78 comments

An $800 Gift From Me to You

Last week I wrote up an article about cutting your home heating costs. The discussion that followed in the comments section was full of more great information, and it even led to me making a small change in my own house that should work out to surprisingly large savings. This rather simple trick was: Changing my master bathroom showerhead from a 2.5 gallon-per-minute model to a 1.5 GPM one.

Now, you’d think that as a house builder who writes a frugality and personal finance blog on the side, I would already know the full story about water-saving showerheads. I thought I did too, but I was wrong! And because I didn’t know this secret, I’m going to assume that there’s a good percentage of you out there who don’t know it either. So here is the scoop:

In recent decades, the US Environmental Protection Agency has been tightening up the rules on how efficient household appliances and fixtures must be in order to be sold in stores.  Various regulation-haters have complained at every step, but regulations of this type actually bring people more freedom – freedom from their own stupidity! Nobody knows or cares how much energy they are using, they just live their lives and pay the utility bills. If you force the manufacturers to offer better products, the people buy them and unwittingly save themselves a shitload of money, all while helping the planet. It’s a win/win situation.

Here are some examples: In the olden days, toilets required as much as 3.5 or even 5 gallons of water for each flush. Simple re-engineering of toilets has brought this down to 1.6 GPF and more recently 1.28. These new toilets still work just fine, and don’t cost noticeably more, but each one ends up saving the equivalent of a full backyard swimming pool of precious drinking water every two years.

And more significantly, showerheads have also been re-engineered to use less water and heat energy. Before 1992, showerheads could dump out 4-8 gallons per minute. In the 1990s, the US standard became 2.5 GPM. This is when I started building things, and I have always felt good and virtuous about installing and using 2.5GPM showerheads.

But someone recently informed me that there are 1.5GPM and even 1.25GPM models that are carefully designed to be just as nice as a standard 2.5′er.

“Could this really be?”, I wondered. “I work hard sometimes, and I get coated with sweat, concrete, sawdust, and blood. And I’m a wealthy man who can afford a nice shower. As creature comforts go, it’s a pretty cheap one, so I will not compromise on a good hot shower with plenty of pressure and cleaning action”.

But at the same time, I did some calculations to see what kind of savings were at stake:

Mr. Money Mustache: 3 showers per week on average, duration of 5 minutes, temperature 107 degrees F.
Mrs. Money Mustache: 4 showers per week,  duration 10 minutes, temperature 107 degrees F.
Junior ‘Stash: still taking about 2 baths/week, hopefully will graduate to showers one of these years.

Total shower duration per year: 55 minutes per week x 52 weeks = 2860 minutes per year.

How much does a shower cost per minute?

The 2.5 gallons of water I use per minute cost about 1.25 cents according to my utility bill (0.5 cents per gallon).

These 2.5 gallons of water weigh 20.5 pounds. This water enters an average house at about 50 degrees Fahrenheit and must be heated by an additional 57 degrees.

Since we learned earlier that it takes one BTU to heat 1 pound of water by 1 degree, it means the shower is consuming 57 x 20.5 = 1171 BTU of heat per minute. After accounting for the losses in a standard natural gas water heater, you get about 58,000 BTU of water heating for each dollar you spend on natural gas… so…

A hot shower with a standard showerhead costs about 3.25 cents per minute.
With an electric water heater and 12c/kwh electricity, this cost would be about 5.3 cents per minute.

So if you’ve ever wondered about the cost for a 10 minute shower, now you know:  it is between 32 and 53 cents.

Now how much can the Money Mustache family save each year by going from a 2.5GPM showerhead to a 1.5GPM one?

At 2860 minutes per year, we were spending $92.95 per year on showers (!)
By dropping from 2.5GPM to 1.5GPM. we save 40%, which is $37.18 per year.

Wowee. Almost $40 per year from a $10 device  is a much bigger return on investment than I’ll get anywhere else. And it’s over 5% of  my annual spending on natural gas. So it’s a worthwhile savings. But is it going to hurt my tradition of enjoying Hearty Manly Showers where the water runs black from the extreme filth I am scrubbing off?

To find out, I looked up some of the well-reviewed 1.5GPM showerheads on Amazon.com like this one*. The people seemed to say that their showers were just fine, and many couldn’t even notice the difference when dropping from 2.5GPM. Good enough for me. I picked one up for $10 bucks, and screwed it on.

It is great! I too can hardly notice the difference, my showers still feel great, and the Mrs. actually likes the new showerhead better than the fancy-looking one that came with the new valve system I installed when I built our new master shower last year. So it’s a hit.

A savings of $40 per year goes straight to your bottom line – flowing into your ‘Stash and eventually becoming part of your retirement income through reduced living expenses. To generate this much income forever, inflation-adjusted using a 5% withdrawal rate, you would need to leave $800 permanently invested.

So just by sharing this little secret with you, I have made you $800 richer, just as the readers of the earlier article made me that much richer by sharing the same trick. Happy Holidays!

