Water Conservation – Repairs and Retrofits
At the end of last week’s post, we talked briefly about water conservation, and some good habits that you can develop in your home to promote more efficient water usage. This week, we’d like to expound upon that, and cover the other two of the three basic rules of water conservation: reduce, repair, and retrofit. We covered “reduce” in our last post, so now we want to talk about the other two – repair and retrofit.
A single leak of only one drop of water every second will waste approximately a thousand litres of water in a year. It is not a difficult task to locate and repair any leaks in your home.
- Leaking Faucets. These can usually be handled by replacing a single washer. Most hardware stores sell these for just a few pennies, and it only takes a moment to replace.
- Running Toilets. If your toilet continues to run after you flush it, there may be a problem. A leaky toilet can waste approximately 200,000 litres of water a year. To check for a leak, you can put a couple drops of food colouring into the tank. After a few minutes, if the water in the bowl is coloured, there is a leak.
A running toilet is usually the product of a flapper valve that is not seated correctly. This is the valve that is lifted when you push the flush handle. After releasing the handle, the flapper should re-seat itself into the valve seat. Replacing or repairing this valve can save a lot of water. Alternatively, there could be a problem with the seat itself, which may need to be sanded down or replaced.
Retrofitting is the process of upgrading fixtures or components to use newer, more efficient parts. This may require a complete replacement of some fixtures, while other may only need slight adaptations to mate with the new components. Prime targets for retrofitting are toilets, shower heads, lawn sprinklers, and faucets. It may cost a bit more to retrofit a fixture, but in the long run, it can save tonnes of water and money. We recommend handling retrofits in stages, upgrading the most wasteful appliances first, and then working on the others afterwards. This way, your retrofit process is a much more manageable affair.
The toilet should be the first appliance to work on when conducting plumbing retrofits. The two choices you have with a toilet are either: a) adapt, or b) replace.
Adapting entails the replacement of certain components within the toilet tank to use lower volumes of water.
If your toilet is older than 20 years, it’s a good idea to completely replace it with one of the newer ultra-low-volume (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low_flush_toilet) models. This can reduce your water consumption from about 20 litres per flush cycle to around 6 litres.
There are some devices that can be installed into the tank of your toilet that can transform a wasteful old toilet into a more efficient fixture. These devices are categorized by their functions, which can be broken down to:
- Water retention;
- Water displacement; and
- Alternative flushing.
The most common retention device is a toilet dam. This device blocks off a section of water around the valve, conserving about 5 litres of water per flush cycle. Dams are very inexpensive and easy to install, costing under $15 and taking approximately 5 minutes to install properly.
An example of a water displacement device would be a displacement bag. This is a plastic bag filled with water. What this is essentially doing is occupying a certain volume of space, meaning that with every flush cycle, that amount of water is conserved. These are also inexpensive, and can even be fashioned from products lying around your home. A plastic bottle could be used if you wish.
That’s all for this week, but keep your eye on this blog, as we’ll be offering some more valuable information on water conservation and retrofits in the future!