Improving Water Efficiency

Originally Published in the Winter Park Home Magazine: Issue 1, 2010

Water use at a home can be divided into two different areas: use inside the home and use outside the home.  Surprisingly, residents of the City of Winter Park use approximately twice the amount of water for irrigation than they use within the home.  City residents use about 17,000 gallons of water each month in irrigation, while they use about 9,000 gallons of water inside the home.  Improving water efficiency is something every resident can do – even those who don’t plan on remodeling or building new homes.

There are several ways to reduce interior water use without affecting your lifestyle or quality of living.  One of the lowest cost measures is to install flow restrictors on your bathroom sink faucets.  Most faucets deliver at least 2.5 gallons of water per minute (gpm), but you can easily reduce this to 1.5 gpm without a noticeable difference at the sink.  The 1 gallon per minute savings adds up quickly and you don’t need to call a plumber to install them!

When it comes time to replace a toilet or your washing machine, consider more efficient models.  There are numerous dual-flush and low-flow toilets available in the market now – with many that are cost competitive with standard flushing varieties.  It is important to also consider the MaP ratings on each toilet to ensure you’ll be satisfied with its performance.  You will want to try to obtain a MaP rating of at least 350gpf.  As far as washing machines go, make sure you look for one that is ENERGY STAR rated and also has a Water Factor (WF) of less than 7.2.

You can make a much bigger impact on saving water outside the home and there are several low cost techniques that every homeowner can do.  One of the simplest measures to reduce water use is to check your irrigation system monthly for proper operation.  You should also adjust the amount of watering time for each zone based on the different seasons.  Generally speaking, landscapes need less water in the cooler months and you can reduce your watering times.

Another low-cost method to reduce water use is to install a rain-sensor for your irrigation system.  The sensor is tied into your irrigation timer and disables the system after certain amounts of rain.  Your irrigation system will automatically turn itself back on too.  A rain sensor is relatively easy to install, but you may want to ask your neighbor for help!  It is important to check your sensor every year to ensure it is still operating correctly, as some of the sensors only last a few years before needing to be replaced.

If you plan on a major makeover for your yard, consider following the Florida Friendly Yard (http://www.floridayards.org) and/or Water Star Program (http://www.floridawaterstar.com) guidelines.  Both programs provide checklists for implementing techniques to improve overall water efficiency at your residence.  You can make the biggest impact by planting a drought tolerant landscape that reduces the amount of irrigation needed for your yard.  Through proper planning, design, and implementation, you will end up with a great looking yard that requires less water to maintain.  My wife, Denise Smith, a Registered Landscape Architect with EverGreen Consulting (http://www.4egc.com), designed the landscape at our home and is a strong advocate for native and drought tolerant yards.

Are you interested in learning more and seeing water efficient products and other green building materials?  The Home Builders Association of Metro Orlando and the Home Depot are hosting a Green Building Material Exhibit in the parking lot of the Home Depot at Mall of Millenia.  The event will be held on February 20th, 2010 from 9am to 3pm.  Questions can be directed to Adrienne Stepan @ 407-691-2188.

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