Eco-friendly bathroom tips
From eco-shower heads to bathwater diverters and dual flushing loos, there are plenty of ways to save water and money too
A recent Thames Water survey found that a third of us have no idea how much water we use, so it may come as a surprise that the average household uses a massive 350 litres of water daily on everything from showering to watering the garden and washing clothes. Nationally, there’s an increasing demand and decreasing supply of water – so we need to use this precious resource more sparingly. The greatest opportunities for saving water can be found in the bathroom, according to the Energy Savings Trust. Showers, toilets, baths and bathroom sinks consume 68% of household water.
To bath or shower?
For years, eco experts said showers are better than baths as they use less hot water. However, actual water use depends on showerhead flow and time spent in the shower. Taking an average eight-minute shower with a standard mixer showerhead (approx. eight litres/min) still uses less water (60 litres) than filling the bath (80 litres), research by the Energy Saving Trust shows. But an eight-minute power shower guzzles up around 136 litres of hot water – nearly enough for two baths. Modern showers waste so much water it may be better to fill up a bathtub. Try turning off the shower when you shampoo and condition your hair or lather your body in soap. This can shorten your shower time by an estimated two minutes.
There are plenty of gadgets to help your family master the art of shorter showers, such as four-minute shower timers with a suction cup on the back to stick on bathroom tiles. The device works like an egg timer, you just flip it round when you next shower. The Waterpebble, a plastic disc, is placed near the plughole and has a traffic light warning system. It flashes green to start, amber when you’re halfway through and then red when four minutes are up. ECO Showerdrop, meanwhile, acts as both a water measurer and timer. The device can be set up to measure water flow from your specific showerhead. A timer goes off when the recommended 35 litres is used. If you keep showering, it calculates how much extra water you’ve used to guilt-trip you.
Eco shower heads
Installing lower flow or eco-showerheads may be more effective than timers which can easily be ignored by teenagers who like to indulge in lengthy showers. There are high tech showerheads available that give the sensation of a high-pressure shower while using less water. These include the EcoCamel which injects air directly into the water stream. Of course, if you have low water pressure, you’re already taking eco showers.
Save when you flush
Showers are the biggest water user in the home closely followed by toilets, according to the Energy Savings Trust. Around 22 per cent of water delivered to the home is literally flushed away. Toilets installed before 2001 use up to three litres more water per flush than the current standard. The Save-A-Flush bag is a type of polythene bag that sits in the cistern. It is designed to save 1.2 litres of water with every flush. Even greater savings can be made by upgrading from a standard to a dual flush system – so you can choose between a full flush or half flush and only use the water you need each time. This saves an estimated 7,000 litres per person per year, says the Energy Saving Trust.
Tap inserts/ aerators
A tap insert is a simple and affordable piece of kit. When fitted to a tap it reduces water flow, for example from five litres per minute compared to a standard 10 litres per minute flow rate. Like the the EcoCamel shower head, the tap insert aerates the flow of water to increase the perceived water pressure. This means you can use less water without having to wash your hands under a trickle.
Greywater is wastewater from baths and showers that can be used to water plants and the lawn among other things. Yet in most homes it goes straight down the drain and into the sewerage system to be treated again. A simple way of collecting this water is a greywater diverter valve. This simple device is fitted to the exterior bathroom waste pipe just before it joins the main sewerage down pipe. All water from showers, baths, and sinks can then be sent to a water butt or tank in the garden. Pull cords are used to control the device – pull one cord to send all wastewater to the down pipe, pull the other to send it to greywater storage. Ideally, it should be passed through a greywater filter before it is stored.
Most water companies offer free home visits to give advice on water saving measures. Southern Water, for example, send out engineers who assess your usage and will fit a variety of water saving devices worth over £100, such as tap inserts, showerheads and dual-flush converters. Even simple measures can make a major difference.