 

* I was planning to get the Amazon/Niagara one after reading the reviews, but I happened to be in Home Depot and saw a bin of Pfister ones at the same price. So I picked one up, figuring I could always return it if the performance didn’t match the better one I read about. But as noted, this one works great too and earns Lady approval, which is the key factor.

  • Andrew U November 30, 2011, 6:09 am

    Interesting. I have not even looked at what the flow rating is on my shower head. I’ll have to check that out and will definitely replace mine if it is higher than 1.5GPM (it probably is). I take 1 shower every day so I will flowing quite a bit into my ‘Stach. Thanks for the tip!

    Another bathroom fixture I recently came across was a drop-in dual flush converter. Ever used or installed one of these? Seems like it would be a good idea.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002NKRR7Y/ref=ox_sc_act_title_2?ie=UTF8&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER

    Reply
    • rjack November 30, 2011, 10:36 am

      Dual Flush toilets were in every European city that I traveled to in the spring. I think they are a great idea!

      Reply
    • Jamie Forrester December 1, 2011, 1:57 pm

      If you already have a low flow toilet try paying attention to the handle when you flush.

      On mine if I only hold it down for a second or so it does a partial flush which is just enough to replace the water in the bowl. If I hold it down for 4 or 5 seconds it dumps the entire tank. Not as simple as picking which button to push but effectively the same performance and free.

      Reply
  • Brack November 30, 2011, 6:22 am

    55 minutes a week x 52 weeks is 2,860 minutes per year, not 780… I think most of your other math is correct (I ran the calculations on my 90 minutes/week, and ended up saving closer to $123/year), but you referred to 780 twice in the article…

    I don’t agree with the premise that federal regulations = more freedom, and I don’t believe in legislating common sense, but I do agree that spending $10 now to save $100 over the next year is a good investment.

    Reply
    • MMM November 30, 2011, 7:21 am

      Thanks for the correction, and it revealed another error I had made – I had to change the whole title of the article to account for it! But it’s better to catch it at 7am than at the end of a day.

      I don’t believe in legislating common sense either – otherwise we’d have to drastically change almost every aspect of American life. It’s much nicer just to write a blog about it and let people choose their own path freely.

      However, when there are external effects involved such as our shared environment and national security, as there is with energy use, the logic is different.

      Reply
      • Jeff December 14, 2011, 11:14 am

        I wouldn’t say the logic is different. I’d say government should see that the true cost of everything be adequately reflected in prices. The next time you pull up to the pump, you should be paying a war tax for every gallon of gas you pump. After all, you don’t get $3.50 gas without killing a few middle easterners now and then. Same goes for water. Let’s calculate the true cost of water and put that in everyone’s bills. You don’t need to stack the deck. Make fair rules, and everyone will play the game smarter.

        Reply
    • Belcat February 3, 2012, 1:54 pm

      I have to disagree – you would not find much in terms of shower heads if the government hadn’t legislated they should be lower in water usage. So you would have very little choice in low flow showerheads, and hence, very little freedom.
      You can always use your carpentry skills to good use to make the shower flow more… and there’s front and side jets too. It’s harder to go the other way around.

      Reply
  • Stephen November 30, 2011, 7:27 am

    Bricor makes 1gpm and 0.55 gpm models at a cost of $75. If you switched to the 0.55 gpm, you would save $200/year. It might not be that pleasant, though, especially in winter.

    Reply
  • John November 30, 2011, 8:01 am

    Your actual savings on the utility bill may be greater than you estimated. Here in Colorado Springs, they charge a wastewater fee for every gallon of water we allow to go down the drain (an estimated amount). However, if you reduce the amount of water used for showers, the amount of wastewater will go down proportionally.

    Reply
    • MMM November 30, 2011, 8:04 am

      Thanks John – In this case, I included both my supply price and the metered wastewater cost in my 0.5 cents/gallon figure.
      But another factor is that we probably take fewer showers than average. A household where both people shower every day would be looking at more than double the savings I described in this article. Add in a flock of teenagers, and the savings go through the roof.

      Reply
      • John November 30, 2011, 12:19 pm

        I know about teenagers and showers. I have four of them who run the water until all the hot is depleted.

        Reply
      • kirsty November 30, 2011, 9:42 pm

        None our bath, shower or washing machine water ever goes down the drain. A few years ago our neighbours were re-doing their irrigation in their garden. They were going to throw away those plastic pipes. We saw that the end attachments would fit at the end of the outlet pipe that poured all that soapy dirty water down the drain. Now we use the pipes to direct where we want to water our garden. By using this and our rain runoff drum that is attached to the end off the down pipe from our roof we have not had to pay to keep our garden and vegetable garden thriving throughout the year.

        Reply
        • Math Teacher December 1, 2011, 9:55 pm

          Kristy, Does the soapy water harm the plants?

          Reply
          • Jeff December 14, 2011, 11:15 am

            No, soap is fine for plants. It can actually help against pests, too.

            Reply
    • Chris November 30, 2011, 4:04 pm

      Interesting… do they actually measure your waste output? Or do they base it on the amount of water consumed/used?

