Living in North Bellmore, I pay those overpriced Aqua New York water bills just like everyone else around here, and I’m fairly certain that my fuel bills for heating household hot water won’t exactly be going down any time soon either.
So, I set out to find ways to save water and related water-heating costs. Being that I have that “tree-hugger” proclivity, of course, I also set out to find the most planet-friendly options available as well.
Dollars Down the Drain?
Doing our little part to conserve water is more important to our planet than you may think. By the year 2050, some 4 billion people — more than half of the world's population — will suffer major water shortages by 2050. Closer to home some states that share limited water resources, such as the Colorado River, may face freshwater shortages by 2025, according to the World Health Organization.
If doing the right thing is not sufficient motivation to save water, one glance at the Bellmore/North Bellmore water bills — so very much higher than those in surrounding communities — should be. The less water you use, the lower your Aqua water bill will be, despite its unfair higher-charge for lower usage policy.
As a start, look at your Aqua bill to see how much water your household currently uses. The average American uses about 80 to 100 gallons of water every day, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior, so multiply that by number of family members. Add more for pets, pools, car washes, and if you have teenagers taking never-ending or multiple showers!
When asked how homeowners could best conserve water, Tom Franklin, of TJF Plumbing & Heating in Bellmore, said that low-consumption toilets, water-miser faucets, energy-efficient washing machines and water-savers in showers may help
“There are a lot of little things you can do,” Franklin said. “Water consumption is actually you.”
Toilets account for about 27 percent of total daily water usage, with clothes-washers at about 22 percent and showers/baths at about 19 percent, according to American Water Works Association. The biggest water saver is to be mindful of not letting the water run unnecessarily, including shorter showers and turning faucets off while brushing teeth or shaving, for example.
Franklin pointed out that people often overlook toilets that are running or leaking, dripping faucets in sinks and tubs, and outside hose spigots or sprinkler systems, but those are huge water wasters. It is the little leak that keeps leaking that wastes water. The Interior Department reports that a leak of a gallon every ten minutes adds up, and "means that you are losing [and paying for] 144 gallons per day, or 52,560 gallons per year.”
Rain barrels were probably the first method of conserving water known to man.
The concept is simple. You collect rainwater in a barrel and use it for your lawn or garden. Today’s barrels, most often replaced with ceramic or other types of containers, have changed little in concept or design, and make particular sense during summer months when drought restrictions curtail watering. Oh, and of course, rainwater is free!
As an aside, rain chains — a favorite of mine for aesthetics alone — can also be used as a downspout, instead of leaders from overhead roof gutters, to direct rainwater into a barrel or other collector.
Less Wasteful Water Ways
Water conservation considered, why not also look to save energy in the common ways in which we use water?
So-called “water-miser” faucets and energy-efficient washing machines can reduce electricity costs and may benefit from federal Energy Star tax rebates. Additionally, washing clothes in cold or warm water rather than hot water can also save a great deal in electricity or oil or gas usage, depending on which energy source heats up the water.
According to online efficiency guru Mr. Electricity, “A whopping 90 percent of the energy used by washing clothes often goes just to heat the water."
Can't Stand the (Cost of) Heat
Heating water accounts for up to 30 percent of the average home's energy budget, according to Consumer Reports. Replacing a warn-out, poorly insulated hot water tank may help reduce costs somewhat by keeping water hotter longer.
Remember, however, it takes less energy to heat household water in summer than in winter, since water piped in starts warmer to begin with. That is the principle behind a few other interesting cost-saving water-heating systems that are becoming increasingly popular. Most call for a one-time initial outlay greater than the cost of a simple replacement of the existing water tank, but save electricity, oil or gas over time, a payback that quickens as fuel rates rise!
Master plumber Steven Wood of Steven Wood Plumbing & Heating in Bellmore has seen increased interest in tankless water heaters in recent years, for example.
“They are well designed to handle a medium household,” he said, covering both a shower and a washing machine running simultaneously in his experience. He said the idea was that you burn less fuel “because it’s an on-demand system, and you are not constantly heating that [water] tank.”
These systems “modulate” the BTUs used, Wood said, only using the amount of fuel needed to heat the water at the specific time so there is no waste of energy. Also, many of these systems are eligible for an Energy Star rebate of up to $300. Wood also recommends indirect-fired water heaters, another way to cut down on constant fuel demand to heat household water.
“We just began offering tankless hot water heaters in conjunction with our skylight-look solar hot water systems to further reduce fuel costs related to heating domestic water,” Dan Sabia of Built Well Solar Corp. in Bellmore/Wantagh said.
The solar hot water system his company offers features either two or three panels that look like skylights which collect the heat from the sun, under which tubes containing a glycol (antifreeze) mixture circulate and are pumped inside the house to heat water in a storage tank.
“In the summer some homes with solar hot water systems never see their boilers kick in to heat the water at all," Sabia said. Federal and state tax credits as well as Energy Star rebates may apply to solar hot water systems. See the database of available incentives.
“Adding solar to a tankless hot water heater would be phenomenal,” Wood said. “You could have solar heating the water in the day and the boiler heating it at night.”