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The Simple Water Test to Save You Money

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In this sweaty summer heat, I find myself taking showers more often. But along with electricity, water is among the most costly utilities consumers pay for – and with inefficient shower heads that use more water than necessary, many of us are literally throwing money down the drain! Read on to find out how to test whether your old shower head is wasting you money.


Believe it or not, a shower is one of the top culprits for a high water bill – that refreshing time behind the curtain uses more water than you might think: the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that showers account for more than 1.2 trillion gallons of water a year. That’s about 17% of residential indoor water use, and more than the entire volume of Lake Okeechobee down in Florida.

On top of the cost of water itself, which has been rising rapidly in the past few years, we face higher electricity or gas bills to heat all that water. So unless you take your showers cold, cutting shower time has a double dividend. One way to lower the bill is to shower at your neighbors’ house…but before you go knocking on their door with a rubber ducky in hand, do this simple test to make sure your shower head isn’t costing you a pretty penny.

Water Bucket measured in gallonsHere’s what you will need:

• A bucket – marked in gallon increments
• A timer or a watch to measure seconds

Place the bucket under the shower head and measure how many seconds it takes to get to the one gallon mark. If it takes less than 24 seconds you could easily save water by installing a low flow shower head.

Before 1992, shower heads had a typical flow rate of 5 ½ gallons per minute (gpm). After 1992 the EPA cut the mandated flow rate standard by more than half to 2 ½ gpm. This means that without shortening shower time you could save up to 55% in water usage by just switching out your shower head.

The average shower lasts about 8 minutes, so that low-flow shower head will save you 24 gallons for each shower, or at one shower a day, that’s 8760 gallons per year per person. On average across the US, water costs about eight dollars for a thousand gallon, which means that a low-flow shower head pays for itself very quickly, to the tune of $70 saved each year per person in your household. You’ll save about three times as much if you live in Seattle, which has some of the highest water rates in the country, or twice that in San Francisco.

You could save even more if you purchase a WaterSense shower head. The EPA began this voluntary program challenging manufactures to create shower heads that will have a flow rate of no greater than 2.0 gpm without changing the overall shower experience. The shower heads that are able to meet this standard get to display the EPA WaterSense label. If you need a quick rule of thumb while shopping for shower heads, every time you lower the flow rate of your shower by one gallon per minute, you’ll save $22 a year for each person in your household.

Installing a new shower head is typically an easy do-it-yourself project. Simply unscrew the old shower head with an adjustable wrench and peel off the old plumbers tape from the tread on the shower arm. Apply fresh new plumbers tape over the treads to create a good seal and screw the new shower head tightly in place.

By Norma Jean Autry

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