Latest water saving solutions

Consumer expert Jennifer newton advises on eco-friendly water saving technologies for the home

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If you’re looking to update or renovate your home, it’s worth considering these new eco-friendly technologies, advises consumer expert Jennifer Newton.

Image above: KH Zero 1 basin monobloc, (H)13cm, £249, Kelly Hoppen for Crosswater Saving on water and money, this state-of-the-art tap incorporates advanced flow regulator technology, which keeps the flow rate constant with a maximum of five litres of water per minute, as well as guaranteeing an even distribution.

The hosepipe bans of 2012 made everyone aware of the ongoing water shortages. Population growth has been cited as one of the problems, but more of an issue is that we now use three times the amount of water we did only 50 years ago, mostly due to flushing toilets and washing. As Sir Terence Conran writes in Eco House Book (£25, Octopus Publishing Group): ‘After decades of treating water almost as if it were free, we need to change bad habits to use water more wisely.’ It’s not only about the need to conserve water and use less, but also the price of water. As with energy, water is expensive now and prices are set to rise. To give an idea of current costs, according to Uswitch.com, on 1 April 2014 there was a two per cent increase (around £8) in prices over the previous year, bringing the average household* bill for water and sewerage to £393 per year. With this in mind, Real Homes looks at the latest appliances that use minimal water, and the ways that technology can be introduced indoors and out to reduce water use. 

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Bathroom taps

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) states that leaving a tap running while brushing your teeth will waste around six litres of water per minute. Turning off the tap while brushing is therefore a must, and fitting a flow-limiter will cut the amount of water used by half, on average.

Dishwashing

Did you know that washing dishes by hand can waste more water than a dishwasher? Appliance specialist Whirlpool states that washing-up by hand can use from 42 to 104 litres every time, whereas energy-efficient dishwashers use only 10 litres or fewer. Newer models are even better, with consumer body Which? advising that on an energy-saving programme, the ‘worst’ full-size dishwasher uses 17 litres of water, whereas some new models use only seven litres. The latest designs this year use even fewer – as little as 5.5 or six litres. So if you don’t have a dishwasher, and want to save time and water, it is worth investing in one.

‘Many models now have more place settings, with as many as 15 in one wash,’ says Danny Lay, sales director for appliance specialist Caple, ‘so more dishes will be washed using the same amount of water. Always check the different programmes offered, as many now have an eco or economy setting, which uses less water and energy.’ Try the latest eco models from Caple, Whirlpool, CDA and Miele.

Super eco DNE61042, (H)84.5x(W)60x(D)60cm, from £449, Servis Built to save a substantial amount of water, this machine uses as little as 5.5 litres per cycle, recycling water from previous cycles to be re-used for subsequent washes. It features money-saving programmes including Smart and Eco to reduce water and energy use whenever smaller loads are detected. Rated A+++ for energy use, it has 15 place settings and 10 different programmes, including a half-load function.
Maytag MDW 0713 AGW Intellisense, (H)85x(W)60x(D)59cm, £449, Debenhams Plus This model uses only six litres of water in a normal eco programme, with water from the final rinse stored and recycled for use at the start of the next cycle. With 13 place settings, it is rated A+ and has eight programmes, including a half-load function. An electronic sensor automatically sets the most economical programme to give the best wash result.

Laundry

According to Waterwise, the independent authority on water efficiency, washing clothes now accounts for 15 per cent of the water we use in our homes, while Which? says the least efficient washing machines use 72 litres of water per cycle. ‘Always wash a full load to save money and water,’ says Vic Sinclair, large electrical buyer for retailer John Lewis. ‘Automatic programmes that sense the wash load and adjust the amount of water and electricity accordingly are fantastic, but these do have a minimum amount of water and electricity that has to be used, therefore washing a full load will help to ensure that you are getting the most from the water and energy consumption.’ Before buying, check how many programmes are available, from a quick wash to an eco option. Energy efficiency is usually stated up front, but not water use, so check the specification sheet for details – for example, the Samsung ecobubble WF70F5E2W4W, £399 from Currys, is a Which? Best Buy, using 43 litres of water per cycle.