      If they actually measure the output (which seems pretty technically difficult to retrofit and implement) a gray water system could be worth looking into.

      Reply
      • CC_ November 30, 2011, 4:38 pm

        It is an estimate. It would be extremely difficult to meter waste water since you typically mix other waste in with that water and it would create another bottleneck for things to jam up in.

        Reply
        • MMM November 30, 2011, 8:40 pm

          Actually, I think they do measure it in my city- because it says “residential metered wastewater”, and it seems to keep track accurately of when I use water outside (for gardens, etc.), versus inside. It didn’t seem hard to imagine a device that could measure chunky water (after all, everything in there had to fit through a 2″ toilet trap), and sure enough, there’s a picture of a wastewater meter on this site: http://www.city-meter.com/

          And as Chris pointed out, this does create an incentive to send greywater to your own garden for double savings. I have considered such a project myself, but with water being so cheap it is a lower priority than solar heat projects.

          Reply
          • George The Other One December 1, 2011, 4:45 pm

            What they do where I live is assume that “Water In” equals “Water Out” during the winter. So you get charged a sewage fee year round based on how much water you used during the previous winter. Everything else is assumed to be recreational water usage (ie: watering lawn, pools, washing car, etc).

            Reply
          • Jeff December 14, 2011, 11:18 am

            From my understanding, there are often 2 meters. One measures water that goes into your house, and the other measures water that goes to the spigots outside. The rates for the 2 are different to add the wastewater fee to the indoor water.

            Reply
  • Kevin M November 30, 2011, 8:03 am

    $10 is hard to beat, and a better return than you’ll make in the stock market probably. I put that bad boy on my Amazon wish list to order when I get above $25 (for free shipping).

    Reply
  • Stephen November 30, 2011, 8:07 am

    Bricor makes 1 gpm and 0.55 gpm models for $75. The scant reviews of the 0.55 gpm model are favorable, though obviously it wouldn’t be comparable to a 2.5 gpm head. The 0.55 gpm model is meant for RVs, etc. For you, it would pay for itself in a year.

    For me, it would pay for itself in a few months. How do you get away with only 3 showers a week? My hair gets greasy every day whether I sweat or not. I also shave in the shower every other day. I guess I could try just wiping my hair down for a few days. I did install a Danco 89171 valve so I could easily take navy-style showers with any shower head.

    I like this idea, but it would take a while to pay for itself:
    http://www.sunfrost.com/efficient_shower.html

    Reply
    • KevinInConcord December 2, 2011, 6:28 pm

      I use the Bricor 1.0 gpm model, and it actually is more like 0.9gpm with our water pressure. It’s actually a great shower and even the lady of the house approves!

      Get a Bricor everyone. They’ll save more in the long run (40% more than standard 1.6gpm!)

      Reply
  • RubeRad November 30, 2011, 8:41 am

    Wait, what? 3 showers/week? I have an average of slightly more than 7 showers/week (baseline shower every morning, and I get an extra afternoon shower from working out more often than I skip a morning one) — and I never would have guessed anybody else did any different.

    Does your ‘stash absorb grease or something? Maybe a topic for another post, I’ll be watching!

    Reply
    • RubeRad November 30, 2011, 8:43 am

      P.S. I don’t know if you’ve covered this before, but solar water-heating panels (different than solar electricity panels) do a great job of padding your ‘stashe by increasing the temperature at which water enters your water heater, so you don’t have to burn as much fuel to get the water up to temp.

      Reply
    • qhartman November 30, 2011, 9:27 am

      I also only do about 4 showers a week. I workout early in the morning (5 AM) so my post-workout shower doubles as my going-to-work shower most days. On days I don’t workout, I just don’t feel dirty enough to need it. My skin thanks me for it too, decreasing the frequency of my showers made my skin much healthier. Eliminating soap and shampoo from the usual regimen made it even happier, and my hair too. More (including links to stories from other people who do this too) are in this comment on a previous post:

      http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/05/30/get-rich-with-the-universal-mens-grooming-device/#comment-4872

      Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache November 30, 2011, 9:29 am

      Haha! I think it’s a common myth that you need to shower every day. A daily shower is likely unnecessary and may actually be bad for your skin and hair (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/31/fashion/31Unwashed.html).

      It probably depends on a lot of factors such as how much you exercise and the area you live in. In a dry climate like Colorado, my skin feels much better if I skip a day and my hair feels and looks better too.

      I can go a max of 3 days without a shower, at which point a ponytail becomes necessary. I do wash my face every day and don’t wear make-up and don’t put any stuff in my hair, so that probably makes a difference as well. I can also spot clean, like if I need to freshen up my armpits one morning. Since I work out about 3 times a week, I usually shower after my workouts plus one other time after runs/hikes, etc.

      Our son used to take frequent baths, but his skin would dry out a lot and he had eczema that would flare up. He’s down to 2 baths a week now and it seems to be just right.

      I bet nobody knows that we don’t shower daily… :)

      Reply
      • Cass November 30, 2011, 12:55 pm

        I would love to not have to shower so often! I work with animals, which means that I have to clean up a bit more often to prevent transmitting anything they have to the family. i will, however, say I totally agree with you on the health benefits of NOT showering sometimes.

