Conservation 20130514_212407

Published on May 16th, 2013 | by Scott Cooney

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DIY: cutting your water and heating bills with two shower devices

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Hot water is a triple whammy for your utility bills. First you pay for the water (water bill), then to heat the water (gas/electric bill), then to dispose of the water (sewer bill). Here’s a step-by-step guide to cutting your losses on all three, while sacrificing nothing. “Go on….”, I hear you saying. Well thank you, I will.

So it follows that the less water you use in a shower, the less you’ll spend on each of these bills, right? But if you’re like most Americans, you don’t like the idea of “sacrifice” and recoil at the idea of taking shorter showers. (It’s ok, I’m an American, too…I know how it is in our culture, and why idiots like George Bush get elected to the highest office in the world by saying that “the American way of life is not on the negotiating table” when referring to global climate treaties. But I digress…let’s get you on to cutting your utility bills.)

Without taking shorter showers, here are the tools you’ll need, and the two devices that can help you save big bucks.

Depending on the shower head you buy, you can save almost a gallon a minute over standard showerheads. In this case, we used a Sava Spa Showerhead, rated at 1.75 gallons per minute. We chose this one because, well, they sent it to us for free to review for this article. Hey…bloggers don’t get paid much, so back off, ok? We’ll take free stuff when we can, especially when it’s awesome. (No, not kidding. See the “contact us” page for more info). The teflon tape costs a few bucks at the local hardware store and you just use about 2 inches of it to help prevent leaks in any plumbing junctions.

The flow valve is called a “shower control valve”, and all it does is allow you to alter the flow rate with a little lever on top of the device. The beauty of this is that, while you’re soaping up, shampooing, etc., you don’t need the full flow of the shower, right? But you’re also American, so sacrificing by turning off the shower is simply not an option, right, because then when you turn it back on it’d be the wrong temperature, and eh, so inconvenient. Polar bears will probably survive. Rest assured. The valve is American-proof. You flip the switch, and go from this:

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Shower at full flow.

to this:

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Flow valve partially closed–warm water still trickles over you as you soap up, but you spend half as much money. Niiice.

Beautiful, elegant, and takes about 5 minutes to make the install and start saving money right away. Here’s how:

  1. Start by removing your old showerhead. The showerhead should be tight at first, but once loosened, should come off with a few turns of your adjustable wrench. 
  2. Wrap the pipe threads in teflon tape. No need to go nuts. Just once around should do it. It’s just there to prevent leaks through the threads.
  3. Put flow valve on, tightening by hand at first, then cranking it down one full turn with the adjustable wrench beyond where your own fingers can get it. The one trick–make sure the lever ends up on top. Otherwise it leaks.
  4. More teflon tape on the male threads of the flow valve.
  5. Put on the new high efficient showerhead the same way as #3, above.

And voila. You’re done. You’re welcome…enjoy all the money I just saved you for the rest of your life. “How much?” I hear you asking. Well, some simple math:

0.9 gallons per minute saved, times 10 minutes per shower, times 4 people, say, in your house, times 365 showers per year. That’s 3285 gallons per year of heated water that you then pay to flush down the sewer. Depending on your local rates…it’s a lot. Here in Honolulu, we calculated it at almost $200 in energy costs annually, and over $100 in water costs annually. Not bad for a showerhead that costs $25 and a valve that costs $3.

Our thanks to Niagara Conservation for donating us a showerhead and saving us a bunch of moola. Check out their energy conservation products and water conservation products




About the Author

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on



  • Lewis Plumbing & Heating

    Thanks for the article. Here in British Columbia, we seem to have such an abundance of water that we sometimes forget about ways to conserve it. Our water systems are much more fragile than we think!

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