Miele WKF 120 8kg, (H)85x(W)59.5x(D)64cm, £1,199, John Lewis This brand-new freestanding machine is a Which? Best Buy, using 48 litres of water per cycle with an express 20-minute programme. Featuring an integrated detergent dispensing system, which cuts detergent use by 30 per cent, it is rated A+++, with a load capacity of 8kg. Its 12 programmes include a quick-wash and eco option, and a delayed timer start, making this model both energy-efficient and low-cost.
HydroTap All-in- One in Bright Chrome, (H)18cm, £3,000, Zip UK This clever tap uses the latest technology for instant boiling water or chilled filter water from one spout. Every drop is dispensed at a set temperature so there’s no water wasted by running the tap until the temperature is right.

Kitchen Taps

Taps can vary in flow from two to 25 litres per minute, according to Waterwise. Jeanette Ward, communications manager for manufacturer Franke UK, says: ‘Taps that include a flow-limiter can make a difference over the year, especially if you are on a water meter. The water rate is slowed down to three litres per minute, which doesn’t compromise the performance.’ Justin McDonald, national sales manager at Zip UK, adds: ‘Running water to warm up sufficiently or to be cool enough to drink is a big water-waster, making the latest taps that dispense instant hot or cold water worth considering.’

Shower technology

Taking a bath uses around 80 litres of water, compared to a shower at only 35 litres, says George Clarke, architect and author of Home Bible (£30, The Orion Publishing Group). But there are ways to cut back further on water use during a shower. An affordable way to cut flow when showering is with the Mira Beat Eco four-spray showerhead, £36 from Mira Showers, which maintains a constant flow rate of six litres per minute.

Rainwater harvesting

It’s possible to reduce your water bill by up to 50 per cent with rainwater harvesting. These systems replace the water used for non-drinking use – such as flushing toilets, washing clothes and garden watering – with recycled rainwater. Rainfall is collected and stored in a tank under the garden where it is then filtered to remove any debris before being ready to use. Tank sizes range from 1,000 to 10,000 litres, with the average three-bedroom home requiring a 2,000 to 5,000 litre tank. The water reaches appliances indoors in one of two ways, advises Jon Stewart, product manager at manufacturer Polypipe. It can either be pumped to a tank in the loft and then on to each appliance by an indirect or gravity- fed system, or via a pressurised system, which uses a pump to send water directly to your appliances as and when they are needed.

‘Rainwater harvesting has become increasingly popular due to the cost of water,’ says Andy Harris, director of GreenServe plumbing and maintenance on Ratedpeople. ‘Systems only require three to four days’ work, costing around £3,000 for parts and installation. Check with a plumber which system is best for your home.’

Image above: Rainwater harvesting systems are fitted below ground to save space and to protect the tank and water from frost in winter and heat during summer. Prices start from £1,400 for a Rainstream garden system, with all parts included but not installation. Visit Homesolutions.polypipe.com.

Irrigation systems

As well as cutting water waste, irrigation systems ensure plants still get the water they need, making them increasingly popular, advises Andy Harris. Expect to pay around £300 for a fully-fitted system, and look for the latest sensor timers.

Image above: SensoTimer ST6 eco!ogic, (H)19.5x (W)12x(D)21.5cm, £99.99, Kärcher The first of its kind with wireless technology, the sensor on the accompanying moisture stick activates the irrigation process according to moisture levels in your soil, saving water by only directing it at the plants that need it.

Toilet flushing

Waterwise advises that the latest dual- flush toilets with a split-flush button will dramatically cut water waste. It’s worth upgrading, as dual-flush toilets typically use four to six litres of water, whereas old flush systems use a massive 13 litres per flush.

Water butts

Using a water butt to collect rainwater is the affordable option for rainwater harvesting, supplying the water needed for a garden. They are incredibly simple to install, with a tap near the bottom of the butt. If you have some DIY skills it will be easy to install yourself, or is a cheap, straightforward job for a tradesperson.

Self-watering plants

To control the watering of your pot plants, look at some of the latest self-watering pots from Lechuza, which provide the exact amount of water needed in a sub-irrigation system. This ensures the right amount of water reaches the plant, avoiding water waste. Prices start from £29 per pot.

Image above: Puro Colour all-in-one-set in Slate, (H)40x(dia.)49cm, £119.99, Lechuza This pot has just won the Red Dot Design Award 2014 for functionality and outstanding design, and comes with a planter, planter liner and sub-irrigation set to be used indoors or outdoors.

* Average household = three-bedroom property