        Reply
      • Kitty November 30, 2011, 3:04 pm

        Dear Mr & Mrs MMM,
        Re: Yr son’s eczema. Try Cerave moisturizing cream, comes in 16 oz tub and doesn’t have perfume/scent and is non-greasy. I use it to moisturize problem area, foregoing medications/cortisteroids and it works to keep flare ups to minimum whereas cortisteriod did nothing. I found hundreds of favorable comments on Amazon and bought locally, all drug/dept stores carry it.

        Reply
        • Mrs. Money Mustache November 30, 2011, 5:40 pm

          Thanks Kitty, but with fewer baths and perhaps just getting older, it has completely cleared up. I tried a bunch of different creams when he was younger, but his skin was sensitive to almost every one. The only one that didn’t cause him any issues was a burt’s bees natural cream. I do think that cutting down on his baths made a big difference at the time, so we still continue that practice.

          Reply
      • Valerie November 30, 2011, 6:03 pm

        My hair stylist (at a fancy pants very overpriced salon – my one indulgence) says you should only wash your hair every 3 days max. It takes some time to build up to this, but I now only wash my hair every 5 days. (I shower more often – no worries.) It takes some effort but you can work your way up to this. (The more often you shampoo – the more often you HAVE to shampoo and vice-versa – the less you shampoo, the less often you HAVE to shampoo.)
        I’ve been doing this for about two years and my long hair no longer gets split ends and is better than ever.
        Check out this post regarding our obsession with cleanliness.
        http://www.everydayminimalist.com/?p=3340

        Reply
        • Brian November 30, 2011, 10:17 pm

          Oh, thanks for putting this in about the reduced frequencies of showers (and the responses too). I’m moving into a tiny, tiny home in a month, and the shower is the missing item. So…the gym has been my go to for showers, but I know there are going to be times I can’t get there daily. I was planning on going a couple of days in between, and glad to know there are others that do as well.

          Heck, I figured I just sit at my desk as a programmer, so I can’t possibly need to waste so much water every day. After the gym workout seems like the best time to take care of this business :)

          Reply
      • AA June 13, 2013, 2:27 pm

        It is the same rule as with laundry – if it doesn’t look funny (cleanliness wise… ha) or smell funny, it doesn’t need to be washed yet. ;-)

        Reply
  • Heather November 30, 2011, 10:12 am

    Thanks for the Christmas present. I’m going shopping.

    Reply
  • mike crosby November 30, 2011, 10:13 am

    You definitely are becoming one of my favorite blogs. Wonderful writing.

    Reply
  • smbucky November 30, 2011, 12:55 pm

    I have been using a 1.5 gpm roadrunner showerhead made by Evolve for years and love it (http://evolveshowerheads.com). It has a built in adapter that shuts off the water once it reaches 95 degrees and you resume flow by pulling the little string on it. They also sell the little adapter separately so you can attach to any showerhead.

    Our apartment shower takes somewhere between 5 seconds and 5 minutes to get hot so this is great for us. We don’t pay for water or gas but I couldn’t stand the waste before we got this because it was so easy to start doing something else and forget about it.

    Sorry for sounding like a commercial but it really is pretty sweet.

    Reply
  • Spork November 30, 2011, 2:33 pm

    Slightly off topic… but you mention low flow toilets … and yes, the euro dual flush is the sensible way to go… But… if you’ve had a bad experience with low-flow toilets (and everyone has at some point) check out terrylove.com. He’s a plumber and has reviews on some models of low flow toilets. There are definitely good ones he has not reviewed, so if a local plumber you trust recommends something… it’s probably ok. But, if you’re going blind into Home Depot, it’s a good list to have. I’ve been happy with his recommendations in the past.

    Reply
    • qhartman November 30, 2011, 2:44 pm

      Also speaking of low-flow toilets, I’ve used a couple different dual-flush converters on my toilets which have worked very well. They run about $20-$30 and are easy to install.

      Reply
    • Valerie November 30, 2011, 5:45 pm

      I didn’t want to mention this ’cause it’s gross – but since you bring it up… We put in 2 low flow toilets almost 2 years ago. A cheaper costco one downstairs and a more expensive TOTO one upstairs. Our son kept on clogging the costco one and it seemed very tricky to plunge. (The old toilet never clogged in the 15 years we’d lived here.) I so wish we had paid extra for both. (I know people that have pulled out low flow toilets within a year of installing them.) It pays to do your research on these. There is a MaP score (maximum performance). Learn it.
      Thankfully the son has moved out!
      And I have to say, the more expensive toilet can be a little gross too. Even though it never clogs – there isn’t enough water in the bowl. (And I’ll leave it at that.)

      Reply
  • Erin November 30, 2011, 3:05 pm

    Sorry to rain (ha!) on your parade, but have you actually timed your showers? The savings you might make on the low pressure showerhead are probably being negated by longer shower times. At least, that was the consensus of several hotels I’ve worked for.

