This blue planet we call home is covered in water – from majestic mountain lakes, to expansive seas, to windy creeks, to home faucet flows. With a seemingly endless supply of fresh potable water coming through our pipes each day, its easy to remember that the Earth’s Surface is 71% H2O, but difficult to articulate how our individual consumption habits contribute to worldwide water shortages and pollution. With the average US citizen consuming between 100 gallons per day, according to the EPA, we continue to drink up, soak up, and waste up, this finite resource, even as one third of the world’s population live in countries experiencing moderate to high water stress. But don’t fret just yet. Read on to find out how you can minimize your water consumption through smart choices in appliances >
Consider that 10% of US water consumption comes from residential use – and lessening this 10% gives consumers the opportunity to help slow this growing trend (even while we wait for agricultural and industrial consumers – accounting for 87% of the consumption in the US – to catch up). While we at Inhabitat don’t believe in buying our way out of this looming global crisis, we do admit that we can go a long way toward mitigating our personal and household water usage by making smart purchases for our water-consuming appliances and using them to their maximum efficiency.
In our Green Your Appliances! series last summer, we explored the ebs and flows of how to get the most from our energy intensive home appliances, including refrigerators, washers, dryers, and dishwashers. But beyond looking for the Energy Star logo what else should we know before stepping foot into a big-box appliance store? At Inhabitat, we’re in the business of cultivating the responsible (and design savvy) consumer – and are here to arm you with the tools you’ll need to be a wiser-greener-purchaser of water-consuming devices.
Choosing Water Efficient Appliances
Frontload the Expense: While energy efficient appliances may cost more in the store, you will see continued financial savings in your utility bills, as well as helping to save physical resources. When buying new, consider the cumulative future savings you will have made by opting for a highly efficient model. Most major appliances will last you many years (Refrigerators last an average of 13 years; room air conditioners and dishwashers, about 11 years each; clothes washers, about 9 years, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, and over time these savings can help you recoup the higher-initial purchase price of your efficient appliance.
It’s not the size that counts – its how you use it: Yes, the old adage holds true, for appliances as well as for other forms of… err… equipment. Once you’ve made the command decision to replace an old appliance with a new, first assess your needs, space constrictions, and your current and future use of the product. As one person living in a one-bedroom apartment you may not need a full sized dishwasher (or it may not fit in your kitchen), but as a family of four a larger fixture may be necessary. The goal is to maximize efficiency – as oversized and underused (running a dishwasher or washing machine while only half full) appliances waste materials and resources. When possible, opt for a machine needing fewer gallons/liters of water, or Kwhs of power, per use; or for a smaller model, both in terms of size and utility consumption.
Get Certifiable: You know about Energy Star certification (in the US), but do you know about its water counterpart, WaterSense? WaterSense certified products are independently third party tested to meet or exceed EPA’s standards for water efficiency, across a growing number of product categories. WaterSense labels are currently available for toilets and faucets, and will be available for showerheads, urinals, irrigation tools, and single-family homes, in the near future. As an added bonus, using WaterSense certified products in your home could qualify you for a rebate from your utility company, in certain locals.
Dreaming of Dishwashers: When choosing a new dishwasher compare the average water consumed/load. Features which allow you to skip the pre-rinse cycle, and economy mode settings, that allow you to adjust temperature settings and water amounts, depending on how dirty and how full your washer is, are common on many newer machines. In addition, check the appliance’s manual for the water temperature recommendations; the internal water heater inside may allow you to set the water temperature in your home to a lower temperature (120°F), saving energy..
Water-Saving Washing Machines: While you may not be ready for a waterless washing machine, modern clothes washers have made huge strides toward curbing water consumption. Generally, front load washers not only allow you to save water, energy, and detergent while in use, when compared with top load alternatives. Front loaders also help to reduce the wear and tear on your clothing, by using gravity, rather than an mechanical agitator to circulate your clothes. In addition to temperature controls (the colder the better – in terms of energy savings), look for water usage controls, such as “suds-saver” features, and spin cycle adjustments.
