If the bathroom fixtures in your home were made before 1995, then you are flushing money down the toilet. By switching to a WaterSense toilet and repairing or replacing leaky plumbing fixtures and sprinkler systems, you can save 10,000 gallons of water per year and as much as 10 percent on your utility bill. That's the message of the just-ended Fix a Leak Week, an annual reminder from the Environmental Protection Agency to be more miserly with your water.
"Easy-to-fix household leaks waste more than one trillion gallons of water annually nationwide, which is equal to the amount of water used by more than 11 million homes," says Nancy Stoner, the EPA's Acting Administrator for the Office of Water.
As a rule of thumb, if winter water usage for a family of four exceeds 12,000 gallons per month, it's likely that the home has a leak problem. Here are some easy tips from the EPA:
• Check your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter changes at all, you probably have a leak.
• Identify toilet leaks by placing a drop of food coloring in the toilet tank. If any color shows up in the bowl after 15 minutes, you have a leak. (Be sure to flush immediately after the experiment to avoid staining the tank.)
• Examine faucet gaskets and pipe fittings for any water on the outside of the pipe to check for surface leaks.
• Check your garden hose for leaks at its connection to the spigot. If it leaks while you run your hose, replace the nylon or rubber hose washer and ensure a tight connection to the spigot using pipe tape and a wrench.
By law, all toilets made since 1995 must use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush but toilets that meet the EPA's WaterSense requirements use just 1.28 gallons per flush or less, on average. The two CR Best Buys in Consumer Reports' toilet Ratings are WaterSense models that cost only $100—the Aquasource AT1203-00 sold at Lowe's and the Glacier Bay Dual Flush N2316 sold at the Home Depot. Our top-scoring model was the American Standard Champion 4 2002.014, which costs $300.
Of the 11 toilets recommended in Consumer Reports' latest toilet tests, five are WaterSense models that use only 1.28 gallons per flush, yet performed comparably with top-scoring toilets that use 1.4 to 1.6 gallons per flush in our tough, solid-waste tests.
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