From replacing an old toilet to repairing old parts, these nine tips can help you reduce your water usage
Older-model toilets are some of the worst culprits in the home for using too much water. And, while most new toilets only use about a gallon of water per flush, they can still waste water without you knowing it. Before you toss out your toilet entirely, here are nine tips on how to reduce your toilet water usage.
1. Displace Some of the Tank Water
One easy trick for toilets that can save on water is to place a (sealed), half-gallon plastic jug filled with water and some pebbles or marbles inside the tank of your toilet. This reduces the amount of water that fills the tank by half a gallon. So, if you flush your toilet five times a day, you can save about 75 gallons per month.
Some people use bricks or other objects to displace the water, but be careful to choose something that will not break apart and put particles into the water—which can get into the mechanism and cause a whole series of issues.
2. Replace the Flapper Valve
Even a newer toilet can waste water if its flapper valve is not closing tightly. The flapper is typically a thin rubber or plastic valve attached to a chain. When you flush your toilet, the chain pulls up on the valve, causing it to open and allow water to enter the bowl.
Inspect your flapper for signs of wear and tear, and if it looks worn or broken, you’ll be relieved to know that replacing a flapper valve is a simple toilet repair problem that can be done by most homeowners. Just measure how long the flapper valve chain is when extended, make note of the make and model of your toilet, and head to the hardware store to get a replacement. Once you’ve got what you need, slide the new valve onto the overflow tube, seat it properly, and attach the chain.
3. Adjust the Water Level
When your toilet refills its tank, there needs to be some mechanism that detects when the proper level has been reached. In older toilets, this was done with a copper or plastic float ball attached to a metal rod. As the float ball rises, the rod shuts off the fill valve.
Make your toilet more water-efficient by adjusting the water level in the toilet bowl. Start by bending or squeezing the float rod downward slightly with your hands; this lowers the float ball and means the tank won't fill as much. You may need to periodically check and adjust the float rod to ensure the new water level is maintained.
In some models, you can more permanently adjust the float level on your fill valve by tightening or loosening a screw that attaches to it, while other toilets might have a dial that you can use to lower the float height.
4. Change Your Filler Valve
If you notice that your toilet is noisy when filling or takes a long time to fill, your filler valve may be to blame. The filler valve allows water into the toilet after it has been flushed, and if it becomes dirty or damaged, it will not function as efficiently. As a result, water takes longer to get into your tank and extra water will be wasted going into the overflow tube.
A quick trip to the hardware store and a bit of DIY work will usually do the job, but if your toilet still doesn't fill properly, consider hiring a professional plumber to look at the problem and suggest a remedy.
5. Check Your Water Line
Another simple way you can make a toilet more water-efficient is by checking your water line. Often, issues occur where the copper water line meets your toilet, and they may show up as a pool of water on the floor or "sweat" on the copper line.
To inspect, turn off the water, disconnect the line, and take a look at the rubber gasket inside. After years of use, these rubber stoppers can deteriorate and begin to let water seep through. If you feel pitting in the rubber or see rubber bits on the valve, pry out the gasket and replace it with a new one.
6. Look for Leaks
EPA states that the average U.S. household loses as much as 10,000 gallons of water every year from leaks, with 10% of households wasting more than 90 gallons a day. The best way to ensure that your toilet is not leaking is to drop some dye in your toilet tank.
Simply leave the dye in (being sure not to flush!) and then check back in an hour to see if any color has leaked into the bowl. If there is a leak, you will of course need to repair your toilet by replacing the broken parts.
7. Purchase a Dual-Flush Toilet or Conversion Kit
A dual-flush toilet generally uses less water than a standard toilet; it can save up to 67% of water when compared to some older toilet models.
However, if your toilet is new or you’re not ready to part with the one you’ve got, you don’t even need to replace the entire toilet. Instead, consider installing a dual-flush toilet conversion kit. These kits are game-changers, as they allow you to choose between smaller flushes (liquids) and bigger flushes (solids). Changing to this system can save you 40% or more water than conventional toilets.
8. Invest in a Low-Flow Toilet
Also known as high-efficiency or low-volume toilets, low-flow toilets can be a good, long-term investment in your mission to reduce water. You can save as much as six to seven gallons on every flush compared to older toilet models.
These environmentally-friendly toilets use gravity or pressure to push waste into the pipes, giving them a sleek edge on toilets that depend on water. According to the EPA, low-flow toilets must use 1.6 gallons of water or less per flush to qualify. At best, some toilets only use 1.28 gallons every time you flush. Compare that to an older toilet, which uses between 3.5 and 7 gallons per flush.
9. Install a Composting Toilet
If you’re really hoping to drastically reduce your water consumption, consider installing a compost toilet. These toilets don’t use any water, and while a stinky outhouse akin to that of a Porta Potty might be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a compost toilet, you’ll be surprised to find that these toilets come in all kinds of modern (and even stylish) options.