Carney Plumbing Heating & Cooling Blog : Posts Tagged ‘Water Conservation’

What Is a Flapper Valve?

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Your toilet is not an overly complicated piece of equipment. But in order to work properly, it does require that all of its parts are in the right place and in good shape. Even if something small on your toilet is out of place, it can cause problems like constant dripping or running, improper flushing force or a sudden refilling of the bowl when no one has flushed the toilet.

These problems can sound serious, but many of them are quite easy to address if you know where to look. With most toilets, that place is the flapper valve. The flapper valve is a relatively small rubber plug that fits over an opening at the bottom of your toilet tank. When you press the handle to flush your toilet, the flapper valve lifts up and allows all of the water from the tank to go rushing into the bowl.

The force of this water pushes everything out of the bowl through the drain at the bottom, clearing the bowl and refilling it with fresh water all at once. As long as the flapper valve is able to maintain a tight seal, this process will go along smoothly without a hitch. But sometimes these valves become dirty or simply wear out.

When that happens, water can begin to leak down from the tank into the bowl on an almost constant basis. Depending on the severity of the leak, this may just cause the toilet to run constantly. Or it can even cause periodic “phantom flushes” were the toilet clears the bowl without anyone pressing the handle.

Phantom flushes occur because too much water has seeped down from the tank into the bowl. When the volume in the toilet bowl reaches a certain level, the water in the bowl is forced out, resulting in a flush. This wastes water and can also be pretty startling if you are not expecting it. Fortunately, though, you can usually fix this problem easily enough.

To do this, check your flapper valve to make sure it is keeping a tight seal with the bottom of the tank when not in use. If it is not, you may only need to clean it off to restore the integrity of the seal. In more serious situations, however, you may need to replace the flapper valve entirely. This is not difficult or expensive and can save you a lot of water in the long run.

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Dual-Flush Toilets: Another Great Green Plumbing Innovation

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

If you’ve traveled to Europe or Australia, you’ve probably seen toilets with two buttons instead of a single flush handle. Pressing one button flushes the toilet lightly to remove liquid waste, and pressing the other produces a higher-volume flush to remove solid waste.

Originally designed for drought-prone Australia, these water-saving toilets are becoming increasingly popular in North America as well.

Standard 1.6-gallon toilets are a great improvement over older toilets, which used 3 or even more gallons per flush. But dual-flush toilets are even more water-efficient. A “full flush” uses 1.53 gallons per flush, and a “half flush” uses only 1.02 gallons per flush. The result is a reduction of up to 68% in water usage over a conventional toilet (and even more if your conventional toilet is old and leaky).

Of course the savings vary from person to person, but if you use the toilet an average of 5 times a day, you’ll save close to 600 gallons of water every year. For a family of four, that works out to a total savings of 2400 gallons annually. And, since toilet usage typically accounts for roughly a quarter of your water bill, you can end up with a monthly savings of close to 17%.

Another benefit of dual-flush toilets is that most models have a larger trapway for removing waste than conventional toilets – which reduces the likelihood of a clog.

Finally, dual-flush toilets look great. They are sleek, modern, and European-looking, and they perfectly complement a high-end bathroom.

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Plumbing Is Going Green! Start with Simple Upgrades to Your Faucets and Showerheads

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

When people talk about “green building”, they’re typically referring to energy-efficient heating and cooling appliances, insulated walls and windows, and sustainable materials. But these days “green plumbing” is getting increasing attention – and rightly so, because water consumption is a major factor in the environmental footprint of any building! The green plumbing movement is being led by drought-prone Australia, where it’s even possible for plumbers to earn a Green Plumbing Certification.

“Green plumbing” helps the environment by doing one or more of the following:

  • Saving water
  • Saving energy
  • Using environmentally-friendly materials

In the US, LEED Certification is becoming increasingly popular, which means that green plumbing systems are being installed in many new or substantially renovated buildings. But green plumbing improvements don’t have to be big and expensive. In fact, they start at under $20.

