WaterSense

Toilet Rebates End December 31, 2018

As we enter waste water averaging season (November through February), we are all trying to use the least amount of water possible so that our waste water averages and charges will be lower next year. So, let’s talk toilets as an easy way to reduce the consumption of water inside your home. It involves no behavior changes, you don’t have to think about it, it just saves water each time it’s used (which is every day).

You have a direct impact on your waste water charges by using less water during the winter months. First, turn off your irrigation system. Easy, done. The next major impact–and my topic today–toilets. Everyone uses one every day. They account for the greatest use of water indoors, using up to 30% of our indoor water use. The less water you flush, the lower your water use will be, and that directly impacts waste water charges. We’ve come full-circle now!

Now, the City has had a toilet rebate program, on and off, since 2009. To qualify for the rebate there are three criteria:

1. You must be a direct City of Round Rock water customer. This is because the water conservation program is funded directly by a portion our customer’s water charges; MUDs and others not on City water do not contribute to the program and aren’t eligible.

2. Your house or property must have been built before January 2006. Here’s why that date is there: In 1991 the EPA determined that all toilets manufactured and sold in the U.S. must use 1.6 gallons of water per flush (gpf) or less. At that time, all the manufacturers did was fill up the tanks with less water but kept all the plumbing parts the same. The toilets were terrible and most had to be double-flushed, which is why the bad reputation of “low-flow” toilets.

So, fast-forward a few years to 1996 and efficient toilets were redesigned and now actually flushing the way they were supposed to. Around 2005, toilets underwent another generational change and dual flush toilets were introduced, as well as those using less than 1.6 gpf. That’s where we stand with the date. However, not all toilets are the same, which leads us to #3.

3. The toilet(s) purchased must be WaterSense approved. WaterSense is an EPA program that is basically like ENERGY STAR, but for water use. Items labeled “WaterSense” have been third-party tested for performance and lasting efficiency. When purchasing a product that has the WaterSense logo, you know the product will perform as expected and will retain its water savings for its life expectancy. The list is continually updated as more products get tested.

If you haven’t already participated in the rebate program to replace your pre-2006 toilets, it’s time to do it!! The rebate program is ending permanently on December 31, 2018, so there is only a month left to take advantage of the rebate!

Why is it ending, you ask? Well, starting January 1, 2014, ALL toilets sold in Texas must use 1.28 gpf or less, per the Texas Plumbing Code. You really have no choice but to purchase an efficient toilet; so, we’d like to start using the toilet funds for another program.

Celebrate and Save Water this Weekend

This holiday weekend, you can double-dip on savings on products to help you reduce your water use at your home or business.  This is the second annual Lawn and Garden Water Smart Tax Holiday!

This Memorial Day Weekend, May 27-29, 2017, consumers can purchase water saving items without paying sales tax.  Water saving items, as defined by the Texas Comptroller, can include any plant product, any product with a WaterSense label, mulch, rain water collection systems, and much more!  There is no limit to how many items you can purchase.

This holiday was established in 2016 to encourage Texans to be Water Smart!  Texas comptroller Glenn Hegar said, “Ensuring Texans have an adequate supply of water is fundamental if we want to continue creating jobs and growing the economy,” he continued. “The Tax Holiday helps Texas consumers be water smart, saving money and water in their outdoor landscapes.”

The categories of products is pretty broad; you can buy items tax free during the holiday that are used or planted for:

  • conserving or retaining groundwater;
  • recharging water tables; or
  • decreasing ambient air temperature, and so limiting water evaporation.

Examples of items that qualify for the exemption include:

  • a soaker or drip-irrigation hose
  • a moisture control for a sprinkler or irrigation system
  • mulch
  • a rain barrel or an alternative rain and moisture collection system
  • a permeable ground cover surface that allows water to reach underground basins, aquifers or water collection points
  • plants, trees and grasses
  • water-saving surfactants
  • soil and compost

If you’d like more information on the products and plants you can purchase tax-free this weekend, visit landscapetexas.org or the Texas Comptroller’s website.

Remember, the City’s Water Conservation program offers rebates on many water-saving and WaterSense labeled items.  And residents can always pick up free mulch from the brush recycling center.

