Buy a faucet aerator
Every time you turn on the faucet, much of what pours out probably ends up running down your drain unused (unless, of course, you're zealous about capturing the excess for your houseplants or remember to brush your teeth with the tap off).
Low-flow faucet aerators mix air into your faucet's water stream to limit the amount of water that slips away. And, most do it without any noticeable difference in water pressure. In other words, you get the same steady stream you've come to expect—all while using less water! Installing faucet aerators in your kitchen and bathrooms not only lets you conserve water when you're rinsing off your razor or finishing up those dinner dishes, but less water also means less energy needed to pump it to your house and less energy to heat it once it's there.
How to install a faucet aerator
Faucet aerators offer one of the biggest water-conservation bangs for your buck. These small metal devices screw onto faucet heads and typically cost between 50 cents and $10. Often they pay for themselves within two months. Most are easy to find at hardware stores, home improvement outlets, and online. Or, if you're lucky, your city or town may even offer them for free! Here's how to install one:
- Assess your threads. Most modern faucet heads are threaded to allow you to attach an aerator. You may need to unscrew the current faucet head or aerator (if one is installed) to see the threads. Older faucets may not have threads. In this case, you'll either have to forgo installing aerators or replace your faucet with a newer model.
- Check flow rates. Because the average faucet spews out more than 3 gallons per minute (gpm), to get a major drop in water usage, you'll need an aerator with a flow rating of 2.75 gpm or less (preferably 1.5 gpm or even 1 gpm or 0.5 gpm). If you already have aerators installed, check the side to see the imprinted flow rate. Consider replacing those over 2.75 gpm.
- Room by room. You may want an aerator with a higher flow rate in your kitchen (so you're not waiting endlessly for cooking pots to fill up) than your bathrooms. Consider 2 gpm aerators for kitchen faucets and 1.5 gpm or lower for bathrooms.
- Bring 'em with you. Take along old aerators when you shop for new ones. And, don't forget the washers. This way you'll be sure that new aerators fit just right.
- Look for leaks. After screwing new aerators into place, run the water to make sure there are no leaks, especially where aerators connect to faucet nozzles. You may need to tighten further with a wrench (but go easy so you don't scratch or dent new aerators).
Find it! Faucet aerators
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently developed WaterSense specifications for high-efficiency bathroom sink faucets and faucet accessories (including aerators). Look for aerators bearing the WaterSense label (which means they use no more than 1.5 gpm). Here are some high-efficiency models to help you start saving water and energy right away:
Creative Energy Technologies offers several aerators, including this 1.5 gpm model. It's designed to deliver a strong spray while minimizing water usage. A 0.5 gpm model is also available for even more water conservation.
USA Landlord offers a wide assortment of faucet aerators for kitchens and bathrooms. This one, recommended for bathrooms, offers a flow rate of 1.0 gpm. It also features dual threads (male and female threads) that should fit most faucets.
This aerator comes in 0.375 gpm, 0.5 gpm, or 0.7 gpm models, allowing you to cut water use by 80 percent or more. Features a vacuum booster valve that boosts the intensity of the aerator stream flow by 2.5 times over conventional aerator streams.
Buying a faucet aerator helps you go green because…
- It cuts the amount of water released from faucets.
- It reduces home energy bills by limiting how much water needs to be heated.
- It limits the amount of municipal water that must be treated and delivered to homes, thereby reducing energy use and curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
Over the course of a year, the typical American household releases about 10,000 gallons of water from household faucets. In fact, bathroom and kitchen faucets are responsible for more than 15 percent of indoor water use in US homes—that's more than 1.1 trillion gallons of water used annually. Unfortunately, much of that water is wasted down the drain because most faucets—especially older ones—release far more than is needed. Federal law now requires that new faucets not exceed 2.2 gpm, but many older faucets still flow at rates between three and seven gpm.
In one study, installing low-flow aerators on faucets resulted in a 13 percent annual cut in water consumption for each household member and a 10.6 percent drop in hot water use per member (less water used means less water to heat). Heating water accounts for about 15 percent of a typical home's total energy bill. Installing low-flow showerheads, along with aerators, results in even more water and energy savings, typically up to 50 percent for both.
If the nation's 222 million bathroom sinks alone were retrofitted with WaterSense-labeled faucets and aerators, energy savings per year would equal $650 million and 60 billion gallons of water would be conserved—enough to meet Miami's water needs for more than five months.
In addition, if just one out of every 100 American homes installed water-efficient fixtures, almost 100 million kWh of electricity needed to treat and deliver public water would be saved annually. That's enough to cut 80,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions—the equivalent of eliminating 15,000 automobiles from US roadways for a year.
- Science Buddies - How Can Your Faucet Save Water?
- US Environmental Protection Agency WaterSense program: Offers tips on conserving water and information about water-saving technologies that can help, including faucet aerators.
- A Public-Private Partnership for Advancing Housing Technology - Faucet Aerators Save Water, Energy, Money
- US Environmental Protection Agency - WaterSense: High-Efficiency Lavatory Faucet Specification Supporting Statement
- US Environmental Protection Agency - WaterSense: High-Efficiency Bathroom Sink Faucets
- California Urban Water Conservation Council - Water Faucet Savings
- University of Missouri Extension - Hot Water: Use and Conservation
- Eartheasy - Low-Flow Aerators
- US Environmental Protection Agency - WaterSense: Benefits of Water Efficiency - Save Water, Save Money