    Reply
    • MMM November 30, 2011, 4:34 pm

      That’s a good idea, I’ll try timing my showers with both new and old showerheads!

      It sure doesn’t FEEL like I am taking any longer, since only a small portion of the time is spent rinsing off soap. Most of the time is spent putting ON some soap and scrubbing off the day’s debris. And I’m definitely not taking a 40% longer shower, since that would be obvious even without timing.

      Reply
      • Oh Yonghao July 29, 2014, 12:38 pm

        An interesting thing that I learned while in Taiwan, and perhaps it is because the weather is so much hotter that we don’t use the hot water of the shower to warm us up, but we tend to take showers like this:

        1) Warm up water (depending on the day might not take any time at all, and it’s basically just purging the system since almost everyone runs off of a tankless gas water heater)
        2) Get wet
        3) Turn off water
        4) Soap up, maybe spray a little bit more water to lather, scrub
        5) Turn water back on, rinse
        6) Repeat 2-5 for hair
        7) Turn off water
        8) Dry off

        My wife takes 30 minutes to shower, and 60 minutes if she is doing her hair too, but she probably runs maybe 5-10 minutes of actual water time. It does help having a single valve to set rather than tinkering with cold/hot knobs, but it makes me wonder why I don’t put a garden hose style watering head with trigger.

        Reply
  • Mason Thompson November 30, 2011, 11:14 pm

    To the people in the dual flush discussion, I just picked up one of these for each bathroom in my house

    http://www.amazon.com/BlueSource-HYR270-HydroRight-Converter-MJSI/dp/B002NKRR7Y/?ref=sr_1_1?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1322163730&sr=1-1&tag=gmgamzn-20

    Reply
    • rjack December 1, 2011, 6:39 am

      Mason,

      Please let us know if you have any installation issues. Thanks!

      Reply
  • Kevin M December 1, 2011, 6:57 am

    I’ve put in 2 Jacuzzi model low-flow toilets (bought at Lowes for about $125) and I don’t think they’ve ever clogged. Going to buy another one for our bathroom when we renovate it. We bought a cheap dual flush for the kids bathroom from Home Depot and it has been great as well. The #1 flush works fine most of the time even for little kids’ #2.

    Reply
  • Mr. Frugal Toque December 1, 2011, 6:59 am

    Low flow is a good idea, if only for the water savings, but I wonder if we’re really saving as much as we think we are on water heating costs.

    Remember that your body does not measure temperature. It measures heat transfer. Heat transfer, in this case, is a function of:
    Water Flow * Temperature Difference.

    Is it possible that, as humans beings who want to feel a certain level of “warmth”, we are turning the tap a bit more towards the hot direction to make up for the fact that there’s less volume of water spraying at us?

    Reply
    • MMM December 1, 2011, 9:04 am

      That’s another great theory. But I believe it is not the case, because I had already configured our water heater and shower valve such that when you set the shower valve to its maximum heat, you get a perfect shower (because running your water tank at the lowest convenient temp saves energy). Showers with both the old and new showerhead both feel comfortable.

      Frugal Toque of course doesn’t care about these things in practice because he has a well that provides unlimited free water and a geothermal heat system that very cheaply heats it using energy from the soil.

      Reply
  • Mr. Frugal Toque December 1, 2011, 9:47 am

    Actually, we do use low flow shower heads anyway because it’s silly to throw the stuff down the drain even if it goes back into the water table.
    The flow is so slow that, even on the relative-to-city-folk low pressure of our pressure tank, you can flush toilets while someone is taking a shower and the person in the shower doesn’t notice.
    Does the Mustache family use a dish washing machine? Those have electric heaters in them that are relatively inefficient compared to natural gas, which means that your shower-water temperature hot water source has to be electrically heated in your dish washer. Maybe you do all of your dishes manually.

    Reply
    • Jamie Forrester December 1, 2011, 2:29 pm

      My understanding is that electric resistance heating is 100% efficient at converting electricity into heat.(at the point of use, electric generation to point of use is a whole other story) Natural gas heaters area always less then 100% efficient. Electric heat however tends to be more expensive the natural gas generated heat but this depends on the costs in your area. My electric is real cheap and gas can be quite expensive so there isn’t an obvious winner without doing the math.

      Reply
      • Mr. Frugal Toque December 1, 2011, 6:45 pm

        True enough.
        My hot water tank is partially geothermally heated (at somewhere between 3.2:1 and 4.0:1 over electrical heat) so i know that my hot water tank will win the race against my dishwasher any day of the week.
        Your mileage, obviously, may vary.

        Reply
        • MMM December 1, 2011, 9:36 pm

          That’s another interesting consideration.We do use a dishwasher quite a bit in the MMM household (it became profitable on a time/cost basis once we had a kid around).

