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City of Alexandria, VA City of Alexandria, VA
Green Building Resource Center
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Page updated Jul 27, 2012 9:37 AM
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image for conserving toilet waterDon't Flush Your Money Down the Drain!
Low-to-No Cost Strategies for Conserving Toilet Water

According to National Geographic, 26% of the pure water in the average home is flushed down the toilet. This percentage may be even greater if your toilet is old or leaky. Luckily, there are many easy, low-cost or no-cost ways that you can shrink your water bill by significantly reducing the potable water that you flush away.

Decrease your Gallons Per Flush (GPF)

If your toilet is from 1992 or earlier, you probably have an inefficient model that uses at least 3.5 gallons per flush. Although the federal Energy Policy Act of 1992 mandated a maximum of 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf) for new toilets beginning in 1994, many homes and apartments still have older toilets that might use 3.5 – 7 gpf.

Optimally, you should replace your toilet with a new, water-conservative version. Models that are WaterSense labeled use less than 1.28 gpf. Compared to a 3.5 gpf toilet, a WaterSense labeled toilet could save a family of four more than $90 annually on their water bill, and $2,000 over the lifetime of the toilet.

If replacing your toilet is not an option, you can displace excess water in your toilet tank to save water with every flush. You can make your toilet behave like a low-flow toilet by placing a brick, or (water-filled) half-gallon plastic milk jug, at the base of your toilet tank. The volume of the brick (or jug) will reduce the volume of water that is needed to fill the tank. The Toilet TummyTM, which is available for about $4, is a toilet tank displacement bag that functions on the same principle.

Fix That Leak!

When a toilet tank leaks, water escapes from the tank into the bowl and is lost down the drain. A leaky toilet can waste about 200 gallons of water every day. Toilet leaks are common, and most are silent and hard to notice – left undetected, they can be a huge drain for water loss.

To tell if your toilet has a leak, place a drop of food coloring in the tank. You can also purchase toilet leak detection dye tablets for under $1. If the color shows in the bowl without flushing, you have a leak and your toilet needs repair. If the flapper valve is the source of the leak, you can buy a new flapper at the hardware store and replace it quickly and easily.

Break the Sweat

If your toilet tank sweats, it is losing water in the form of condensation. Condensation builds up on a tank due to temperature differences from inside the tank to the outside room temperature. The humidity of the room can also impact the amount of condensation that can form.

The first step in eliminating the condensation is to understand its source. A leaky flapper valve can often cause condensation because cold water must be streamed constantly to maintain the tank level. This will keep the water temperature in the tank colder then is should be and cause the toilet to sweat. Replacing the leaky flapper should reduce condensation.

If the flapper does not leak, try insulating the tank. You can purchase foam insulation designed for toilet tanks at your local hardware store. The installation process, which can be completed within a day, involves draining the tank and gluing the insulation to line the inside of the tank.

More resources:

National Geographic Green Guide: Toilet Buying Guide 
Water Sense: Toilets

Green Building Resource Center
301 King St., Room 4100
Alexandria, Va 22314
703.746.4065
Fax: 703.519.3356
E-mail

Office Hours:
Monday-Friday
8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.