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Karen Siddall
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As the holidays come to a close and a new year approaches, thoughts inevitably turn to making resolutions for the future. This year, along with all our weight loss, exercise, and financial goals, why not include a couple of long-term money-savers in the mix.

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve seen the “Save a penny today, double it tomorrow and so on” scheme that will eventually net you a pretty good-sized payoff come the end of the year. But what if you could make a few household adjustments that, once completed, would net you savings every time you turned on the tap?

Small change

Number 1: Install an aerator on every faucet in your home. (And check and rinse out those already in use.) An aerator is the little screw-on device on your faucet where the water come comes out. Aerators slow the flow of water coming out to a consistent 1.6 - 2.2 gallons per minute, and can be found at the local hardware/home improvement store for as little as a dollar. They even have special little wrenches for those that need some help with removal. Restricting the flow with an aerator limits the volume and increases the pressure of the water coming out. You’ll use less water per minute you have it running but it will be a stronger, more effective stream.

Number 2: Get a shower timer. You may be surprised at how long you actually stay in the shower, and reducing that time can add up to some decent water savings. Actually, the US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that average shower is in the 7 to 10-minute range. Obviously, my teenage son (for whom a 30-minute shower was not unheard of) was not included in that survey population.

Shower timers are available online for as little as $3 for a manual “sand in the hourglass” version that runs down from a 5 minute shower to higher tech types that will even restrict the water flow when time is up for around $150 and more.

Number 3: If your shower fills a one-gallon bucket in less than 20 seconds, replace the showerhead with a water-efficient model. Water Sense-certified showerheads (they’ll have a label) have been tested and determined to reduce the volume of water coming out to no more than 2.2 gallons per minute. That way, your 10-minute shower is now a 22-gallon shower. (Typically, a short shower uses less water that filling up the tub as a full-sized bathtub holds up to 75 gallons.) New showerheads range in price but you can pick them up at the hardware store/home improvement center for under $20. Even some of the large “rainstorm” style showerheads are Water Sense™-certified.

Chunk o’change

Number 4: Replace the old toilet with a new low-flow, high-efficiency model. This is a product that has really improved its performance since first being introduced. Most notable of those improvements is the flushing and clean evacuation of the contents in the bowl. The top complaint about the early models was that users had to flush 2 or 3 times to accomplish what the old models did in one – negating any water or money-savings in the process. But now, one flush is all that’s required, and there are a variety of designs, bowl shapes, and seat heights on the market for a price range of under $100 to high-end units over $500.   

Number 5: Replace the older dishwasher with one with an Energy Star™ rating. Although older dishwashers only used between 10 and 12 gallons of water per cycle, advancements in dishwasher and dishwasher detergents have gotten those totals down to four to six gallons depending on the cycle and the condition (how dirty the dishes are) of the load. Pricing these dishwashers at a variety of local appliance outlets revealed that you can obtain one of these Energy Star™ rated dishwashers for less than $250. And water savings isn’t the only plus, as the name implies, you’re going to use less electricity as well.

Number 6: Replace the older washing machine - Back in grandma’s day, a load of washing would require about 40 gallons of water to get the job done, however, improvements in laundry technology – both from a mechanical standpoint and a chemical one – have cut that volume almost in half. New washers typically can do a full load of clothes in approximately 25 gallons. There are a couple of high-efficiency models with settings that can reduce the requirement to a mere 12 gallons. No matter the model though, the water conserving feature that really hits the spot is the water-level adjustment. Matching the amount of water used to the size/condition of the load saves water. Choosing an Energy Star™ unit can also save you money on your energy bill. Using a laundry detergent formulated to be used in cold water can also help get your clothes clean and reduce your energy usage. High-efficiency, Energy Star™washers are available at numerous appliance outlets and for under $500.

One thing to keep in mind as you consider purchasing a major appliance such as a dishwasher or washer, is timing. Most shopping sites recommend deferring these purchases to September and October to take advantage of model year changes (when manufacturers introduce their new models). Significant sales of new “last year’s models” ensue. In recent years, Black Friday and pre-Black Friday sales are showing up and extending the saving opportunities into the month of November. But if the goal is to conserve water AND save money, waiting and setting aside funds for the purchase is a plan that serves both interests.

For more information about water conservation, visit the Prairielands Groundwater Conservation District website at www.prairielandsgcd.org

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