Green home or regular home, water efficiency and energy efficiency are tied to each other in many ways, started at the source. It takes energy to pump and move water. It takes water to make electricity (in the case of cooling towers, for example). And many significant energy users in the home are tied to water use.
For example, inefficient clothes washers, dishwashers, and high flow shower heads all use a lot of hot water. The more hot water, the more energy used to make the hot water. Moving to more efficient water-using appliances can save you twice. In some places like Atlanta, Phoenix, and much of California, the water itself is a big issue. California is moving in the direction of water rationing with graduated tariffs based on volume usage—and high use can mean expensive water bills.
As I just alluded to, it doesn’t stop there. Water heating can be one of the largest uses of energy in a home. And needlessly throwing hundreds of gallons of water you just paid to heat down the drain just doesn’t make a lot of sense.
So what can you do? I’ll start at the high level, and we can pursue this thread further in the coming weeks and months. But here’s a quick and dirty version:
- Fix leaks! Dripping faucets can leaks dozens of gallons a day.
- Install new water saving fixtures and appliances. New designs really work. ENERGY STAR can point you to clothes washers and dishwashers. (I do like our Bosch Nexxt Washer.) And the new WaterSense program at EPA can give you direction on fixtures.
- Smart plumbing—hot water that has to travel hundreds of feet to get to your sink or shower means a lot of water that you once heated but that got cold while it sat in the pipes goes down the drain, wasting the water and the energy you’d used to heat it. Shorten the distance! With new water heating and plumbing technology, this is possible.
- Speaking of those pipes, insulate them!
- Look into drain water heat recovery. (I’ll post pictures when I install one in a few weeks.)
- Look into solar hot water. This technology is vastly different from the not-always-ready-for prime time systems of the 70s and 80s.
- No water heating involved, but move toward less water intensive landscaping.
It’s possible to save water and save energy and money at the same time!