July 23, 2009
Did you know that the New York City Department of Environmental Protection will send you a free home water conservation kit packed with water conservation goodies from Niagra Conservation? All you have to do is download a request form, fill it out, and mail, fax, or email it back to DEP. Couldn’t be any easier.
We requested a kit a few weeks ago and here’s what we liked and didn’t like about it.
Read on after the jump!
The kit arrived about two weeks after sending in the request by email. It has great step-by-step instructions on how to use all the items in the kit, and then tells you how to use the Flow Meter Bag to estimate your total water savings.
What came in the kit:
- 2.0 gpm showerhead
- 3.0 gpm swivel aerator for kitchen sink
- 2.0 gpm bathroom faucet aerator
- “Toilet Tank Bank” displacement bag
- “Early Closure Flapper”
- Dye tablets for toilet leak detection
- Flow Meter Bag
- “Drip vial” for measuring faucet leaks
- Instructions + Teflon tape
- “Cost of leaks” fact sheet
- High-efficiency clothes washer brochure
- Customer survey to be returned to DEP
- Fridge magnet 🙂
Of all the items in the kit, the one I liked the best was the Flow Meter Bag. It’s just a plastic bag with calibrated markings so that you can run the faucet or shower into it for 5 seconds and figure out your per minute flow. Sure you could do it without the bag, but it’s pretty neat.
First, we put it to work finding out how our old showerhead was doing. Getting the hang of holding the bag and timing the flow took a couple tries, but we decided consistency was the key since what we wanted wasn’t to the drop accuracy, but just to be able to compare the old one with the new one.
Our old showerhead is a Niagra Conservation 2.8 gallons per minute (gpm), rather industrial looking item bought back in 1997-ish. On measuring the flow, we found out that over time, it had become clogged and was delivering something more like 1 gallon per minute. Yes, I had noticed that it was a bit spitty, but had attributed it to crummy plumbing in the previous blog post reviewing low-flow showerheads.
Then we installed the new showerhead and measured it — 2.0 gpm on the dot, according to our Flow Meter bag. So, in this particular instance, we are using more water, not less, with the new showerhead, but it’s possible that we were taking longer showers to compensate for the very low flow (we didn’t time our showers, so we’ll never know – doh!). I can say pretty definitively that the 2 gpm showerhead makes for a markedly better shower experience, and frankly, I’m not going to feel guilty about that extra gallon per minute. The one thing I do miss about the old showerhead is the little toggle button that lets you turn off the flow without fiddling with the taps.
Next, we moved on to the toilet. Ours was installed in 1986, so probably uses 3.5 gallons per flush, if not more. We had a quart glass jar in there to reduce the flow a bit, and replaced the flapper about a year ago, so I thought we were doing about as well as we could without replacing it with a new toilet.
Against the explicit directions that came with the conservation kit, we installed both the quick closing flapper and the displacement bag. The quick closing flapper saves about a gallon per flush, and the displacement bag saves about half a gallon per flush. Ignoring the fact that we didn’t follow instructions, I give the quick closing flapper a thumbs down. It closes so quickly – immediately, in fact – that to get anything to flush at all, we are now completely on manual — i.e. holding down the flush handle and counting “one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand”.
We didn’t end up installing the aerators because we have a filter on the kitchen sink and a new faucet in the bathroom with its own custom aerator. I would note, though, that the aerators in the kit are not especially aggressive, as new green projects are installing aerators as low as 0.75 gpm for kitchen faucets and 0.5 gpm for bathroom sinks.
Get your own home water conservation kit: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/pdf/water_conservation_kit_2009.pdf