Did You Know? Saving Water Means Saving Energy

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You may not think about it, but every time you use hot water in your home, you’re also using energy. After all, that water has to be heated by something, which usually means your electric or natural gas water heater has to go to work. Water and energy use in your home is so interconnected that if you’re looking to cut energy costs, decreasing your water use may be one of the easiest ways.

Every time you use hot water in your home — for things like showers, laundry and dish washing — you also use electricity or natural gas. In fact, water heating is the second largest energy expense in your home, accounting for about 18 percent of your utility bill.

Average Hot Water Use

 

Here’s a breakdown of the use of hot water in an average U.S. home:

Activity

Average Use

Shower

10 gallons per day

Clothes washer

7 gallons per day

Dishwasher

6 gallons per day

Kitchen faucet

2 gallons per minute

Bathroom faucet

.05 gallons per minute

Total Daily Average

64 Gallons

 

Water (and Energy) Saving Tips

There are plenty of ways to cut back on the amount of hot water (and energy) that you use, and increase the efficiency of heating your water:

Improvement

Average Water Heating Savings

Install low-flow showerheads and aerators in your kitchen and bathroom faucets

25 to 60 percent (and about 7,800 gallons of water per year)

Repair leaks

Variable, but a leak of one drip per second can cost $1 per month in hot water costs

Upgrade to an energy-efficient dishwasher

About 50 percent over older models (an additional 7 percent energy savings can be gained by using a “no-heat” drying cycle)

Wash clothes with cold water

Variable, but since 85 to 90 percent of the energy used to wash clothes is spent heating water, the savings can really add up

Set back the thermostat on your water heater to 120°F

From 3 to 5 percent for each 10 degree reduction in water temperature

Install a heat recovery system

Variable, depending on how it’s used

Install a whole-home tankless water heater

About 30 percent each month, compared with gas water heaters (more when compared with electric water heaters)

Install a solar water heater

Variable, depending on several factors

Install heat traps on your water heater tank

About $15–$30 off water heating costs each month

Insulate your water heater tank

If your tank’s R-value is less than R-24, about 4 to 9 percent

 

Sources

Flex Your Power, “Showerheads.”

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Install Heat Traps on a Water Heater Tank for Energy Savings.”

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Insulate Your Water Heater Tank for Energy Savings.”

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Lower Water Heating Temperature for Energy Savings.”

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Reduce Hot Water Use for Energy Savings.”

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Tips: Water Heating.”

Houston Issues Mandatory Stage Two Water Conservation Measures

Thursday August 18, 2011
Posted at 10:02

After a lingering drought and weeks of 100-plus temperatures, Houston, Texas on Monday moved to stage two of its water conservation plan, which requires mandatory compliance with the city’s water conservation measures. Under stage one, compliance with the city’s water conservation efforts was voluntary.

Under Houston’s stage two plan, residents are restricted to watering their lawns between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. two days a week. Residents with even-numbered addressed are allowed to water on Sundays and Thursdays. Residents with odd-numbered addresses are allowed to water on Saturdays and Wednesdays.

Residents are also required to fix water leaks within 72 hours.

Failure to fix leaks or comply with the mandatory water restrictions may result in fines ranging from $150 to as high as $2,000 for subsequent violations.

The move to mandatory water restrictions in Houston follows similar efforts across Texas as record-breaking heat waves and droughts cause water levels to continue to decline throughout the state.

Earlier this month, the North Texas Municipal Water District declared a Stage 2 Drought emergency for its 13 member cities across suburban Dallas. The move signaled member cities to begin implementing water conservation strategies. In Plano, for example, water conservation restrictions will be enforced beginning Aug. 19. Residents there will face restrictions similar to those in Houston, as well as fines.

For an extreme example, there’s Kemp, a small town on the shore of Cedar Creek Reservoir. Last week, Mayor Donald Kile shut down the municipal water system. The reservoir ran out of water. Completely. “No water. Zero water,” Kile said in an interview.

In Kemp, the worst-case-scenario was hastened by city planning issues — the water treatment plant that takes untreated water from Cedar Creek Lake is 40 years old and much of the town’s 30 miles of pipeline is from the 1930s and hasn’t been updated in years. In Houston, avoiding an escalated water emergency means turning to a neighbor to the north to stabilize Lake Houston’s declining water level.

On Monday, Houston notified the San Jacinto River Authority that it will be taking water from Lake Conroe. Houston, which built Lake Conroe with taxpayer money in the 1960s, has a two-thirds share in the water rights, and began releasing water from Lake Conroe into Lake Houston on Tuesday at noon. It was the first time that Houston has drawn water from Lake Conroe since 1988.

The initial release from Lake Conroe totaled 50 million gallons and will be gradually increased to 150 million gallons a day. Overall, the water level in Lake Conroe is expected to lower from 5 inches to 6 inches a week. Lakefront property owners have been advised to watch water levels to determine if they need to move their boats.

5 Tips for Conserving Water

Houston’s public works department provides five tips to help residents reduce water use:

  1. Make sure to keep your showers under five minutes
  2. While brushing your teeth, make sure to keep the water turned off when you’re not using it
  3. When running your dishwasher and clothes washer, make sure to wash full loads whenever possible
  4. Check your toilets for leaks or poor plunger seals that allow your toilet to run between flushes
  5. Replace older shower heads and faucets with newer models that promote less water use, such as low-flow shower heads

In addition to helping residents save water, Houston has also implemented its own steps to use less water during the current conservation period:

  • Suspended scheduled window washing
  • Suspended the scheduled power washing of buildings, sidewalks and parking areas
  • Discontinued washing city vehicles and equipment except when required for health, safety or critical maintenance reasons
  • Ordered an audit of all irrigation systems to check for leaks and make sure the timers and sprinkle heads are operating properly

For More Information

For more information about water conservation or water restrictions in Houston, residents are encouraged to call 311.

For additional water-saving tips:

Sources

Water Restrictions in Wake of Extended Heat, Drought,” WFAA-TV, Aug. 1, 2011.
North Texas Town Turns Off Water,” KVUE-TV, Aug. 8, 2011.
Houston Issues Mandatory Water Restrictions,” KPRC-TV, Aug. 15, 2011.
Officials Releasing 50 Million Gallons of Lake Conroe into Lake Houston,” KVUE-TV, Aug. 16, 2011.
The City of Houston: Public Works and Engineering website, “Education and Outreach Program.”