Category Archives: Turquoise House

Water Use, Reduce – Toilets

One of the first things we replaced in our home were the toilets.  We originally had one piece Toto fixtures that the previous owner had put in, which were fine, but for us, at 1.6 gpm, still consumed more water then we wanted.  Our logic?  Since a majority of toilet uses are for flushing non-solid waste, it seems very wasteful to use a whole gallon and a half of potable water (don’t get me started on the lack of greywater usage in this country) to flush when so little is really necessary to be effective.

What we found in our research was that it wasn’t just about it being a low-flow toilet alone, it had a lot of do with the technology, or lack thereof, of the toilet itself.

You see, ‘american’ toilets were originally designed to flush on large volumes of water.  The reason being? Siphon drains; that goose-neck looking curve along the back of your toilets drain.  You see, the water, when it flows down the drain, creates an air bubble that gets pulled down the drain, thus creating a suction, and therefore a swirling effect in the toilet.  This process takes a good volume of water just to create the air bubble and requires more water to ensure that the waste is taken down in the swirl it creates.  This is why older toilets used over 6 gallons of water per flush.  Can you believe that?  Just to flush our waste!  How dumb.

Then what happened is, regulations started requiring them to use less water. Starting in 1994, toilets were required to use 1.6 gpf or less.  Well, the issue was that that was significantly less water then the technology was designed to handle.  So what you had were toilets that didn’t flush waste very well, clogged easily or, as introduced in the late 1990’s, power assisted or air assisted in order for them to work… BAWOOSH they screamed… Scaring the crap out of you.  Very effective but startling.  There had to be a better way.

Well, for the last 20 years, there has been a company in Australia that has been making what is called Dual-Flush toilets.  These toilets have two flush options, one is 0.8 gpf (now 0.6) and 1.6 gpf (now 1.2).  This allows you to use less water to flush non-solid waste.  But here is the kicker, I have found through use at our house, that i have NEVER had to use the full flush mode for any reason.  The half-flush is enough to flush any waste down the toilet.  The reason is, they use a direct ‘S’ trap for the drain.  Very simple and it only requires enough water to push the waste up and over the trap.  And that trap is 4″, enough to flush a softball (not that i recommend this).

By putting in Caroma One-piece Dual Flush toilets, we were able to cut our water usage for toilets in half.  Even if you don’t achieve that level, it is at least a 60% reduction under standard usage.  You can get Caroma Toilets from Dana Jones at Sunstate Sales here in Phoenix.  You can reach them at (602) 484-7148.

Just remember that not all Dual Flush systems are the same.  The secret is in the less sophisticated but more intelligent trap design in the Caroma toilets.  Until the rest figure that out, it is Apples to Melons.  It is amazing the insight that Australians have about conserving water.  You should always start down under when looking for water conserving technology.

Tell Dana, i said hello.  He is a great guy and takes great care of his clients.

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Water use, Reduce – Water Audit

We moved into our home in 2006.  While there were a ton of projects that needed to be done,  one of the easiest is to reduce your water usage.  Given the state of water in the world and the desert southwest (whether we admit it or not), it was a priority for us to immediately reduce our water footprint.

The best way to start this off is by performing a water audit.  A water audit is taking an inventory of your existing fixtures and their water use, whether it be gallons per minute, as is the case with shower fixtures, or gallons per use, as is the case with a toilets and dishwashers.  Then, to be more accurate, keep track of how often you use each fixture over the course of a month.  Once you have these two numbers, you can calculate how much water you are using in any given month.  Once you know where your heaviest water usages are for your family, you can start to prioritize what changes will have the biggest impact.  You don’t have to do it all the first time, but create a plan and stick to it.

In our home, we found that showers and toilets were the biggest consumers, so we started there.  I will post more about those in future posts.

Some helpful tips when doing an audit:

  1. Time your showers to determine your shower water usage accurately.  Do this at least 10 times to get a good average.
  2. Use a single gallon container for determining flow rates.  For your showers and bathroom sinks, time how long it takes to fill up the container.  For showers, if it fills up in 24 sec. or less, it is a water hog and doesn’t even meet current regulations.  For Sinks, if it fills up in less than 60 sec. then you should look to put in a new aerator.  Anything more than 1 gpm for sinks is too much and an aerator costs about $5 anyway.
  3. There is no such thing as a low-flow tub fixture… don’t be fooled by marketing.  Tubs are not about being low flow, they are about filling up the tub as quickly as possible.  The secret with tubs is to take less baths.  Or take the bathwater and use it outside for irrigation.
  4. Keep a chart in the bathroom so that you can mark off how often the toilets get used.  Kids love magnets if you need ways to get them involved.
  5. Put a flow meter on your landscape water supply line.  This will very accurately show you how much water you are using.  Leave it on, so you can check it each month to verify that you don’t have any leaks.  If the number seems high… call a professional to have it inspected for potential leaks. (remember 70% of your water use is outside)
  6. Check with the manufacturer for water usage for your dishwasher and washing machine.  Every cycle is different so a flow meter to test this is helpful as well.

This should get your started.  Good luck.

Turquoise House – A Modern Eco-Makeover of a Haver Home

Posts under this category will be about our home, the products and the choices we made in developing our home.  To that end… here is a little history.

Our home is located in the Ocotillo Hills area of SunnySlope in Phoenix, Arizona.  It is built on the west side ‘base’ of the mountain that is directly west of the I-51 and Shea area.  The home was built in 1974 but the plans were laid down many years prior to that.  The original owner purchased the lot in 1956.  Shortly after purchase, she hired the architect Ralph Haver to design a home specifically for her site.  Mr. Haver, at that time, was planning, designing and building some of the valley’s quintessential ‘mid-century’ modern homes.  These homes were typically bundled together into subdivisions and rarely isolated in individual locations.  But the original owner was good friends with Mr. Haver’s assistant and was able to get this one done.

The course of history is simple from there.  Like most people, this was an investment in the future, so while she had the site and the plans, she didn’t have the funds to built it right away.  So the site sat vacant until 1974 when the shovel hit the dirt and her dreams start to take shape.  By this time, Mr. Haver had essentially stopped designing projects but since she already had the plans, work could still get underway.  And the house was built.  I was told that she lived in the home until the early 2000’s before it was purchased by a local realtor as an investment property and ultimately purchased by us in 2006.

The previous realtor had redone the bathrooms, the flooring, the front door, upgraded the kitchen with new countertops (plastic laminate) and installed new appliances.  Outside, he had built a CMU site wall around the west, south and east portions of the lot, put in a new concrete driveway and refaced a shed with orange corrugated fiberglas siding even though the shed itself was falling apart and rotted to no end (I will get into these decisions in later discussions).  At time of purchase it was a Two Bedroom (one room was fairly large because it was originally two bedrooms that had been converted into one), Two Bath home of about 1380 square feet of livable space and about 400 square feet of west facing exterior decking and one-car carport.  Overall there were 5 rooms, a kitchen, a TV room (although we didn’t use it for that) a living room, and the two bedrooms along with the two bathrooms.

We have been renovating this home since we moved in and the next posts will get into what we have done and why we did it…