          But an energy-star dishwasher only uses 4 gallons of water per cycle. The electricity needed to boost this water from 107 to 147F is about 0.3 kilowatt hours, or 3 cents per load. Meanwhile, the standby losses in a water heater are many times larger than that per day, and would increase your costs by much more than 3 cents/day if you tried to feed the dishwasher full-temperature water. I believe this calculation would hold true even with the heat pump at a 4:1 advantage over electric resistance heat, unless your water heater is infinitely insulated (i.e. with milk bags ;-))

          Reply
          • Mr. Frugal Toque December 6, 2011, 9:18 am

            Water heaters are pretty impressive, but you may be right.

            The advice we were given was to run the dishwasher immediately after washing any large pots and pans that wouldn’t fit in the dishwasher. That way we’d at least get the benefit of already having hot water in the pipes.

            I think the most interesting thing we refused were these recycling pipes they wanted to put in. Basically, the hot water pipe continuously feeds back into the hot water tank in a very slow cycle so that you have instant hot water whenever you turn on the tap. Insulated, sure, but it sounded pretty wasteful for the 23+ hours a day I don’t need hot water.

            Reply
            • MMM December 6, 2011, 9:23 am

              Good choice – the recirculating hot water system is convenient for impatient hedonists, and cost-effective if you are running it during the heating season if your source of hot water is at least as efficient as your furnace (since the actual energy for a small pump to accomplish the circulation would be tiny).

              But if it also runs during the summer cooling season, it would be a disaster! It’s effectively a full house hydronic heating system. You don’t want that for at least 5 months of the year in Ottawa, and at least 11 months of the year in other places.

              Reply
            • Mike June 28, 2014, 11:43 am

              They do have these hot-water circulation systems like this that are operated by a button, so you just push the button before the hot water is needed, and no water is wasted down the drain waiting for the water to get hot. Multiple wireless remotes can be placed around the house near each how water using device. Since the pump only runs on demand, no energy is wasted heating pipes 24/hr a day. They use the cold water line to return water to the water heater.

              Reply
              • Oh Yonghao July 29, 2014, 12:45 pm

                There goes my idea for a new product to hit the market. I was just thinking about that, what if I had a valve near my shower head which I could turn first to tell it to basically purge the water by dumping it back into the water heater, then with some sort of indicator I could turn the valve back to providing me with hot water.

          • Gus December 9, 2011, 7:35 am

            While a recirculating system may or may not be advantageous, there does exist a drain heat recuperation unit that might make sense in some instances.

            Behold: The system consists of a coil like copper attire that rests either in or around your water drain ( a copper jacket for your drain if you will).

            When one(or two if you are feeling frisky) takes a shower, most of the water going down the drain is still full of yummy thermal energy. The purpose of the system is to capture some of that energy and put it towards reheating the new, cold water coming in the water heater.

            The more often you use hot water, the more it makes sense to use such a device.

            Up here, such a device can be had for around 800$ minus incentives from the utilities companies.

            http://www.saskenergy.com/saving_energy/drainwaterheatrecovery.asp

            Of course, the payback is much longer than a shower head, but this device is good for many many years.

            Reply
  • Peter Lyons December 1, 2011, 12:14 pm

    One other nice tip is to get a shower head with a quick on/off button. This makes it easier to lather up without running water while you try to stand out of the spray. I try to keep the water mostly off while scrubbing/lathering and just turn it on to rinse. I would think it helps reduce the water used but I haven’t actually measured to be sure. This is the shower head I bought last year. Sadly amazon doesn’t list the flow rate when it is fully “on”. You can slide the button gradually from full on to just a tiny trickle.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0008JIKZ0/ref=oh_o02_s00_i01_details

    Reply
    • Valerie December 1, 2011, 1:40 pm

      I had one of those installed in the past – an on/off valve at the showerhead in the hopes of saving water while lathering up etc… The only problem was that the hot water rises in the pipe running up to the showerhead while it’s off – so when you turn it back on after a minute or two you get hit with a shot of hot water, then a shot of cold, before the normal regulated water flows back in. Eventually it broke and I was happy to just have it removed.

      Reply
    • MMM December 1, 2011, 9:37 pm

      That would definitely save you some water if you are tough enough to lather up with the stream off.

      By the way, Peter Lyons – are you really that gold-colored dude with a beard playing a saxophone while wearing sunglasses? That would be pretty cool.

      I think I need a new avatar. This Ulysses S. Grant one makes me look fat.

      Reply
    • Nigel February 19, 2014, 4:45 pm

      I’m a bit of a freak on this front. I’ve spent some time on tiny tropical islands (Thailand and Philippines) where fresh water is at an absolute premium – inconceivable to stand there with the water running while you lather and scrub. Lots of the $3/night bungalows where I’ve stayed just had a small faucet and a pail that you would fill up and throw over yourself, like the locals did. I kind of got used to this, so now it just seems natural to use about 30 seconds to get wet and 1 minute to rinse off. I’ve challenged my 10 year-old son to keep to under 2 minutes of running water per shower and he likes it (basically, all I had to do was say ‘I bet you can’t do it!’).

      It does get a bit chilly in the winter, but I figure hot running water is a really expensive way to keep warm, and if the Finns can jump out of a sauna and into a snowbank maybe there’s something to be said for withstanding a few minutes of cold once a day.

