D.I.Y Home Projects

Save Energy and Water at Home



Energy upgrades can really pay off. A recent study showed that a family of four can cut their monthly utility bills by more than half.  To get Started, here are some Do It Yourself  projects that are Efficient, Easy to Do, and Afford.

Install Compact Fluorescent Bulbs: Difficulty level: Easy Typical cost: $3 per bulb Typical payback: 1/2 to 1 year

Install a Programmable Thermostat:  Difficulty level: Intermediate Typical cost: $30 to $100 Typical payback: 1/2 to 2 years

Seal Large and Small ceiling Air Leaks:  Difficulty level: Easy to intermediate Typical cost: less than $200 Typical payback: 1 to 2 years

Seal Air Duct Leaks: Difficulty level: Easy Typical cost: less than $25 Typical payback: 1 to 2 years

Install a Water-Saving Showerhead: Difficulty level: Easy Typical cost: $10 and up. Typical payback: 1 to 2 years

Insulate Water Heater: Difficulty level: Easy Typical cost: $8 to $20 Typical payback: 1 year

Weatherstrip Windows and Doors: Difficulty level: Easy to intermediate Typical cost: $10 to $20 per opening Typical payback: 1 to 3 years

Tune up Furnace or other Heating Equipment: Difficulty level: Professional Typical cost: $100 and up Typical payback: 1 to 3 years

Five Projects Under $50

1. Install aerators on faucets – These screw-on mesh screens break up water droplets so you use less water hut get just as much rinsing power.

2. Clean your refrigerator coils – If they’re coated with dust, refrigerator coils can’t transfer heat efficiently, so it takes more energy to cool your food. Get at them (they’re usually found underneath the unit or at the back) with a king-handled brush. 

3. Replace Weatherstripping – Over time, the seals around windows and doors wear out, letting in chill winter air and prompting you to crank up the thermostat.

4. Reduce light pollution – Put a motion sensor on your all-night garage floodlight. Not only will you save electricity; you will get to enjoy one of early fall’s greatest pleasures: a clear view of the night sky.

5. Cover Windows High performance window film (i.e. Vista Enerlogic) can significantly increase winter heat retention and decrease summer heat gain without the cost of window replacement.

6. Replace can lights – From a design perspective, recessed fixtures are great, because they brighten a room without cluttering the ceiling. But from an energy efficiency perspective, they’re duds. Because these fixtures usually aren’t scaled and can’t have insulation above them, they allow heat to escape into the attic. You can replace them with newer, airtight models, but that can get expensive. There’s a far easier fix: Buy a retrofit kit that screws into the existing fixture. The best kind seals around the rim and behind the bulb, converting your old fixture to one that is airtight and insulation-rated. You’ll need a special fluorescent bulb (4 pins. 20 watts), but given the average expected life of 10.(XK) hours, you won’t have to buy a replacement anytime soon.

7. Put a recirculating pump under the sink – As you stand around waiting for hot water to arrive at your bathroom sink—or worse, wander off to do something else while the tap is running—watch what’s flowing down the drain: not just water, but all the energy that went into heating it. But let’s say you could press a button and have hot water in an instant.

That’s the work of a clever device called an on-demand recirculating pump. Installed under the sink, the pump captures the not-yet-hot water before it exits the tap and shoots it back to the water heater. The process repeats until the water gets hot enough, at which point the pump shuts off, you turn on the tap, and the steamy stuff flows. Obviously, this setup saves water. Less intuitively, it also saves energy. That’s because the water going back to the heater is usually slightly warm, so reheating it takes less energy. And the pump moves water faster than a typical faucet can, which means less heat loss in the pipes—and less waiting time for you.

8. Insulate hot-water pipes – Without insulation, your house’s hot-water pipes act as a gigantic radiator, transferring heat to the air so efficiently that any water in the pipes—even if it left the boiler at a toasty 105 degrees—is barely lukewarm 15 minutes later. So if you wash your hands to prep dinner, then need to rinse a pot, you’ll have to wait for hot water all over again. The solution: Insulate pipes wherever you can reach them by encasing them in rubber or polyethylene foam tubes. The tubes come with an adhesive-coated slit down the middle, so you just ease them over the pipe and press the ends closed. Seal the seams with duct tape. Tests show that insulation can double the cool-down time in 1/2-inch pipe and triple it in 3/4-inch pipe.

Insulating your hot water pipes reduces heat loss and can raise water temperature 2*F-4*F hotter than uninsulated pipes can deliver, allowing for a lower water temperature setting.  You also won’t have to wait as long for hot water when you turn on a faucet or showerhead, which helps conserve water.

