The average American uses 80 to 100 gallons of water a day, most of which is used in the bathroom. To put that into perspective, people in many African nations can access only 5.2 gallons a day — about the same amount used during a 15-minute shower.
Changes in rainfall and weather patterns, coupled with a growing interest in sustainability, have led many Americans to adopt strategies to conserve energy and water. Knowing how to save water in the bathroom can lower your utility costs, as can installing energy-saving bathroom bulbs and following other smart bathroom tips that will help you save on energy use.
Use warm or cold water. Water heating accounts for 18% of a home’s energy consumption. Showering or washing your hands in warm or cool water, especially during hot weather, helps with summer energy conservation. Showering with hot water in the summer also adds unwanted heat to your home, making it difficult to maintain a comfortable interior temperature.
Pro tip! As noted above, heating water consumes up to 18% of a home’s total energy use. So, it makes sense to use the most energy-efficient water heater possible. Selecting a water heater includes judging the merits of electric vs. gas water heaters (gas is generally the cheaper utility, but electric heaters are generally more efficient) and choosing the model that’s right for you. You may also want to consider whether you’d be better served by a tankless water heater.
Determining how to save water in the bathroom is perhaps the most crucial part of an energy-efficient bathroom plan. Aside from the benefits of saving extra energy required in water treatment, conservation is increasingly important in arid regions, and people are learning to value freshwater even in areas where water resources are abundant.
One of the most common energy-efficient bathroom tips is to shower instead of bathe. Showering uses less water than bathing, and energy-efficient bathrooms use as little hot water as possible. You can reduce your water and energy use even more with the following shower tips.
Shorter showers conserve energy. It goes without saying that a 15-minute shower uses more energy and water than an eight-minute shower. To gain an understanding of how much water you use when you shower, check out our shower water usage flowchart.
Low-flow shower heads save water by reducing flow rates to 2.5 gallons per minute or less. While most modern shower heads are low-flow, older models may have higher flow rates. Replacing older models with energy-efficient shower heads will reduce the amount of water used per shower.
If you’re serious about water conservation, you could take a “Navy shower.” Designed to conserve freshwater while on deployment, Navy showers (or GI baths) are easy to learn. First, turn on the shower to wet yourself down. Then, turn off the water while you lather up. Finally, resume the shower and rinse the lather off. This technique significantly reduces the amount of water you use during a shower.
Running a shower until it’s the right temperature wastes water. If you’re waiting for the water to warm up, put a bucket in the shower. The bucket will catch water that would otherwise go down the drain, and any water you collect can be used to water plants.
It takes 35 to 50 gallons of water to fill a bathtub, which is obviously more than the 25 gallons used during a 10-minute shower. If you prefer to bathe, you can save water by only filling the tub halfway.
Pro tip! Using cooler water in the summer makes sense, but what about when the weather is cold? One of the most energy-efficient ways to heat a bathroom is with radiant floor heating. It’s healthier than forced-air heat, and it means no more stepping from the shower onto an icy tile floor!
Sinks are another water-wasting culprit. Simply washing your hands can use a gallon of water — more if you run the tap until the water gets hot. Keeping your faucets in good condition, fixing leaks promptly, addressing sink clogs and changing a few hygiene habits can help reduce water consumption at the bathroom sink.
WaterSense-labeled faucets are low-flow faucets capable of saving 30% of the amount of water that flows through a faucet every minute. While standard faucets have a flow rate of 2.2 gallons per minute, WaterSense faucets use no more than 1.5 gallons per minute.
Installing new low-flow aerators is an effective way to conserve water flow on older faucets. Look for the WaterSense label on replacement aerators. Be sure to bring your old aerator to the store to make sure the new aerator will fit your faucet.
People tend to leave bathroom taps running when they’re doing “quick” tasks. After all, how much water will be wasted in the time it takes to brush your teeth? Quite a bit, as it turns out: Turning off the tap while brushing can save up to 200 gallons a month.
Like when you’re brushing your teeth, leaving the faucet running while you shave wastes water and energy. Instead, fill up the sink halfway and then shave. You’ll save water without extending how much time you spend shaving.
According to the EPA, the average household loses almost 10,000 gallons of water to leaky faucets and pipes every year — with 10% of homes losing 90 gallons to leaks every single day. Check faucets and bathroom pipes for leaks regularly, and fix any leaks you find as soon as possible.
Finally, we get to one of the largest users of water in the bathroom: the humble toilet. The average toilet uses 3 gallons per flush, and the average person flushes about five times a day. A family of four, then, might use 60 gallons of water a day just flushing. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce your toilet’s water use.
High-efficiency toilets use water velocity instead of water volume to remove waste. As such, these water-saving toilets can flush out a toilet bowl using as little as 1.28 gallons.
If you’re not ready to replace an older toilet, you can reduce the amount of water used per flush with this simple trick. Fill a plastic bottle with water, sand or rocks and place it in the tank, making sure the bottle doesn’t touch any moving parts. The bottle displaces water, reducing the amount used with each flush.
If your toilet continues to run after the tank refills, the toilet stopper or flapper may not be sealing correctly. Left alone, an unsealed stopper can waste hundreds of gallons (costing hundreds of dollars) of water over the course of a year. A new flapper costs about $10 and can be installed by most people with basic DIY skills.
Toilet fill cycle diverters help conserve water by diverting a portion of the water that would otherwise sit in the bowl to the tank. Less water sits in the bowl, and the tank fills faster. With the right diverter, you can save up to a half-gallon per flush.
Waste and bathroom paper are the only items that should be flushed down toilets. When people flush cigarette butts, paper, plastics, and other items, they’re wasting up to 3 gallons per flush that could be saved by depositing such items in the trash. Using the toilet as a trash can also introduce items into water treatment plants that force the plant to work harder.
Energy-efficient bathrooms don’t require extensive renovations. With some simple lifestyle changes, some inexpensive plumbing equipment and LED lights, you can cut down on the amount of energy and water that, in some cases, is literally going down the toilet.
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