Why water-saving shower heads are a good investment

Many people might not think to look at their showers as being a source of potential energy and cost savings. That’s unfortunate, because there’s money to be saved in the shower along with natural resources too.

Consider the following scenario: Here’s the simple math for a family of four each taking a 7 minute with an average water-saving shower head (2.6 gallons per minute, or “gpm”):

  • 4 people x 7 minutes x 2.6 gallons = 72.8 gallons per day
  • 72.8 x $.0015/gallon = $.11 per day
  • 72.8 gallons x $.02 to heat it = $1.46 per day
  • Cost per 7 minute shower = $.37
  • $1.46 + $.11 = $1.57 per day to purchase water and heat it for showering
  • $1.57 X 365 = $573.05 per year!

Here’s the math for the savings this family would see by just installing a high-efficiency shower head:

  • 4 people x 7 minutes x 1.6 gallons = 44.8 gallons per day
  • 44.8 x $.0015/gallon = $.07 per day
  • 44.8 gallons x $.02 to heat it = $.87 per day
  • $.87 + $.07 = $.94 per day to purchase water and heat it for showering
  • $.94 X 365 = $343.10 per year!

So just by installing new shower heads, there’s several hundred dollars a year to be saved in water and energy cost. We’ve installed Peerless 76154 1.6 GPM Water-Amplifying Showerhead, Chrome units that cost us less than $15 – money well spent!

As you can see, hot water heating can be a major expense. As we aim for a simpler life, we’re aiming to use less water, and less commercially-provided energy heating the water. Stay tuned for our future posts about our attempts to heat hot water in some non-traditional ways!

Emergency Preparation: Water Strategy

A friend and reader recently posted a comment regarding our recent post, “it’s more than just flashlights and duct tape” asking how we handle securing/storing water. Here’s the comment:

“I’m assuming you have a well. Any advice on stockpiling for those of us who have city water? Water jugs?”

As we pondered our response, it seemed fitting to address this as a new blog posting since this is a practical issue that many people might find worth considering.

While it is nice in some ways to have a well, common domestic wells require pumps which in turn require power. Because of this, those who have wells are often more vulnerable to power-related emergencies than most people – at least in longer-term emergencies.

All that to say that a well is not necessarily the best source of water in an extended emergency – at least not the way North Americans use wells. Having a well does not necessarily aid in emergency preparation, especially if you have no way to produce electricity. In fact, it could actually be detrimental to have well water as a single source of water in an emergency.

In an extended emergency (ie. 14 days or more), a person or family is likely going to require more water than can be realistically stored by the average citizen. Stored water should only provide for your immediate water needs for the first days of an emergency until a plan for a sustainable water source can be implemented. A good preparedness plan should entail a sustainable means for acquiring potable water for as long as necessary (within reason).

At present, we have a multi-tiered water strategy consisting of several elements. Most of this is just common sense and should be tailored to meet the needs of your family. It’s based on a strategy we developed in general about preparation (which we’ll post later on) where we plan for emergencies from an immediate to long-term need. The triangle below represents how we apply this principal to our water strategy.

Progressive Water Strategy for Disaster Preparation

Progressive Water Strategy for Disaster Preparation

Water Storage
We start with storing enough water to maintain life (drinking and essential personal use, not stuff like laundry, coffee, etc) for several days for our entire family. We do that by keeping 7-Gallon containers ( these exact ones ) filled with water and stored in our home – one per person. This gives us at a minimum 1 gallon per person per day for 7 days. We have additional water stored in 55-gallon water drums, should we ever need them.

It’s important to note that clean water in an appropriate container does not go bad. That is, if you have water free of contaminants stored in containers that don’t leach anything into the water, it should not develop problems. It might end up tasting flat, but that is usually rectified by aerating the water.  Keep this in mind when choosing containers and the source to fill them from! Start with good, solid, and sealable containers and then fill them with the clean water. Never let water sit in open containers. This will invite disease and further devastation in an emergency.

