The water you use at home matters when it comes to energy use as well as caring for our communities and the environment. Because showering accounts for a major portion of household water usage, knowing how much water a shower uses can go a long way toward conserving it.
Water is a limited resource. If we waste it, we are depleting aquifers and diverting water from rivers and lakes, which harms wetlands. When we use more water than we need, we reduce water quality and make shortages worse. And getting water to flow from your spigots takes energy: to purify, pump and, in the case of your shower, heat it.
Saving water in the shower and using only what you need conserves both water and energy. Here, we’ll get into the details of showering many don’t know, such as how many gallons per minute a shower uses, and then provide some tips for using that information to cut costs and live more sustainably.
Here are some eye-opening statistics to help illustrate how much water your shower uses. Flushing toilets and washing clothes are two top uses of water in most homes, with showers coming in a close third. You may be surprised by how many gallons per minute your shower uses — on average, it’s 2.1.
The average shower water usage is calculated by multiplying that average flow rate of 2.1 gallons per minute by the average shower length of 8.2 minutes. So, 17.2 gallons is, on average, how much water is used. In a 10-minute shower, you’ll go through 21 gallons.
Water used in the shower can add up. If you’re like most Americans, you take just under one shower a day. If we round that up to seven showers per week, at 17.2 gallons per average shower, it comes to just over 120 gallons of average shower water usage per person each week in the United States. Over the course of a year, that comes to 6,261 gallons for a single person, or 25,043 gallons for a family of four.
Your actual water usage might be even higher than average, so reducing water used in your shower is one of the high-impact ways to save energy at home. Here are what drives how much water a shower uses:
How much water your shower uses is only one factor in determining how much it costs to run a shower. In addition to the price of water is the energy needed to heat the water. How much energy a shower uses depends on the efficiency of your hot-water heater, its size, the temperature setting and whether your water heater is powered by gas or electricity. Heating your water is the second largest energy expense in the average home, typically accounting for about 18% of your energy bill after heating and cooling. Another factor is added moisture to air inside your home. Hot showers can increase your home’s humidity, causing your HVAC system to work harder.
To calculate how much it costs to run a shower during the year, take your water bill and divide the dollar amount by the number of gallons you used. (If your utility measures water usage in CCF, 748 gallons equals 1 CCF, or hundred cubic feet.) The resulting number is what you’re paying per gallon of water. Multiply your price per gallon by the average per-person shower water usage of 6,261 gallons to get a sense of how much your own showers cost per year in water alone.
Next, calculate the energy you consume to heat that water. The energy cost calculator at Energy.gov makes it easy to plug in the variables to get an accurate estimate. Add the cost of the water and the cost to heat it (and multiply by the number of people in your household) to know your total cost of showers in your home.
Your water heater doesn’t have to work so hard when you take cold showers, saving energy and money. Experts suggest other cold-shower benefits. You might feel more energetic or enjoy softer skin. It might be easier to adopt this habit during hot days — a great way to save water over the summer.
Saving water and energy in the bathroom means saving money as well as the environment — two good reasons to be more efficient in the shower.
Here are energy-saving tips for saving water in the shower:
If you cut just a single minute from your regular shower, you can save hundreds of gallons of shower water annually and slash the associated heating costs. All it takes is following some water conservation tips.
Replace your regular showerhead with one of the newer low-flow options. Some models aerate the water for a satisfying misty spray. Laminar-flow showerheads emit individual water streams which are very effective for rinsing. Whichever choice you make, replace any showerhead from before 1992, as older showerheads have average flow rates of over 5.5 gallons per minute.
You can measure the flow rate of your showerhead by placing a gallon bucket under the showerhead and timing how many seconds it takes to fill. If you can fill a gallon bucket in under 20 seconds, you’ll reduce your shower water usage with a modern replacement.
What’s a “Navy shower”? Turn the water off while you shampoo and soap up your body and then turn it on to rinse. You can cut the length of time your shower water runs by 5 minutes or more — important on ships at sea where fresh water is at a premium. If you can stand cold water, you can save even more in your shower.
You might not need to take a daily shower. In fact, some people consider it one of the top energy-wasting habits. Sometimes spot-washing is enough. You might reduce dry skin, enjoying many health benefits as you reduce your water and energy usage.
Saving energy and water in the shower is easy with just a few minor changes in habit and by upgrading to a more efficient showerhead. Considering the benefits to your energy bill and the environment, you may find that the switches are more than worth it.
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