 

Smart Controllers

Now is the time of year to think about turning off your sprinkler system, if you haven’t already.  Remember, it’s about to be winter, plants go dormant, we’re having regular rainfall, cooler temps… you know all this.

one type of smart controller

one type of smart controller

So, it may seem like a strange time to think about sprinklers, but I wanted to see if you knew the City’s water conservation program offers rebates on various items to help make your sprinkler system more efficient?  One of those items is a smart, weather-based controller.

So, what is a smart controller?  Simply put, it’s a controller that takes into account the current weather, the weather forecast, the type of sprinkler head (drip, spray, rotor, etc), the plant material (grass, shrubs, trees, etc), and probably the slope of the yard, and the soil type to come up with a watering schedule that is truly personalized for your yard.  No more guessing how much time you need to set for each station!

The smart controller will come up with a personalized schedule, though it probably will need some tweaks.  Full-disclosure, I installed a smart controller at my own house back in March or April of this year.  However, with all the rain this spring, it didn’t actually run until July and at that point I really thought is was watering some areas way too long.  I had to go into the application on my phone and adjust some settings to reduce watering time.  However, I will say that my highest water bill this summer was in August for 8,200 gallons–so not bad at all!  The smart controller I have estimates the amount of water used (in gallons) each time it waters, and the numbers it was reporting for my yard were very high.  The estimate of gallons used isn’t too accurate in my case.

But, back to the point; really, it’s ideal to water when the plants actually NEED the water, not just because it’s a Wednesday (or whatever day of the week your controller is set for).  AND, since we’re not in water restrictions, this is the ideal time to try out one of these controllers.  The controller will determine when it’s best to water and for how long, although they all have options to select specific days to water if/when we are under water restrictions.  Maybe all the zones won’t be watered on the same day, that’s the beauty of these controllers.  ILogo-WaterSenset’s watering to the plant, not to a schedule.

Many smart controllers are also designed to be used over WiFi: on home computers, phones, tablets…which may make it easier to control and set up.  No more trying to figure out all those buttons, knobs, and programs!  Through the internet connection, or an on-site weather station, they determine the current weather conditions to come up with the watering schedule.

If your interested has been peaked in smart controller, visit the WaterSense website to learn more, and find a list of WaterSense approved controllers, that are also eligible for the City’s irrigation rebate.  The rebate expires when funding runs out, but I don’t anticipate that happening any time before August 2016.

Let’s start watering smart in 2016!

Fix a Leak Week

The week of March 16-20, marks the EPA’s WaterSense program’s Fix a Leak Week to encourage families to check for water leak and drips in their bathrooms, kitchens, and yards–and fix them!

Check out this cute video on how to accomplish this:

 

An easy way to determine if you may have a leak, is to go look at your water water meter and see if the hand on the meter is moving when no water is being used in your house.  You can also look at your water bill usage (look at the gallons, not just the dollars).  If you’re using more than 2,000 gallons per person, per month, in the home, then usage is higher than average and you may want to check for leaks.

Good luck!

New Year’s Water-lution!

It’s that time of year when we make resolutions about how to improve our lives for thLogo-we're for watere upcoming 12 months!  This year, how about a Water-lution?!  Resolve to save water–it may be easier than losing those “last” 5 pounds!  There are easy ways to save, especially when the WaterSense program can help identify appliances that are water efficient and will maintain their water savings over the years.  Sounds good, right?

When purchasing and installing products with the WaterSense label, you know you’ll get the water savings…unlike all that working out and dieting!  Is that 5 pounds ever going to go away?!?

WaterSense labeled products are backed by independent third party certification and meet EPA’s specifications for water efficiency and performance. So, when you use WaterSense labeled products in your home or business, you can be confident you’ll be saving water without sacrifice.

Also, the City’s toilet replacement program only rebates WaterSense labeled toilets.  Another good reason to look for WaterSense.

By clicking on the We’re for Water logo, you can take a pledge to save water and there’s great tips to get you saving.  It’s easy!  And there’s a money-back guarantee!  Just kidding…this is a free pledge.  (Though you could save money by fixing leaks.)

