Go green! Be eco-friendly! Buy environmentally-conscious, natural, recycled, organic, free-trade everythings! We hear these buzzwords daily but, as Kermit taught us, it’s not always easy “being green”. The fact is, we live in a world filled with disposable cell phones, styrofoam-housed fast food, and energy-hungry air conditioning. And to be totally honest, we kinda like it that way. Why, Convenience and Comfort are two of America’s founding principles! Or was that Liberty and Justice? It’s tough for my manatee brain to keep track. Oooh! Is that sea grass over there!?!
But back to the “green” discussion. Almost everyone wants to reduce their environmental impact, they just either A) don’t know how to, or B) don’t want to use more time or money to do so. Sure there are the outliers who revel in the thought of running the A/C at 55° with every window, door, and skylight wide open, but most of us are on the same page here. Taking the restrictions of human nature into account, the best solutions to our environmental challenges are ones that A) we already know how to use, and B) are quick and actually save us money. It turns out low-flow faucet aerators fulfill both parts of this equation, making them an ideal Sunday morning project for any property owner.
First, let’s take a look at the numbers. Every day in the United States, over 408 billion gallons of fresh water is used. A majority of this water goes to agriculture and to generate steam and provide cooling to thermoelectric power plants. Somewhere around 20 percent makes its way into our homes. Of this, 30 percent irrigates our lawns and planters; the remaining 70 percent is used inside to wash clothes, shower, and drink. If you factor in leaks, faucets account for about one-quarter of our indoor water use.
Since faucets are a major source for water consumption, they’re a great target for reducing your usage. Standard faucets use 2.2 gallons per minute (GPM). This rate of flow is useful for filling up tubs or buckets quickly, but for most applications like hand-washing or teeth-brushing it’s far more than what’s needed. Low-flow aerators come in a variety of different GPM ratings from .35-1.75 so you can choose what works for you. Obviously, the lower ratings equal more in savings but we all have to keep functionality in mind as well.
At the ecoSolargy office, we chose .5 GPM aerators in the bathrooms and 1.0 GPM in the kitchen. After struggling to figure out the mechanics of a band wrench, we were finally able to remove the old aerators. We were worried at first that the restricted flow would make it difficult to wash dishes and hands. Surprisingly the decreased flow has almost no negative impact! If anything, the new aerators actually increased water pressure by limiting water flow to a bunch of smaller streams. For about three bucks a pop, these little add-ons are a no-brainer. We estimate that the switch will end up saving about 600 gallons of water a month. 600 gallons! That’s enough to fill a standard hot tub each month, and all with minimal investment and no sacrifice in performance! Plus, we have a small commercial office – the savings would be magnified exponentially with a larger building! If you haven’t made the switch already, pick up some low-flow aerators this weekend and give them a go. And while you’re at it, grab some low-flow shower heads as well. The planet (and your wallet) thank you in advance.