you might think. The next step is to check to see if there are any hidden leaks in and around your home.
“The average family can waste … 9,400 gallons of water annually, from household leaks.” – EPA
That’s a pretty crazy stat and when you scale that up to all of the US, that’s 900 billions of wasted water just from household leaks. Every year. We can do better.
So once you’ve started actively practicing water conversation with your habits and fixed any leaks in your kitchen and bathroom, under your sinks, from your shower heads, and in your basement, what’s next? Upgrades!
Water-efficient faucets, showers and toilets…oh my!
Next up is to retrofit your existing faucets, shower heads and toilets with water efficient attachments. Followed by replacing any faucets and shower heads that actually need replacing with WaterSense labelled alternatives. While standard faucets and toilets meet basic water efficiency levels, they still utilize an unnecessary amount of water. So making your home water efficient is an important step. You’re not ok with just the bare minimum…are you? I didn’t think so!
P.S. I’m just gonna focus on faucets and shower heads in this post. But stay tuned for a follow up on water efficient toilets as it deserves its own stage. Or shall I say: throne.
Option 1: Install a Faucet Aerator
also known as: a DIY-ers dream!
A faucet aerator is a small mesh screen placed on the end of your faucet that breaks up the flow of water by adding air to it. Don’t worry, you still get the same water pressure you want (and deserve!). But that pressure is powered by air and water, instead of just water. (Danco)
Faucet aerators significantly reduce the amount of water needed without sacrificing anything. In fact, they actually save you money, since according to the EPA, “installing faucet aerators is the single most effective water-saving plumbing change you can make!” And when you use less water, that directly translates to how much (or little!) your water bill is each month.
You can easily add an aerator to your existing bathroom/kitchen sink and even your shower head. Yes … even if you have a high pressure shower head. You don’t have to sacrifice water pressure for water savings. In this case, you can have your cake and eat it too!
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Finding the right aerator
The New Resources Group has an affordable selection of aerators that you can buy for both faucets and shower heads. I’m talking less that $2 bucks! Whoever said sustainability had to be expensive was wrong. And if you’re looking for a bit more guidance, Danco, one of the largest plumbing suppliers in the world, has a helpful blog on how to pick the right faucet aerator for your home and what you should be looking for. There’s also a bunch of aerators on amazon as well as in your local hardware store.
And in case you’re wondering what a faucet aerator actually looks like, here’s one below. It either fits into your existing faucet or shower head or it screws into the end. And they come in different finishes to match your existing aesthetic.
If you’re looking for the most cost effective way to make your home water efficient, then faucet aerators are the best way to go. But if you’re in the market for a new faucet or shower head, or even toilet, then a WaterSense upgrade sounds like its in your near future.
Option 2: Upgrade to WaterSense Labelled Products
WaterSense is a “voluntary partnership program sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.” Their products “are certified to use at least 20 percent less water, save energy, and perform as well as or better than regular models.” (EPA) The cool thing about WaterSense labelled products is that they’re usually cost-comparative to standard products, so there is no additional cost for making this change.
I just replaced a leaky shower head with an Oxygenics shower head for $25. It’s WaterSense labelled so I know it exceeds water efficiency standards and will give me peace of mind when it comes to turning on the shower. But again: $25. That’s pretty inexpensive considering how much it will save me over time, both on my water bill and on my energy bill since my hot water usage will also go down. Not only that, all of the decent shower heads I looked at (that weren’t WaterSense labelled) were about the same price or more expensive, so it was a no brainer for me.
WaterSense shower heads can save 4 gallons of water per shower.
WaterSense faucets (or faucets retrofitted with aerators) can save 700 gallons of water per year and are approximately 30% more efficient than standard faucets without sacrificing water pressure.
Online Shopping Tip!
When searching for WaterSense products online, there’s usually a filter on the side that allows you to check off the box for WaterSense certified (at least when your shopping for plumbing products). Be sure to check this box off to weed out the inefficient bastards you want nothing to do with. The filter is pretty easy to find on Lowe’s and Amazon, but is quite tricky on Home Depot’s website.
“WaterSense-labeled products and services are certified to use at least 20 percent less water, save energy, and perform as well as or better than regular models.” — EPA
Don’t forget to clean your aerators!
Now it’s important to keep in mind that these aerators need to be cleaned from time to time. That applies to both the ones you retrofit your existing faucets with and the ones that come in any WaterSense products you buy. But not to worry, it’s not rocket science. All you do is unscrew or remove the aerator and clean it with a dish brush or old toothbrush. This ensures that any debris or calcium build up in the water doesn’t inhibit the aerator from doing its thang.
Benefits of Switching to Water-Efficient Products:
Switching to water efficient faucets and shower heads reduces the amount of water extracted from your local watershed, which is important for:
- Protecting water quality
- Preventing water scarcity/supply issues
- Maintaining water supply during droughts
- Supporting local wildlife and biodiversity
- Maintaining quality of life for you, your local community and your local economy
Here’s your water efficiency game plan:
- Practice Water conservation by turning off the faucet when brushing your teeth and washing dishes, running your dishwasher or washing machine only if its full, and taking shorter showers
- Check your house for any sneaky leaks and fix them
- Retrofit your existing faucets and shower heads with aerators for increased water efficiency
- For any faucets or shower heads that need replacing and are unfixable, upgrade to WaterSense labelled products
Easy upgrades such as adding a faucet aerator to your sinks and high pressure shower heads and regularly cleaning those aerators are the best way to save thousands of gallons of water each year. And lots of money too since your utility bills will be much lower. Fixing hidden leaks in your house and actively conserving water by monitoring your water wastage are huge steps as well.