      Reply
  • Math Teacher December 1, 2011, 10:04 pm

    So, I have had a 1.5 shower head for the last 6 months and I notice no difference from my 2.5 shower head. I got it for FREE from my local water district along with a slew of other freebies. (They changed my sprinkler timer to SmartTimer, they switched out my old style sprinklers for a drip system and rotating nozzles for the lawn. Next week they are going to relandscape my side yard to remove the turf. We are going to build a playground for our daughter there in the spring!)

    However, I don’t buy that conservation efforts should be calculated as financial savings. This is because the utility rates are rising faster than we can conserve. MMM, do you think that the raise in utility rates should be factored into your calculations?

    Reply
  • logicalnot December 4, 2011, 11:20 am

    Hello MMM,

    Two short notes.

    I ordered two shower heads from your link before I even finished to the post. I hope you have some sort of deal with Amazon to get some money back.

    We have a tank less water heater in our home (Culver City – South California). And while this technology has some great benefit on the long run, there is a real draw back: every time you take a shower, it takes one to two minutes to deliver the hot water (at the exact temp. you specified) to arrive in the shower head.

    This means there is some sort of incompressible “waste” cost every time your take a shower.

    I am planning to add a system with a 3 ways valve in the shower so the cold water will go first to our external cistern for a minute then switch to “shower” to get the warm water.

    [ English is not my primary langage: I hope this makes sens. ]

    Reply
  • abitha December 5, 2011, 3:21 pm

    I got sent a free flow restrictor through the mail, and only just got round to actually fitting it after reading this post. I’ve run through your calculations and converted everything to UK units (I’m getting quite good at converting $ to £ in my head after reading your blog for a few weeks, but BTU to kWhr was a bit beyond me). My water isn’t metered, and the gadget I got will only restrict flow to 7.7 litres (2 US gallons) per minute, but even so, I reckon I’ll be saving about £17.70 ($27.75) per year, which is about 5% of my gas bill. Not bad for something I got for free! I’m kicking myself for not having fitted it sooner. Thanks MMM!

    Reply
    • MMM December 5, 2011, 9:22 pm

      Good job! .. what was the flow rate of your old showerhead? Did you measure it with a bucket, or was it printed on the head?

      Reply
      • abitha December 19, 2011, 1:51 pm

        The gadget I was sent came with a plastic bag with a line on – you put the showerhead in the bag, turn it quickly to full power and time 5 seconds, then turn it off. Then hold up the bag and see if the water level is above the line – if it is, the shower is using more than 7.7 litres/minute and they recommend fitting the device. Eyeballing it, mine looked like it was putting out about a little over 10 litres/minute (2.6 US gallons/minute). After fitting the device and trying it again, the water level was right on the line, so it seems to work.

        Mine was from a company called Eaga, and is called a Shower Smart. They don’t seem to be doing them any more (or at least not giving them out for free), but I was recently sent ANOTHER one from a different company, called a Shower Saint, and looking at their website (http://www.showersaint.com/) they still appear to be giving them away. Only seems to be available in the UK, but if there are any fellow UK Mustachians reading this comments thread, perhaps they’ll be interested!

        Reply
        • abitha December 19, 2011, 1:53 pm

          (Bizarrely, I didn’t actually request either of the gadgets – they somehow just got sent to me. Perhaps I have a Mustachian guardian angel who is entering my details into these websites in order to save me money?)

          Reply
  • Chucks December 11, 2011, 9:56 pm

    Wow, I live in a house with two other roommates and we both take reasonably long showers with a standard 2.5 gpm low flow faucet every day.

    Do the math:
    Three 10 minute showers per day equals 30 minutes a day, 900 shower minutes a month equals 2250 gallons of hot water from an electric heater. Not sure about the temperature, though the heater is set at the “recommended” settings…it might be more than what you calculate, but using your figures at 15 cents a kWH that works out to $59.63 A MONTH–or more than half of our most recent electric bill!! I had no idea showers cost that much! That alone is enough for me to just use straight cold water or head to the gym for my hot showers! I don’t think I can convince my room mates to be that drastic, but through the shower head switch alone I think I can easily recoup the bill in a few months.

    Thanks Mr. MM!

    Reply
    • MMM December 11, 2011, 10:44 pm

      You’re spot on – in fact, since the showerhead only costs ten dollars, you’ll recoup its cost more than twice over EVERY MONTH.. In fact, in your house this showerhead alone is going to be paying for someone’s entire beer bill with its savings!

      From the comments, I learned that most households take a shitload more showers than ours – I should have named the article something like “a $2000 gift” instead of an $800 one.

      Reply
  • James January 15, 2012, 11:49 am

    I ordered the low-flow shower head your linked to the very day you made this post, and we have been using it since it arrived. I measured the output by bucket and the new shower head is less than half the flow of the old one. I’ll be honest, the first two weeks of showers I could constantly “feel” the lack of water coming out. It was just “different”, and who likes change?