Over the course of the next few blog posts, we’ll look at a range of green plumbing upgrades – some that you can do yourself, and others that require professional assistance.

In this first post of our “Green Plumbing” series, we’ll look at the simplest and most affordable green plumbing upgrade you can make: installing low-flow faucet accessories and showerheads.

How do low-flow showerheads and faucet accessories work?

Low-flow showerheads and faucet accessories (often referred to as aerators, which is the most popular type) attach to existing fixtures. Normal-flow showerheads use about six to seven gallons per minute (GPM), and the water comes out at about 80 psi (lbs per square inch, a measure of pressure). Of course, if you try to use less water with a normal showerhead, the stream is flat and insubstantial – a very unsatisfactory shower experience. Low-flow showerheads solve this problem by forcing the water into a narrower opening, which reduces the amount of water that comes out, but maintains the pressure at 80 psi for a nice strong stream. (It’s like partially blocking the end of a hose with your thumb to increase the force of the water coming out – except that low-flow faucets and showerheads reduce the size of the stream only a little, just enough to maintain existing pressure with less water.)

Low-flow faucet accessories work the same way.

There are two different kinds of low-flow faucets and showerheads:

  • Aerating faucet accessories and showerheads mix air into the water stream for steady pressure. The steady stream sensation is very popular with consumers. However, mixing air into the water can lead to a reduction in water temperature, which can be a drawback for showers during the winter months.
  • Non-aerating faucet accessories and showerheads don’t mix air into the water, which results in a pulse-like rather than a steady-state stream. Not everyone likes the pulse effect, but those who do say it feels like a gentle massage. Non-aerating faucet accessories and showerheads maintain water temperature very well.

How can you tell if you need a low-flow faucet or showerhead?

The EPA standard for new residential lavatory (bathroom) faucets is 1.5 GPM (gallons per minute). Your current faucet may have an aerator on it already, and if it does, it will have the GPM stamped on the side. If the GPM of your existing aerator is greater than 1.5, you should upgrade to a new high-efficiency faucet aerator. If you don’t have an aerator, check to see if the inside of your faucet has threads (grooves) for an aerator to be screwed into it. If it does, install an aerator.

If you already have a low-flow showerhead, check the side of the showerhead to see if it has a flow rate of 2.0 GPM (the new EPA standard for showers). If you don’t already have a low-flow showerhead, you can test your shower to see if its flow rate is too high. Put a two-quart saucepan on the floor of the shower and position it in the middle of the shower stream. Turn the shower on at full pressure and count how many seconds it takes to fill the pan. If it takes fewer than 15 seconds, you would probably benefit from a high-efficiency showerhead.

How much water will a high-efficiency faucet or showerhead save?

It depends on how much water your sink or shower used before you installed the upgrade. The only way to know for sure is to check your utility bills over the next few months and compare them to the same time period during the previous year. If you want to feel good about your decision right away, you can get a rough estimate as follows: assume that your current showerhead uses 2.5 GPM (this is a very common flow rate for modern showerheads). A new 1.5 GPM showerhead will make your shower 40% more efficient. Use your utility bill to calculate 20% of your total water usage (this is the amount typically used for showering), then take 40% of that number. Multiply this by your cost-per-gallon, and you’ll have your savings!

How do I find high-efficiency faucet accessories and showerheads?

When you go to your local plumbing supply store, look for the EPA WaterSense label. This is the equivalent of the EnergyStar label, and all products bearing this label meet the new EPA water use guidelines.

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Water Conservation – save 150 gallons when you wash your car!

Monday, March 29th, 2010

WashingCarFollowing these simple steps from eartheasy.com, you can save up to 150 gallons of water each time you wash your car:

Clean the car using a pail of soapy water. Use the hose only for rinsing – this simple practice can save as much as 150 gallons when washing a car. Use a spray nozzle when rinsing for more efficient use of water. Better yet, use a waterless car washing system; there are several brands, such as EcoTouch, which are now on the market.

For 24 more water saving tips and home water usage statistics, click here.

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