Two Step Toilets: Toilets are the largest consumers of water in the home, accounting for 30% of residential water consumption. According to the EPA, switching to a WaterSense certified toilet will cut 20% of this consumption, and on average will save a family of four $90/yr in reduced water utility bills. Whether or not your toilet to be is certified efficient, the key is looking for the least amount of water/flush in a model. Dual flush toilets, with different water usages allocated to the two main body-toilet function, can greatly help curb your toilet water use as well.
Of course the above-mentioned products are only a few of the culprits of home water consumption. Sinks, showers, coffee makers, and other fixtures and appliances also contribute to your household H2O use. As with dishwashers and toilets, the key is to compare and contrast water and energy use across models, look for certifications which will help you identify more efficient models, choose products with economy or energy efficiency settings, and then to use these goods properly, to minimize their use of utilities.
Use it or Lose it: Remember that choosing the right energy and water efficient appliance will only take you half the way toward curbing your utility consumption – the other half relies on personal behavior shifts and maintenance tricks. Our greener appliance series will take you the rest of the way, as you learn how to maximize your coffeemaker, dishwasher, washer, dryer, and refrigerator.
About BOSCH “Bosch is committed to preserving the environment through innovative approaches to the products we manufacture, as well as the partnerships we form with key leaders in sustainable construction and design. Sustainability, responsibility and continuous improvement are the tenets of our company and are shared by our partners across the United States.
Bosch practices low-impact manufacturing processes while designing the most efficient machines on the market. In fact, we introduced a global integrated management system for environmental issues that makes certain we maintain our high standards for environmental responsibility wherever our operations take us.
Bosch regards innovation as something more than exceptional product quality, functionality and design. Not only our technical developments, but also our commitment to society has an effect on the world of tomorrow.” + Bosch Green Thinking Resource Center
Rebecca is a freelance graphic, product, and eco-designer based in Brooklyn, New York. For the past few years she has divided her time between designing for a myriad of companies and organizing environmentally focused projects and events. Rebecca is the past chair and the current vice-chair of o2-NYC, the New York City chapter of the o2 global network of eco-designers. During her tenure, she co-organized many events including Design:Green, CitySol, and most recently HauteGREEN. Rebecca’s work, collaborations and events have appeared in publications such as Metropolis, Interior Design Magazine, Metropolitan Home, and most recently The London Observer. Rebecca received a BFA in industrial design from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2003, receiving a special award from the school for her commitment to environmental issues.
I just bought an energy efficient washer and dryer. We are really please with it and feel like it was an investment well-made! I read the above comment by Steve and agree very much that the most energy efficient path is to wait until the old one breaks. I used to buy "gently used" washers and dryers, but often times they just didn't work the best for the electricity efficiency. Great post - thanks. Jeanne Reslan www.ecolabelfundraising.com
I'd never heard of Watersense, so it was good to learn of that. And the advice to remember that up-front costs will likely be off-set by energy savings is sound, but the greenest decision you can make when looking to buy a new appliance is NOT to do so unless your current equipment has broken beyond repair. Many people buy things they don't need, just to upgrade their equipment or to remodel their home or simply because they're bored. (Okay, people don't generally get bored with their washing machine, so change it, but they do with their bathroom and throw out perfectly good equipment just because they want a new look. Also, if a dishwasher doesn't fit in with a new colour scheme or layout of their house because of its size, they will change it.) The greenest thing you can do is delay investing in any new appliance until the old one breaks. Unless the old one is absolutely ancient, it's lower efficiency will more than be offset by the resources wasted in junking it and in those used to produce its replacement. Plus, you can always green them - put a brick in your toilet's cistern; set the washer on the lowest heat setting you can; only use your dishwasher with a full load. There are many, many websites offering a wealth of such advice. But the best green advice is simply don't buy unless you have to. Steve N. Lee author of eco-blog http://www.lionsledbysheep.com and suspense thriller 'What if...?'