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Make your house 'smart,' save water

Keep Liberty Beautiful

POSTED: May 21, 2013 10:30 p.m.

Last weekend, my husband and I toured the 2013 HGTV Smart Home in Jacksonville Beach. I am kind of a house-and-garden junkie, and I avidly record shows on HGTV to watch when I have time.
Sometimes, I think I spend more time watching shows like this than actually doing home-and-garden-type chores but, unfortunately, when you are a junkie like this, it is hard to control your impulses.
Anyway, we took a day trip to Florida to tour the Smart Home, which will be given away to an HGTV viewer in July. The furnished, high-tech beach house is full of brand-new, time-saving technology as well as energy-saving and resource-conservation ideas.  It also is pretty.
So what makes a Smart Home so smart? Many of the water-conservation ideas I shared last week are incorporated in the landscape design for the home, which is xeroscaped to require minimal water and maintenance. Inside the home, many appliances and equipment, like low-flow toilets and shower heads, also are a part of the design to maximize water savings. Information on the tours, the home and the sweepstakes all are accessible on the HGTV website.
Here are some useful tips for water conservation indoors from the Every Drop Counts series from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs:
• Check for toilet leaks by adding food coloring to the tank. If the toilet is leaking, color will appear in the bowl within 30 minutes. Check the toilet for worn-out, corroded or bent parts. You can buy kits to do this but this essentially is what the kit will do.
• Consider purchasing low-flow toilets that can reduce indoor water use by 20 percent.
• Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily. Dispose of tissues, insects and other similar waste in the trash rather than the toilet.
• Replace your showerhead with an ultra-low-flow version, saving up to 2.5 gallons per minute.
• Take shorter showers. Try a “Navy” shower: get wet, turn off the water, soap and scrub, and then turn the water on to rinse.
• Use the minimum amount of water needed for a bath by closing the drain first and filling the tub only one-third full. The initial burst of cold water can be warmed by adding hot water later.
• Don’t let the water run while shaving, washing your face or brushing your teeth.
• Minimize the use of kitchen-sink disposals. They require a lot of water to operate properly. Start a compost pile as an alternate method of disposing of food waste.
• Store drinking water in the refrigerator rather than letting the tap run to get a cool glass of water.
• Do not use running water to thaw meat or other frozen foods. Defrost them overnight in the refrigerator.
• When washing dishes by hand, fill one sink or basin with soapy water. Quickly rinse under a slow stream of water from the faucet. Use the dirty water to run your sink disposal, if necessary.
• Fully load automatic dishwashers; they use the same amount of water no matter how much is in them.
• Buy dishwashers with water- and energy-saving options.
• Unlike your dishwasher, the amount of water your washing machine uses is adjustable; adjust according to the load size.
• Buy a water-saving washing machine.
• Front-load machines use less water than top-load machines.
• Install a hot-water recirculation device. By recirculating water that would otherwise go down the drain, you can save two to three gallons of water for each shower taken, or 16,500 gallons a year per household. This may mean average annual savings of $50 on your water bill and $40 on your energy bill.
• Never install a water-to-air heat pump or air-conditioning system. Air-to-air models are just as efficient and do not waste water.
• Install water-softening systems only when necessary. Save water and salt by running the minimum amount of regenerations necessary to maintain water softness. Turn softeners off while on vacation.
• Never put water down the drain when there may be another use for it, such as watering a plant or garden.
• Reuse fish tank water on your household plants. It makes nice fertilizer, too.
• Verify that your home is leak-free. Read your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak.
• Repair dripping faucets by replacing washers. If your faucet is dripping at the rate of one drop per second, you can expect to waste 2,700 gallons per year.
• Retrofit all wasteful household faucets by installing aerators with flow restrictors.
• Insulate your water pipes. You’ll get hot water faster and avoid wasting water.
Some of these tips may seem a little picky but the nice thing about water-saving ideas is that they usually are dollar-saving ideas, too. Who knows? You might save enough dollars to buy your own Smart Home.

Upcoming KLB events
May 30 — KLB Volunteer Appreciation, 5-7 p.m. Call 880-4888 or email

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