Water collection and treatment
Some may have no hope of keeping enough potable water on hand for a long emergency or disaster, our strategy includes measures for treating non-potable water to make it potable. This means water found in streams, lakes, and other outdoor sources. The problem is, the majority of the surface water in the world, including North America, contains viruses, bacteria, organisms, etc. These can cause sickness and discomfort ranging from mild to severe/life-threatening. In an emergency, that last thing our family wants is the trots! We suggest handling this problem through expending effort and resources to do the following:

  1. Maintain the knowledge of where to look for and locate treatable water in the immediate area.
  2. Maintain supplies to boil water.
  3. Maintain supplies to chemically treat some water if necessary (not a good long-term solution – not sustainable).
  4. Maintain supplies to filter water and how to use them.
    In our case, we purchased a Katadyn Vario Microfilter and several replacement cartridges. We do not use this filter for leisure or recreational use but maintain a separate water filter for those sorts of uses (which also serves as a backup).  This too is also not a good long-term strategy since it’s not sustainable if/when the equipment fails. That doesn’t mean it’s not valuable!
  5. Maintain the knowledge of how to primitively filter water with natural, or readily available materials. Books like “When Technology Fails“ are an excellent resource for this sort of thing. Make sure you read and understand this stuff as much as possible before you need to know it!

Long Term Water Strategy
One needs a long-term strategy for the collect and storage water. For those in suitable climates, this could be from rain and snow (plentiful in the northeastern United States where we live).  We’ve pondered that next time our roof requires replacement, we’ll replace it with a suitable metal roof then build a cistern to collect this roof runoff, then an additional methodology to filter this water. If you have an occassion to erect an outbuilding, consider a metal roof for this added benefit.

Two books we intend to get are “Water Storage: Tanks, Cisterns, Aquifers, and Ponds for Domestic Supply, Fire and Emergency Use” and “The Home Water Supply: How to Find, Filter, Store, and Conserve It“. These books discuss how to use a variety of materials and methods to collect and store water.

Is it worth the investment?
Consider this… in the right emergency context, water would be worth more per ounce than gold! When without water, no other resource abundance matters. Water is fundamental to life, and yet despite this when we were considering these issues, there was plenty of hesitation to spend resources to help us store and secure water!

Much of what has been recommended here can be done for  $250 or less. That is for a water strategy (books, storage containers, filters, etc) which would provide a family with thousands of gallons of potable water.

We consider that a pretty good investment into the health and welfare of our family in the event of an emergency or disaster. This is one area you don’t want to skimp or depend on others!

Audit Heat/Cooling Loss to save up to 20% on heating and cooling cost?

I spent some time today using our utility company’s online self-help portal to determine some areas of cost saving measures. Without a doubt, heating and cooling is the #1 area of energy use in our home – and probably most homes.

Some of their tools show a savings of up to 20% by fixing areas of air infiltration throughout the house, as well as sealing leaks and drafts in the duct work.

In searching on Amazon, I discovered a device for $49 that scans for thermal differences so you can actually KNOW where the leaks are. I am wondering if anyone I know has had experience using this device. Here it is – Black & Decker TLD100 Thermal Leak Detector

Please comment if you’ve used it. I am considering getting this as soon as possible.

Audit your own electricity usage for $35

A few months ago, I purchased a P3 International P4460 Kill A Watt EZ Electricity Usage Monitor!

FInd Appliances and Devices quietly draining your electric bill

FInd Appliances and Devices quietly draining your electric bill

This nifty device allows you to see what kind of electricity your plugged-in appliances use. Simply plug the Kill-A-Watt into the your outlet and your appliance into the Kill-A-Watt and let it sit. It will show you the Kwh that your appliance uses in the time it’s plugged in.

This is very handy for seeing if some appliances have “ghost loads” – that is, they use electricity even when not in use. This is common in many appliances – especially those with “brick” plugs.

I have to admit, there’s two things I hate about this product (not enough to warrant not having one):

  1. Once you unplug the unit, the data you just recorded is gone, so make sure you write it down before you unplug it!
  2. There’s a rather obvious design flaw/annoyance where you cannot plug this and any other plug into a standard double outlet. I would highly recommend something like Power Strip Liberator Plus, 5 Pack to allow you to plug this into an outlet without interfering with other devices. These things are handy for those times when you cannot use all the outlets on power strips because bulky plugs take up to much space too!

