Monday, March 30, 2009

Damn spigots & the toilet is empty

First, I thought about posting my recipe for homemade conditioner here, but decided to post it on my kitchen blog instead. For you DIYers out there, take a minute and check it out if you'd like:
Our house is very old. You can't just always make repairs. The house tends to fight back sometimes. We have a spigot outside under our sunroom, and it has leaked for many, many years. Since Mom lived here before us, I can honestly say that damn thing has leaked for as long as I can remember - so close to twenty years is a fair guess.

There it is. The damn leaking spigot. It used to just drip. We couldn't fix it because we couldn't get to the other side (it isn't like no-one has tried over the last couple decades!) - this is where an old house can really kick your ass. Recently it went from just dripping to running. Not full fledge, tap open all the way running, but still running. We figured we were probably losing a gallon within an hour or two.
It isn't running in the photo because *TADA* Justin went down in the basement and turned the water off for the spigot. It was rusted and took a lot of effort, but he was finally able to get the thing turned off.
So, the spigot is no longer running. Here we were celebrating and delighting in how much water we would be saving, how much $$$$ we would be saving, when we found out how the house would fight back. For absolutely no reason that would fall under "common sense", when Justin shut off the water to the spigot it turned off the water to the toilet in our bathroom. It also turned off the cold water to the sink, but not the hot. Just the cold water and the toilet.

We decided to try something I've been wanting to do for a while anyway. Justin unhooked the drain under the sink and put a bucket underneath. The idea was to collect sink water and use it to flush the toilet!! Simple, right??
Like I said, I had been wanting to do this, not to flush the toilet but just to see how much grey-water could easily be collected and re-used. This was just a chance to do this and have it be practical and really useful!
This just happened this past weekend, so obviously I can't write about $$ savings just yet, but we have learned quite a bit already.
1)The tank on our toilet holds 5 GALLONS of water!! On average, we flushed that toilet 5 times a day. In a year, that is 9125 gallons of water!! WOW! All that for a (sometimes) small pee. Geez! Talk about making you feel extremely wasteful! So, we filled a 2 liter Coke bottle with water and put that in the tank.
2)We don't use the sink that much. Even with brushing our teeth, washing hands, and everything else. Definitely not enough to fill up the toilet tank. REALLY definitely NOT enough to fill up the toilet tank for (on average) five flushes a day!! The tank, especially with the Coke bottle in there, HAS to be filled up ALL THE WAY to actually flush down stuff.
Luckily, we have a couple rain barrels outside, so I've been able to fill up the 5 gallon bucket there. We've decided to try to keep #2s to the "big bathroom" so that we can minimize the number of flushes needed.
I've managed to get it down to about 1 flush a day, but the bucket still wasn't full! So .. more thinkin' needed.
This evening after the boys' baths we took the empty milk jugs in there. The boys kinda freaked about me swiping the water at first, but then we started explaining how we were re-using and recycling the water, so we could use it to flush the toilet in the 1/2 bath ~ we also gave them some cups and let them help fill the jugs. They became immediate advocates of re-using the water!
There was enough water that we also used 2 gallons for water for watering plants in the sunroom. From that one little bath we managed to set aside 7 gallons of water (two went to the plants) with water to spare! I even got to flush the toilet. Ok .. I splurged and did #2 in there and so got to flush twice. I couldn't resist. Oh yea, I AM a WILD-WOMAN and I am breaking BAD!!!! OH YEA!!!!!
ok, yea I know, it's pretty pathetic when getting to flush your toilet and do as I please in the toilet I please is a sincere higlight of my day.
I am proud to be saving water. I'm proud to be teaching my kids about the value of water. We may live in a society where water is taken for granted, but a majority of the world doesn't, and we have no assurance that our luck will stay the same. Knowing what you need to live and how to get it (even if we're still on a small and superficial level here), how to make it last longer.
In the meantime, stay tuned. I'm pretty much 110% positive that we have many more lessons to learn, and though the utility bill should be coming in the mail within a week, the real savings won't be seen until next month. More blogs to come, I can guarantee that!


Anonymous said...

Toilets account for approx. 30% of water used indoors. By installing a Dual Flush toilet you can save between 40% and 70% of drinking water being flushed down the toilet, depending how old the toilet is you are going to replace. In combination with a grey water system you can really save some water!
If you are serious about saving water, want a toilet that really works and is affordable, I would highly recommend a Caroma Dual Flush toilet. Caroma toilets offer a patented dual flush technology consisting of a 0.8 Gal flush for liquid waste and a 1.6 Gal flush for solids. On an average of 5 uses a day (4 liquid/ 1 solid) a Caroma Dual Flush toilet uses an average of 0.96 gallons per flush. The new Sydney Smart uses only 1.28 and 0.8 gpf, that is an average of 0.89 gallons per flush. This is the lowest water consumption of any toilet available in the US. Caroma, an Australian company set the standard by giving the world its first successful two button dual flush system in the nineteen eighties and has since perfected the technology. Also, with a full 3.5″ trapway, these toilets virtually never clog. All of Caroma’s toilets are on the list of WaterSense labeled HET’s and also qualify for several toilet rebate programs available in the US. Please visit my blog to learn more or go to to learn where you can find Caroma toilets locally. Visit to see how we flush potatoes with 0.8 gallons of water, meant for liquids only. Best regards, Andrea Paulinelli

Vicki said...

Finally got to read the spigot/toilet blog entry..again fascinating and amusing!
But jeesh, must everyone be selling something on the web? (comment 1) I just heard about the dual-flush toilets recently. I was told they are pricey.

Carrie and Justin said...

Yes, someone is always selling something! It is good to know though that products like that are out there - when it comes time to replace things, we'll know where to look.
For right now though, our focus isn't on buying something new, it is in making do with what we have and trying to make IT do in an eco-friendly sense. Frugality is key. Saving money, saving water.

Sadie from said...

If it's yellow, let it mellow.

If it's brown, flush it down.

Right on Sister!!

Carrie and Justin said...

That has been the basic rule we've been following in this bathroom. But, the mellowed-yellow can sometimes really have a funk to it.
It's been a really interesting thing to go through. Morning flushes are a must. Yellow can mellow throughout the day, but NOT in the morning!! Hoo boy.