The Pros and Cons of Green Plumbing
Contributor: John Nelson, Plumbing Director of F.E. Moran
Writer: Sarah Block, Marketing Director of The Moran Group
The average household uses about 250 gallons of water per day. That is over 80 times more water than the flooding rain that wreaked havoc across Chicago and the North Shore in April. With some "green" plumbing initiatives, families have the potential to save gallons of water a day, but are these "green" plumbing methods always what they seem? We sat down with Mr. John Nelson, Director of F.E. Moran Plumbing, for some expert insight into "green" plumbing.
Tankless Water Heaters
Tankless water heaters are growing in popularity. With the need to conserve water growing in our society, the efficiency of these water heaters makes them a green choice for homes.
Tankless water heaters are very efficient in all contexts of the word. They take up the space of a large computer, as opposed to the standard water heater, which is over double the size.
Tankless water heaters only heat the water you need, when you need it, so it is not constantly working. Standard water heaters are working 24/7 to keep the 40-60 gallons of water it holds at 120-140 degrees, ready for when the water is needed.
The initial installation for a tankless water heater is more expensive than a standard. The tankless water heater costs $700-$1000, plus the additional cost of installation and updating the venting, gas pipes, and electricity to work with this type of water heater. Although, there are monthly cost savings of approximately $10-$30 a month, it generally takes 8-9 years to pay itself off in efficiency. The tankless water heater itself has a 10-15 year life, so if the motivation for choosing a tankless water heater is cost savings, the payoff may not be there.
The efficiency that makes tankless water heaters so appealing is also its downfall. Because tankless water heaters produce hot water as needed, if hot water is used in excess, there will be hot and cold temperature surges. Along the same vein, if a home has a whirlpool tub and a tankless water heater, an additional tankless water heater will need to be installed to have a large enough capacity to heat beyond the whirlpool tub, doubling the cost.
About 12 manufacturers design tankless water heaters, each with their own nuances. Because of this, they are difficult to service. If a part is needed, it may be difficult to find the correct manufacturer. Standard water heaters only have 3 manufacturers with a relatively standard design, making it easier to find replacement parts.
Low Flow Toilets
Many North Shore homes were built far before low flow toilets popularized in 1994. If your toilet hasn't been replaced in recent years, most likely the toilet uses approximately 3.5 gallons per flush. Replacing the old toilet with a low flow toilet can save up to 3 gallons per flush.
Low flow toilets are easy to find. Even if you are just upgrading to a newer toilet that is not advertised as efficient, it is still more efficient than older toilets. The new standard toilet uses about 1.28 gallons per flush. If you choose to get a dual flush toilet, it uses .5 gallons of water for liquids and 1.5 gallons for solids per flush.
Because newer toilets use less water, they may not have as thorough of a washdown of the bowl. Low flow toilets also tend to be louder than standard toilets.
Shower Heads and Faucet Aerators
Replacing shower heads and faucet aerators can be an inexpensive way to lower water bills. For an investment of less than $20, water bills may be lowered by 25-60%, according to the US Department of Energy.
Older shower heads that are typically installed in homes use 3.5-5 gallons of water a minute. New shower heads use 1.6 gallons of water per minute. They use a tight spray, like a mist, ensuring water pressure is not lost. If, on an average day, you take a fifteen minute shower, the shower head that is most likely in your home currently will use up to 75 gallons of water. With a low-flow, modern shower head that same shower will only use 22.5 gallons of water.
Standard kitchen and bathroom faucets use 4-7 gallons of water per minute. If you add an aerator to the bathroom faucet, you will save 1-1.5 gallons per minute, and in the kitchen, 2.2-2.5 gallons per minute. To test your faucet aerator for efficiency, time how long it takes to fill a 1 gallon milk jug. If it takes less than 20 seconds, you should add an aerator for some serious water savings. Adding low-flow aerators to faucets can save 1,100-1,500 gallons of water a month.
The low flow shower heads may eventually succumb to pressure problems due to calcium or rust buildup. However, there is a simple fix. Place a bag of CLR around the showerhead and rubber band. Leave it overnight. The next day, any calcium or rust within the head should be gone. If the problem persists, the calcium or rust buildup is behind the shower head. Homeowners can take the showerhead off and clean inside.
Going "green" with your plumbing is something that every homeowner will need to weigh the pros and cons before making a choice. If you need help making the decision, call the experts at F.E. Moran Plumbing.