02.In the bathroom
It’s easy to save water in the shower by making a few simple changes:
- cut your shower time to four minutes or less
- get a water-saving showerhead
- install an easy on/off switch.
CHOICE had 16 trialists test 15 showerheads costing $20 to $132. They weren’t told the showerheads were water-efficient. Overall, the trialists were satisfied with most of the showerheads they tested. See our Water-efficient showerheads report for the preferred models.
Note: instantaneous hot water systems (and some gravity-fed systems) may not have a sufficient flowrate for these showerheads to work properly. Check with the retailer to see if your system is suitable.
If you don’t want to change your showerhead for decor reasons, you can install a flow restrictor. Even getting a shower timer can help reduce the amount of time spent showering by making you more aware of how long you’re taking: the average shower is about seven minutes, but it doesn’t have to take that long to soap up and rinse off.
The Every Drop Shower Saver is an example of a on/off switch. It's a lever that you can install at the base of your shower stem, allowing you to stop and start the flow of water quickly and easily. The idea is that you can stop the shower running while you’re soaping up, shampooing or shaving, and then turn the water back on to rinse when you’re ready. The manufacturer's reasoning is since soaping takes more time than rinsing, you could save about half your normal shower water with the paddle-shaped device.
It costs $48 (plus postage and handling) and can be purchased from the company’s website. It doesn’t suit all showers, so check yours is compatible before you buy.
Of course, if your shower is simple to turn off your hands might take the place of this device - saving you the costs associated with purchasing one.
If you’re renovating your bathroom, you might consider installing a Quench shower. After you’ve soaped up and rinsed off, 4L of clean water is recirculated through the system for as long as you care to stand there. Quench showers retail from $2995. See Quench showers for more information.
Top tips for showers
- While waiting for the shower water to warm up, save the cold water in a bucket and use it for the garden, pot plants, laundry soaking, washing your hands or even flushing the toilet. The Ripple bucket is handy because it folds up for you to store out of the way. You can also use it to scoop water out of the bath and onto the garden. A pack of two (a 6L and a 9L bucket) costs $14.95.
- Shaving your legs in the shower adds about four minutes to your shower — that’s 36L with a water-efficient shower head. Consider waterless hair removal, such as waxing or an epilator or lather up and shave your legs with the shower water off before rinsing. See our test of hair-removal products to pick the best option for you.
- Take the No Shampoo Challenge. A few years ago, ABC radio personality and newspaper columnist Richard Glover set out to discover whether he could live without shampoo, thereby allowing the natural oils in his hair to regain their balance and give him lovely fluffy hair. Hundreds of listeners joined him in the challenge, using only warm water to vigorously rinse their hair as necessary. At the end of the six-week trial, 86% decided their hair was great. How long do you spend shampooing your hair, rinsing it out, then putting conditioner in and rinsing that out? Two minutes? Three minutes? Five minutes? By taking the No Shampoo Challenge you could save time, water and the money you’d spend on shampoo.
Top tips for taps
Install water-efficient taps, known as aerators, which give the feel of a high flowrate with only half the water. They're simply screwed onto the end of a tap and reduce the flowrate while aerating the water.
- Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth. It seems so obvious, but many people still leave the water running, wasting at least 5L per minute. That’s around 11,000L per person per year.
Replacing your whole toilet may not be worthwhile unless you’re renovating the bathroom. But if you are going to install a new toilet, make sure you get a modern 6/3L (or 4.5/3L) dual-flush cistern and pan.
If you have an old-style single-flush toilet, you can fit it with a 9/4.5L dual-flush cistern. Cisterns for 6/3L flushes can't be fitted to an existing 12L pan — they require one that's specifically designed for lower flush volumes.
If replacing your cistern isn’t an option, you could install a device to stop the toilet flushing when you take your finger off the button. This means you hold it down only for as long as it takes to flush the contents of the bowl away, saving any unnecessary flush water. They cost as little as $10 and can be installed by the home handyperson.
If you’re not very handy or you’re renting, you could just use the old ‘brick in the cistern’ trick: put a brick (or a plastic bottle full of water) in the cistern and you’ll use less water for each flush.
The Caroma Profile toilet has an integrated handbasin. Water flows from the tap when you flush the toilet, giving you enough time to wash your hands, then drains into the cistern ready for the next flush. It saves not only water but space — great for when the toilet is separate from the main bathroom. However, as the tap’s only activated when you flush, it doesn’t fully replace a bathroom vanity.
It costs $500 plus installation, and should be available later this year. Visit Caroma for more details.
Oz Aquasaver has a retrofit cistern basin, comprising a basin, tap and plumbing hardware. It's available for $295. You (or rather a plumber) simply set it on top of your existing cistern, and (unlike the Caroma Profile) you can turn the tap on when needed — the excess will go out the cistern’s overflow. See the Oz Aquasaver website for more details.