Some months ago, I came across Mr. Money Mustache’s blog on shower heads. The title was so eye-catching, since he named it “An $800 Gift from Me to You”. It’s no secret that I’m an avid reader of MMM and that he has had a tremendous impact on our new mentality + goals. I’m not gonna repeat what he so eloquently wrote, but to sum up his points, there’s an easy way to quickly rack up savings in water consumption.
My weird obsession with water conservation is twofold. For one, I love exercising control over our expenses (especially the recurring expenses like utilities) and derive an immense sense of satisfaction from seeing a lower bill every month, and two, water really is a scarce resource. I grew up in Guatemala. While I personally never lacked access to clean water, I’ve seen first-hand, people who do have limited access to clean water. Also, here’s a timely article on how water shortage is not exclusive to the developing world.
While different cities use different methods to keep track of water use, the fact that customers are charged according to their consumption is pretty universal. This is good news for us because it means we have some degree of control over how much money we can spend on it. The bad news is (at least for M) that when I obsess over something, I tend to talk/think about that something around the clock until I’m satisfied. I know, I know. The more I spend, the longer it will take to recoup that amount in savings. Considering the fact that these water-accessories are relatively inexpensive and the fact that water shouldn’t be wasted for water’s sake, I think I got away with this one.
First, I started with the same shower head model MMM mentions in his blog. It’s called the Earth Massage 1.5 GPM (shower head’s water use is measured by how many gallons of water it sprays in a given minute) by a cool company called Niagara Conservation. The truth is, I didn’t realize Niagara made a 1.25 GPM model until after they shipped my 1.5 GPM. No problem, I wrapped it as a gift, and included in the X-mas gift box for M’s dad (he happens to be working on a project, and was presumably in need of a new shower head). I proceeded to order the 1.25 GPM model, which we have been using for the past 2 months, until today.
The standard shower head that most people use in their homes uses about 2.5 GPM. That’s 2X the water we use with our shower head. You can tell somewhat that this shower head uses less water, but not by much. It was more noticeable for M, who has incredibly long hair, but she said she’d get used to it, which she did. To tell you the truth, I still take the same 5-minute showers I used to take with a 2.5 GPM model. M still takes 10-15 minutes, just as she did before this change, and we both still get the same results. Again, I’m too lazy to plug in my numbers to MMM’s formula to obtain the cost/shower, so just read his analysis, and then make an estimated adjustment in your head since MMM uses the 1.5 GPM model and we used the 1.25 GPM model.
Just this past week, we got our new water bill. We were charged for the use of 1,300 gallons of water for mid-December to mid-January. According to the EPA, an average house of 4 can use up to 400 gallons/day. 400 gallons/day?! Is the average family running a swimming pool business in their backyard? It’s a pretty low bar, but I thought we did a decent job in beating those pathetic numbers. If you divide that number into two (since it’s only the two of use and two dogs), that’s still 200 gallons/day.
This experience only made me want it more though. Like I said, when I obsess, I can’t be stopped… so, last week, upon a day of research, we (by “we” I mean “I”) decided to get the Niagara Bi-Max Shower Head, which can be set on 1.0 GPM mode or 1.5 GPM mode. We all know that I didn’t get this model to put it on 1.5 GPM mode. Upon my first trial, I can say that this transition was comparable to our transition from 2.5 GPM to 1.25 GPM. You would think using less than half the water you are used to would feel like someone’s spraying you with a water gun, but that is not so. Niagara claims that their shower heads use pressure-compensated water flow technology to use less water while spraying you water with the same strength. To know you are using less water but are still getting a comparable shower is difficult to describe. You just have to try.
Briefly, for the braver souls who want to go further, I would recommend installing ultra efficient low-flow aerators in all the sinks in your house. Your standard aerator is probably using about 2.0 GPM. In our experience, all you need is about 0.5 GPM (Niagara), although we currently use Neoperl’s 0.35 GPM. The only downfall here is that we end up using the sprayer with the kitchen sink a lot to fill our Brita pitcher since the aerator takes so dang long. Here’s a video of how to install a faucet aerator.
Currently, we can’t do much about the other big ticket item (toilet) because we are renting, but we do plan on buying a super low-flow toilet when we do build our home. While these gadgets are a small investment up front, they quickly pay for themselves as water is a bill you will have every month for the rest of your life (unless you live in the boonies). In the meantime, we’ll see if we can continuously decrease our water usage/bill and I’ll report back with our next month’s water bill!
Y’all ever think about water conservation? Any ideas to go further?
*Few side benefits of using ultra low-flow shower heads include: 1) it’s virtually impossible for water to build up while you’re showering; and 2) your heater has to work much less to provide you with hot water!