I think this is $35 well spent since it will help our family unplug costly devices. Decide for yourself!

Money and Water Saving Showerheads

Recently, one of our showerheads broke. In shopping for a new one, I wanted to find a new showerhead that met several criteria:

  1. Affordable (no $100 showerheads for our family!)
  2. Energy Efficient (water conservation saves water and heating energy)
  3. Flexible – I am a tall guy, and we also have little ones. We need something that accommodates a wide range of sizes and positions.
  4. Quality – I chose Peerless because I’ve had good experience with them so far, they’re affordable, and best of all, have a lifetime warranty.

I could not really find an off-the-shelf solution I liked entirely. Most showerheads that include a flexible hose are 2.5 GPM (gallons per minute) – water-saving yes, but not quite enough in my opinion. I really wanted to get 1.5-1.6 GPM. The showerheads that save more water don’t usually have any flexibility and are usually under-powered too. Also, my wife wanted to maintain having a flexible hose showerhead so that we could shower the little ones.

My solution? Combine several showerheads and/or parts. Basically what I did was combined some items from several off-the-shelf showerheads with some stuff we already had to get the best of everything for less than many showerheads would cost. Now, I have a showerhead that combines fixed and flexible, is adjustable, affordable, and energy-saving. We could reduce our water usage (for showers) up to 40% and reduce our hot water usage, thus saving some electricity.

I ended up purchasing the Peerless 76154 1.6 GPM Water-Amplifying Showerhead, Chrome which we scored from Walmart (we usually hate shopping there btw, but didn’t have time to wait for Amazon) for $9.98. This gem of a showerhead was not only less than $10, it also uses 1.6 GPM – a full gallon per minute less than most showerheads. Yet, it seems to have a powerful spray pattern equitable to a 2.5 GPM showerhead. Very easy to install!

I also picked up a Peerless 4″ Sunflower Showerhead with Arm. I love the arm idea because it allows me to be able to stand under the showerhead (at 6′ 3″, this is usually impossible and I have to do squats to wash my hair). My wife didn’t want to give up the hose-mounted showerhead that we already had for the kiddos. So, I combined them! I simply replaced the fixed head of the existing two-headed showerhead with the Sunflower unit. Now, I have an affordable solution that meets everyone’s needs. I plan on buying an additional Peerless 76154 1.6 GPM Water-Amplifying Showerhead, Chrome from Walmart and replacing the Sunflower head so that my fixed showerhead is 1.6 GPM and my flexible showerhead is 2.5 GPM. This is a good compromise in my opinion.

If one were to do this from scratch, it would be pretty simple. This would allow for efficient showers that accommodate all size people, but also more forceful showers when needed. Here’s roughly what you would need:

  1. Buy a Peerless Sunflower Showerhead with Arm ($24.98) – if I can find just the arm cheaper, I would do that but most I have found have been as much as the entire showerhead system above.
  2. Buy an affordable matching showerhead with a flexible hose ($12.98)
  3. Buy a Peerless 76154 1.6 GPM Water-Amplifying Showerhead, Chrome ($13 at Amazon)
  4. Buy a Alsons #861-237 MP Chrome Shower Diverter
    to your liking ($2.03)
  5. Optional: Flow Control Valve ($2-$10)- let’s you slow the water down, or shut off while shaving or lathering up yet without turning off or adjusting the hot and cold supply thus saving more $$$.

Total cost for an adjustable two-headed, water-saving, flexible showerhead?  $49.98-$59.98. I know there are cheaper alternatives, but I think this is a reasonable price to get so many features in a showerhead setup.

To put it all together, you would first optionally attach your flow control valve (item #5), follwed by the diverter (item #4). To the main outlet of the diverter, you’d attach the adjustable arm from item #1 above. Next, remove the showerhead from item #1 above and replace with item #3 – the water-saving showerhead. To the other diverter outlet, attach item #2.

Doing the above, you’d have one extra showerhead which you could sell, give away, or tuck away for a plumbing emergency sometime.

These are just some ideas for anyone who has a hard time finding the showerhead of their dreams without spending $100.