Fix that leaky tap

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The amount of “greening” of your home that you can do depends on whether you own or whether you rent, obviously.

If you rent, whether apartment or house, there are limits as to what you can – and also, I am sure, as to what you want to, as it it not your place – do as to “greening” the home.

You cannot, in general, add solar panels, for instance, or install double- or even triple-glazing, loft insulation and other such or do anything about the heating system. Nor can you add a wind generator, however small, to your home, especially if it is an apartment, in general.

The same also can be if you rent a house, especially of you have not the most secure of tenancies.

You don't then, I am sure, want to pay out money for expensive things that, while they may even give you savings and all that, you may not be able to take with you should have have to or want to move.

There is one thing, however, that all of us, whether we own or rent, can do as regards to greening the place where we live and that is ensuring that we do not – needlessly – use, or more precise, waste water.

Ensuring that taps, or faucets, as our American cousins like to call them, are not dripping, and the same for shower heads and other such reduced the waste of water and thereby your impact on the precious water resources of this planet. No drinking bottled water is another one of those reductions of impact on water resources, but that was not the issue here, really.

Too many of us allow a drip, drip, drip of taps and shower heads to continue day in, day out, to year in and year out as it is, as many often think, just a minor little problem that is less an issue than to get a plumber out to fix a new washer or – heaven forbid – a new valve even. Many of us thus think we are saving money but we do not; at least not if we have metered water supplies. Many such drip, drip, drip add up to gallons of water a year that are lost and which those of us that pay per meter have to pay for – in the end. Then again, in the end we all pay for water wastage; us in the developing world for higher water bills and in the way of lower river and ground water table levels and even droughts. We all end up paying for it in the end. Same as with the bottled water mania.

According to the United Nations, around 400 million people worldwide are currently facing severe water shortages, and by 2050, so it is said, that number will be 4 billion. The southeastern United States is currently feeling the pinch from a severe drought, approaching the point where flushing the toilet and brushing your teeth is a luxury. And now let's not even talk about Australia.

In these dry times, it is more important than ever to make sure that you are not letting water just drip down the drain, or leak out of your toilet. Here the culprit often is the cistern overflow, caused by a faulty valve inside the cistern itself.

According to the Earth Policy Institute, the average prices for water in America is about $2.50 per 1,000 gallons, which is about a quarter of what it costs in some European countries. It doesn't sound like much, but considering that a leaky tap can drip 20 gallons a day down the drain, and a leaky toilet 200 gallons. When you add that up then you might as well toss two crisp $100 bills, that is to say around £100 plus in English currency, down the drain each year.

Stopping these two leaks is easy, and definitely worth a couple hundred bucks. For your faucets, just watch them, or put an empty glass where a drip would fall; if it fills up in a few hours, you've got a leak. Your toilet can be a little trickier, as it can be tough to "see" the water you're wasting; test your toilet by putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank, and if you see traces of it in the bowl 5-to-10 minutes later, it's time to call your handy neighbor or your plumber. In addition to that, as I indicated above, there are the leaks from the Torbeck valve, the valve that stops your cistern (tank) from filling up over the top. In case the valve fails you have a pipe to the outside from the cistern to let any such overflow slow out. And when that flows it flows.

If you know what you are doing then at least the leaky taps, which often only require a washer to be replaced, are an easy enough DIY task. Replacing a Torbeck valve is a little more complicates but, theoretically, can also be accomplished by a DIYer.

So, let's stop them leaky taps and valves.

© M Smith (Veshengro), July 2008