    But after a month it’s the new normal and feels just fine, and the savings continue to flow. So I do like the change after all. :) I calculated our savings and it comes out to about $10/month due to our excessive usage between my wife and I, we need to work on decreasing the length and frequency of showers next for even more savings. But those savings alone mean we make a MONTHLY 100% return on investment! If you had a paypal donate button I’d be chipping in a nice chunk of those savings to you… :)

    Thanks for the tip, if I hadn’t followed it I would be due a solid punch in the face.

    Reply
    • Diana L May 16, 2013, 1:47 pm

      “If you had a paypal donate button I’d be chipping in a nice chunk of those savings to you… :) ”

      I actually quite like the idea of having a voluntary contribution button encouraging people to contribute one month (or two week’s or whatever) worth of savings from changes they made based solely on reading this blog. Assuming Mr Money Mustache doesn’t want the money (as he’s implied in other posts), my suggestions for any donations would be as follows:
      (a) pay for the web hosting for this site (I would think that as the site grows, that would become more pricey)
      (b) allow MMM to purchase items that might possibility save money (that he wouldn’t otherwise) and evaluate whether or not they were actually worth the price
      (c) donate the money in such a way that it would help someone else on their journey towards mustachism (this could be anything from donating financial books to schools/libraries, to purchasing solar panels for individuals/businesses, to shipping a bike to a self-proclaimed wussypants and challenging them to try it before they say it can’t be done)

      While I don’t like forced payments (subscriptions, etc) – I do occasionally like to support individuals/groups/etc that give me enjoyment, such as the reading of this blog. And as a “pay back,” donating makes me feel more personally vested / part of the group (which, in this case, would then guilt me into trying to be even more conservative, which would have an end result of being even better for me as an individual)

      Reply
  • Belcat February 3, 2012, 2:16 pm

    Hello MM and MM readers,

    Another thing you may want to consider is a Drain Wastewater Heat Recovery pipe, such as the Powerpipe. Basically, as you take your shower all that heat is going down the drain, when it could be used to heat the cold water going to your tank! So companies have created a pipe that basically acts as a heat exchanger between your incoming water and your drain water to capture the lost heat.
    They are solid copper so they will never go bad, and the more people in your house, the more you save. If you hate the energy efficient showerheads, you definitely want to give this a try since it will save you more.
    http://www.renewability.com/power_pipe/index.html
    (There are other brands, but last I looked this was the best).

    Reply
  • islandgirl June 15, 2012, 9:13 am

    Hopefully I’m not repeating anything here as I only scanned through the comments. For houses that have the old, big-turd-flushing toilets, why not just put a brick or two in the tank to take up space/decrease water rather than exchange the toilet?? The city where I live is actually giving rebates to people who exchange their toilets. I emailed them to give out bricks instead, as that is my tax dollars going into other peoples’ toilets!! AND, the recycling station has hundreds of toilets dumped there!!! How good is that for the earth?!?!
    A few years back I was in Germany and the house I was staying at had a wonderful shower!! Along the outside pipe that went to the shower head, there was an on/off switch that shut the water off mostly but not totally, so that it trickled water and allowed the water to stay the same temperature when turned back on, avoiding scalding the person (as Valerie, above, mentioned).

    Reply
    • Stephane Boisjoli July 14, 2012, 1:16 pm

      The problem with the brick is now you have a toilet that doesn’t flush as well, and still uses more water (not sure how much space the brick takes, but it’s probably not 7L). The new toilets are designed to flush as well with less water. If you have no money or no technical skill, then the brick is the best option, but a new toilet will work better.

      Reply
  • The Perpetual Student July 15, 2012, 9:16 am

    A gallon jug full of water doesn’t crumble into the plumbing like a brick.

    Also, your MMM flow is janky when you call your son Junior ‘Stash. Mr. Money Mustache, Mrs. Money Mustache, and Mini Money Mustache flows WAY better!

    Reply
    • Laura July 9, 2013, 5:55 pm

      I’ve thought the same thing so many times!!

      Reply
  • MiniMMM August 24, 2012, 7:44 am

    I went ahead and installed the Niagra showerhead last night, definitely lives up to the hype! (went from 2.5GPM to 1.5 GPM) Anyways, I installed it without pipe tape and noticed that the previous one I removed also didn’t have pipe tape. Do you recommend installing with or without pipe tape… getting conflicting messages from the internets, thanks!

    Reply
    • Quentin Hartman August 24, 2012, 8:43 am

      It depends on the fixture. Some want you to use tape, some don’t . Generally speaking, if it has a gasket or o-ring in the fitting, don’t use tape. If it doesn’t have any kind of sealing device like that, use tape.

      Reply
  • Rhonda April 25, 2013, 5:31 pm

    I LOVE LOVE this blog! I just purchased this showerhead to replace mine. I have no idea the rating on my current showerheard, but this will no doubt be an improvement! I will be looking into a low flow toilet or two, & solar heating…love it!
    Thanks for the info & keep it flowing!!

    Reply
  • Neil June 27, 2014, 8:41 am

    Illinois mustachians get two of these free from your local gas monopoly. (That doesn’t sound like them).http://orders.amconservationgroup.com/nicorgas/

    Reply

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