Water and Energy: They Go Together
Water is one of the most important and precious commodities on the planet. But reducing your usage can do more than help keep Mother Earth out of peril – it can also trim your energy bill.
Because it takes energy to heat water for your daily shower, purify the water that comes from your faucet for your morning cup of java and to treat what you’ve flushed down your toilet, some of what you pay in water and sewer bills is actually covering the costs of getting you the water you need as well as getting rid of it.
Water Treatment needs Electricity
“It takes a lot of electricity to treat water and deliver it to people’s homes,” says Rob Taylor, Energy Manager of WSSC Water, a water and water resource recovery utility that operates five water resource recovery facilities and two water filtration plants in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. “Water is relatively inexpensive, but it’s getting more expensive all the time.”
Taylor says that it costs more kilowatt-hours (kWhs) to produce the same amount of water and treat waste water every year, mainly due to tighter U.S. Environmental Protection Agency restrictions that aim to keep nitrogen and phosphorous balanced. The chemicals are needed by plants but can cause environmental harm in excess by causing too much algae to form in waterways like the Chesapeake Bay. The algae prevent the waterway’s fish from getting the oxygen they need to survive.
“For water filtration plants, the number of kWhs is about 1600 for each million gallons produced. For waste water, it’s about 2500 kWhs per million gallons of water treated,” he adds. Luckily some of the water treatment facilities in the area have started to incorporate solar energy to help with these costs.
Save Water and Shrink Energy Bills
Taylor also says that in the last 10 years, the average energy increase was about 5 percent a year, which adds up. Still, it’s quite possible for you and your family to spend less on energy bills by decreasing the amount of water you both use and send to the water resource recovery centers for treatment via flushing. The most important thing to remember is to use your resources.
First, get a Quick Home Energy Checkup (QHECs). These, no additional cost appointments are available to anyone who pays for a utility in Maryland and who has not had one before. Once you schedule an appointment, an energy auditor will come to your home, check for energy efficiency and make improvement recommendations to help you save money by saving energy. They also let you know about any energy-saving programs you may be eligible for and they even give you water faucet aerators, water heater insulation and water-efficient showerheads. Most QHECs take less than an hour and all are absolutely free.
Other Water and Energy Conservation Tips
Unfortunately, many people think about conserving water and energy after getting a high bill, but why wait? Slightly altering the things you do around your house every day could help you save big.
- Look for the WaterSense label – EPA’s WaterSense program helps you start saving. Check out the WaterSense website to find certified products.
- Use cold water for your laundry cycles – According to energy.gov, heating water can account for around 12 percent of a family utility bill. Cutting down on how much water your family heats can shave a bit off of your bill.
- Time your shower – Use a five-minute egg timer to help keep those showers short and efficient. Also, close the bathroom door when showering to help keep the bathroom warmer, which can help you use less hot water.
- Drop your water heater temperature to 120º – Every 10º you reduce it by can save anywhere from 3 to 5 percent on your water heating costs.
- Take your car to the wash instead of washing it yourself – Believe it or not, the drive-through is more efficient than washing it with a bucket and hose. “People could cut down on water that way, too,” Taylor says.
- Limit your lawn care – Although it is hard to control during dry summers, watering your lawn uses lots of water and can cause bills to spike during warmer months.
- Update your fixtures – installing low-flow showerheads and faucets are simple ways to help slash your water usage, but don’t forget about low-flush toilets, too.
“It takes more energy to treat waste water than it takes to process portable water. That’s how toilet flushing is very important,” Taylor says.
Because of consumer water conservation measures, Taylor says that in the last 10 years or so, WSSC Water’s production has leveled off despite adding hundreds of thousands of new meters each year – so people really are reducing their water usage and conserving energy in the process.
”And I think people are doing a pretty good job of it,” he adds.
Find out more ways you can lower your utility bill by visiting: www.MontgomeryEnergyConnection.org
Written by Kimberly Hodges and Felicia Hodges