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Green and sustainable plumbing options

Last Updated Apr 3, 2018 · Written by Rob Schneider


When we think about green and sustainable, we usually think about our electricity usage, but there are other ways to be green and sustainable. Every day we use far more water than we need and we don't try to conserve water as much as we can. Technology and innovation have made green and sustainable plumbing possible in any home.

  1. What is green and sustainable plumbing?
  2. How much water does a water saving shower head save?
  3. Why switch to a dual flush toilet?
  4. Installing a rainwater tank in your yard
  5. Why a greywater tank may be a good investment
  6. Use low flow taps throughout the house
  7. Why green and sustainable plumbing works to your advantage

What is green and sustainable plumbing?

Green and sustainable plumbing can take many forms. These are some of the ways you can make your home plumbing greener and more sustainable:

  • Switch to a water saving shower head
  • Buy a dual flush toilet
  • Install a rainwater collection tank
  • Reuse greywater
  • Replace taps with low flow taps

These are plumbing changes you can make, but you can also do other things to make home plumbing greener:

  • Only wash clothes when the clothes washer is full
  • Wash dishes in the dishwasher when the dishwasher is full
  • Take shorter showers
  • Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth
  • Fix all leaking taps

These seem like small things, but they can save water over the long run. For example, when you keep the water running when brushing your teeth, the tap will run 6 litres of water per minute. Brushing teeth usually takes about two minutes, so that's 12 litres of water wasted. Multiply that by a year and you have wasted around 4380 litres of water. It's so easy to turn off the tap and turn it on again when you need it.

Find out the cost of being energy efficient

How much water does a water saving shower head save?

Water saving shower heads can save a tremendous amount of water. The average shower is about seven minutes long. Using a conventional shower head, you use around 12 to 22 litres of water per minute or 84 to 154 litres per shower.

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A water saving shower head will have a WELS rating for water efficiency. A good water saving shower head will only use about 9 litres of water per minute or 63 litres of water per shower. Multiply that figure by the number of showers a family takes in a day and it's easy to see how much a water saving shower head can save. When you multiply the number of showers a family takes in a day by their water usage over a year, the amount of water saved can be phenomenal.

Why switch to a dual flush toilet?

Toilets also come with WELS ratings. A conventional toilet uses about 12 litres of water per flush. A dual flush toilet uses only 3 litres with a half flush and 4.5 litres per full flush. That is a water saving of 9 litres for a half flush and 7.5 litres for a full flush.

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The best way to determine how much water you save with a dual flush toilet is to count the number of times a toilet is flushed in a day and multiply that number by a year. Like a water saving shower head, the amount of water you save can be extraordinary over the course of a year and when you consider how many years you flush toilets, it amounts to tens of thousands of litres of water.

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Installing a rainwater tank in your yard

When it rains, water collects in your guttering and flows out the downpipes, never to be seen again. A rainwater tank will collect some of that water and you can use it to water your plants. Rainwater tanks can be large or small and some can be installed under the house or underground. Some are bladder type tanks that fill up with water and retract as the water is used.

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Rainwater tanks installed above ground don't have to be unsightly or obtrusive. Modern rainwater tanks come in a variety of colours and are designed to fit neatly next to the house or against a wall or fence. They are not an eyesore and can save water by reusing rainwater that would not be available if you didn't have a rainwater tank.altA rainwater tank is an ideal way to make your plumbing green and sustainable. They range in price and should be installed by a technician, but once you have one, you'll wonder why you wasted all that rainwater before you purchased a rainwater tank.

Why a greywater tank may be a good investment

When we wash clothes or do the dishes, a great deal of water goes down the drain. From there, it may seep into groundwater supplies or go into the ocean. It is not filtered and can be a source of water pollution.

There are two types of greywater tanks. One type uses a filtration system, but must be used within 24 hours. A better system will inject ozone into the tank to purify the contents. A greywater tank like this does not have to be used within 24 hours and arguably makes the water cleaner.

Once cleaned, you can use greywater for watering the garden or even divert it to your toilet and save even more water.

Use low flow taps throughout the house

Advantages of Low Flow Taps outlines the many advantages of these types of taps. For one thing, an average tap uses 15 to 18 litres of water per minute while a low flow tap only uses 3 litres per minute. Does that mean you will be using more water to get your dishes clean?

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Watch what happens when you use a conventional tap. Water flows off the dishes or your hands and goes down the drain. That much water is not needed and a low flow tap will clean dishes or wash your hands more efficiently than a standard tap. Instead of wasting water, it will give you as much as you need, but will waste far less water.

Why green and sustainable plumbing works to your advantage

If you're building a new home, use green and sustainable plumbing wherever you can. If you're in an existing home, replace your plumbing fixtures with green and sustainable plumbing fixtures whenever you can. If you're renovating the bathroom, replace a conventional toilet with a dual flush toilet. If you're doing a minor renovation and not replacing everything, a water saving shower head is not expensive and can easily be installed. Low flow taps are not expensive, either and can save thousands of litres of water per year.

Rainwater tanks and greywater tanks are more expensive and should be installed by professionals. However, you won't regret installing them when you see how much water you save. While they may not have a "payback period" as short as the payback period for solar power, you will have the satisfaction of knowing you are not wasting water and not contributing to water pollution in groundwater or in the ocean.

You may not want to use all of these green and sustainable plumbing ideas all at once, but keep them in mind and use them when you're ready to use them. And don't forget that green and sustainable plumbing goes beyond the products you buy. Remember to use full loads in your dishwasher and clothes washer and turn off the tap when you're brushing your teeth. These small steps will save water that otherwise would have been wasted.

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