Happy New Year!

 

 

Toilet Rebate Program Returns!

watersense toiletI wrote a blog back in November 2013 about the toilet rebate program ending and why it was ending.  In case you missed it, it was due to the State Plumbing Code changes that as of January 1, 2014, mandated that all toilets sold in the State of Texas must use 1.28 gallons of water per flush (gpf) or less.  That’s down from the previous requirement of 1.6 gpf, so it’s a small savings of water per flush, which can add up significantly depending on the number of people in the house or how many hours per day the house is occupied and the toilets are being used.

The happy news is that I get to announce now, that the efficient toilet rebate program been updated and funded, so it is now available again; you can participate as soon as you’re reading this!  The changes are pretty minimal–only the age of the house has changed.  With the new program, the house (or any property) .  The reason the date was changed to 2006 is because during the late 1990s and early 2000s the 1.6 gpf toilet was the most efficient toilet on the market, thanks to the previously mentioned laws.  Starting around 2004, 1.28 gpf toilets started making an appearance and have since grown to nearly take over the market.  Homes that were built in the time period of the late 90s – early 2000s can now get a little more efficient with their indoor water use.  That’s good!

Other program details are the same:   Logo-WaterSense

    • Property must be a DIRECT water customer of the City of Round Rock (sorry, no MUD customers);
    • New toilet(s) must be from the EPA’s WaterSense list, which are simple to locate in stores or on product packaging by looking for the WaterSense emblem (shown at right);
    • There is no limit on the number of toilets at a residence, simply one for one replacement.
    •  
      Maximum rebate is $100 per toilet.
    • House or Property must be built prior to January 1, 2006.

Find the full details on the City’s Water Conservation Rebate page.

The “catch”, if there has to be one, is that if you’ve already replaced a toilet (or more) in the previous toilet rebate program, you aren’t eligible to replace that same toilet again under this program.  Now let’s start replacing those old toilets!

Shower Smarter

I can’t believe that December is almost over!  I just realized that it’s been a month since I wrote my last blog…time flies!  Well, as you know, it’s winter time, which means it is waste water averaging (WWA) time for the water utility.  showerheadI talked about WWA during my article relating to toilets. To keep with the bathroom theme, I am moving onto showers–showerheads specifically.

Showers are similar to toilets, in that they are used daily and account for about 17% of our daily indoor water use.  Also, like toilets, they are regulated by national and state codes regarding how much water they can use; for showers, it’s rated as gallons of water per minute (gpm), versus toilets, which is gallons per flush (gpf).  Currently, the EPA requires that any and all showerheads sold must use no more than 2.5 gpm.   This has been the law since 2010 and there are plenty of showerheads on the market that use less than this.

I know, low-flow showerheads just don’t sound appealing.  I always think of that old Seinfeld episode where low-flow showerheads are being introduced in Jerry’s apartment building and Kramer is purchasing black-market, elephant washing showerheads that knocks him out of the shower and starts doing everything in there-food preparation, washing dishes…it makes me laugh!  And cringe.

The thing is, showerheads aren’t really “low-flow,” as in low-pressure.  Although they use less water, they simply use the same water pressureshowerhead edited that your house currently has; they don’t change the water pressure.  Us water nerds prefer to call the fixtures “efficient” showerheads, or “water-conserving” showerheads.  Sounds much better than “low-flow”!

I’ll admit, I’ve had my doubts too.  The heads I’ve installed at my house use 1.50 gpm, and honestly, I was skeptical about them and put off installing them for a while.  Finally, for the sake of research and water efficiency, I installed them and was pleasantly surprised–they worked great and have plenty of pressure and water!  And, if you are considering a bathroom remodel that includes multiple showerheads in the same shower, just remember that that doubles or triples the amount of water that is being used per minute, while multiple heads are in use (2.5 x number of heads = total gpm).

If your home is new, you probably already have efficient fixtures.  You can check for yourself just by reading the fine print on the showerhead.  See the middle picture.  Where the red arrow is pointing is where showerheads typically have printed what their gpm is.  The one shown says 1.75 gpm max–meaLogo-WaterSensening the most it’s going to emit is 1.75 gallons per minute.

So, this winter while you are fixing leaks, replacing toilets, and otherwise making your home water efficient to get the lowest WWA possible, think about replacing your showerheads too.  The City is giving away free 1.75 gpm showerheads at the water billing office, while supplies last, or purchase a model of your choosing at any store that sells showerheads or plumbing fixtures.  Don’t forget to look for the WaterSense label, those have been tested and approved as good quality, water saving devices.

Find out more about efficient showerheads at EPA’s WaterSense site.

Best Seat in the House

As we’ve entered into wastewater averaging season (November – February), we are all trying to use the least amount of water possible so that our wastewater averages and charges will be lower this next year.  So, let’s talk toilets as a easy way to reduce the consumption of water inside your home.funny toilet  It involves no behavior changes, you don’t have to think about it, it just saves water each time it’s used!  First though, maybe I should explain wastewater averaging quickly, to make sure we’re all on the same page.

Wastewater averaging happens every winter.  It’s the way the City calculates what you’ll be charged on your utility bill for wastewater (or sewer, same thing).  The City doesn’t have meters on the wastewater lines coming from your property, so we don’t know exactly how much waste is leaving and we’re treating.  We make assumptions based on your water use.  During the winter months (November – February), it is assumed that all water used at your property is being used indoors (and goind down the drain–think sinks, toilets, baths, washers, showers).  It’s winter, the plants go dormant and we’ve had so much rain, no additional irrigation is needed.  Evaporation to pools is minimal.  So, this winter water use is the lowest amount of water used all year.  Those winter months of water use are averaged and that average is what you’re charged for wastewater the remainder of the year.  And yes, wastewater does cost more than water.  It just takes more time, chemicals, and other treatments to clean it, so the charges are slightly higher for it.

You have a direct impact on your wastewater charges by using less water during the winter months.  First, turn off your irrigation system.  Easy, done.  The next major impact–and my topic today–toilets.  Everyone uses one everyday.  They account for the largest use of water indoors, using up to 30% of our indoor water use.  The less water you flush, the lower your water use will be, and that directly impacts wastewater charges.  We’ve come full-circle now!

Now, the City has had a toilet rebate program, on and off, since 2009.  To be eligible for the rebate there are three criteria:Logo-WaterSense

  1. You must be a direct City of Round Rock water customer.  This is because the water conservation program is funded directly by a portion our customer’s water charges; MUDs and others not on City water do not contribute to the program and aren’t eligible.
  2. Your house or property must have been built before January 1996.  I get asked about that date and here’s why it’s there: In 1991 the EPA determined that all toilets manufactured and sold in the U.S. must use 1.6 gallons of water per flush (gpf) or less.  At that time, all the manufacturers did was fill up the tanks with less water, but kept all the plumbing parts the same.  The toilets were terrible and most had to be double-flushed, which is why the bad reputation is still made fun of today in sitcoms.  Water usage was actually increasing, rather than decreasing and the manufacturers knew they had to make other changes to the design of the toilets.  So, fast-forward a few years to 1995 and efficient toilets were redisgned and now actually flushing the way they were supposed to.  The date is there since all toilets manufactured since then were good, working 1.6 gpf toilets.
  3. The toilet(s) purchased must be WaterSense approved.  WaterSense is an EPA program that is basically like Energy Star, but for water use.  Items labeled with WaterSense label have been third-party tested for performance and lasting efficiency.  When purchasing a product that has the WaterSense logo, you know the product is good and will retain it’s water savings for it’s life expectancy.  The list is continually updated as more products get tested.

So, if you haven’t already paricipated in the rebate program, or replaced your pre-1996 toilets, it’s time to do it!!  The rebate program is ending permanently on December 31, 2013, so there is only a month left to take advantage of the rebate!  Why is it ending, you ask?  Well, starting January 1, 2014, all toilets sold in Texas must be 1.28 gpf or less, by law.  The City isn’t keen on providing a rebate on an appliance that is efficient, when that’s the only choice available. We’d rather start using the funds for another program.