“Water Wise” Do It Yourself Projects



– Turn off the faucet while brushing teeth, shaving or scrubbing dishes. Save 2 gallons per minute

– Trim a minute or two off your shower and collect water in a bucket for plants while the water is warming up. Save 2.5 gallons per minute

– Fill the bathtub halfway for bathing. Save 15 to 25 gallons per bath

– Fix leaky toilets. Save 30 to 50 gallons per toilet each day

– Fix leaky faucets. Save 15 to 20 gallons each day per leak

– Install aerators with flow restrictors on kitchen and bathroom faucets. Save 4.7 gallons per day

– Run the dishwasher only when full.  Save 2 to 4.5 gallons per load

– Program dishwashers, to skip the pre-rinse, and extra-rinse cycles. Save 2 to 4 gallons per load

– Fix leaky faucets and plumbing joints. Save 20 gallons a day for every leak

– Install water-saving showerheads, flow restrictors and high-efficiency toilets. Save 500 to 800 gallons a month

– Keep showers to 10 minutes or less. Save 700 gallons a month

– Don’t use your toilet as an ashtray or wastebasket. Save 400 to 800 gallons a month

– While waiting for hot water, capture running tap water for later use on household plants or in your garden. Save 200 to 300 gallons a month

– Run only full loads in the washing machine or dishwasher. Save 300 to 800 gallons a month

– When doing the laundry, never wash less than a full load. Save 100 gallons a week


– Repair irrigation line leaks and broken sprinkler heads.  Save up to 10 gallons per minute per leak

– Don’t overwater Reduce each irrigation cycle by 1 to 3 minutes or eliminate one irrigation cycle per week. Save up to 25 gallons per minute

– Use a hose nozzle that shuts off when you release the handle. Save up to 18 gallons per minute

– Water in the late evening or early morning to reduce evaporation and interference from wind.  Save 20 to 25 gallons per day

– Apply a 3-inch layer of mulch over planting areas, keeping the mulch 6 inches away from plant stems and tree trunks to avoid mildew.  Save 20 to 30 gallons per day per 1,000 sq. ft.

– Install drip irrigation systems for trees, shrubs and flowers to get water to plant roots more efficiently. Save 20 to 25 gallons per day

– Turn off your irrigation 1 to 3 days before it’s expected to rain.  Turn it back on when your soil is dry. Save hundreds or potentially thousands of gallons

– Upgrade to a “smart” irrigation controller that automatically adjusts watering times for hotter weather and stops watering when it rains. Save 40 gallons per irrigation cycle

– Water you lawn only when it needs it. An easy way to tell if your lawn needs water is to simply walk across the grass. If you leave footprints, it’s time to water. Save 750 to 1,500 gallons a month

– Adjust sprinklers so they don’t water the pavement, sidewalks, driveway or gutter. Save 500 gallons a month

– Wash your car using a bucket of soapy water instead of letting the hose run. Use a positive shut-off nozzle. Save 150 gallons per car wash

Leak Detection and Repair

System pipes and joints may develop leaks or an automatic control valve may fail to shut completely. Indications of leakage include an unexplained rise in your water bill, poor system performance, dry spots, soggy areas in your yard, overgrown areas of turf, erosion and/or subsidence.

For drip irrigation the supply poly-pipe may be damaged by foot traffic or by gnawing and chewing animals. Leaks in drip irrigation systems are easy to detect if the supply lines are only covered with mulch. Visually inspect the drip lines while the system is running. Tighten clamps at leaking joints. Small line leaks can be repaired with plugs.

Tracking down a leak in your sprinkler system is a bit more involved. Locate your water meter. The water meter is usually located in the front yard in a ground box near the street or in a basement. Turn off everything indoors and outdoors that uses water. If the dial on the water meter is moving, you’ve got a leak. To check for a slow leak, write down the meter reading and wait twenty minutes or so to see if there is any movement on the meter. (You can also use your water meter to measure the amount of water applied to your landscape and to track water use.)

If you have a leak in the irrigation system it’s probably in one of the control valves (toilets are another frequent source of leaks). To test for leaks beyond the control valves in the actual system piping you will have to cap off the sprinkler heads, then run each irrigation zone one at a time, checking your water meter for movement. If the meter is indicating a leak, look for water appearing at the surface to locate the leak. Repeat for each irrigation zone. Locating a slow leak may require the services of a professional.

How to Detect and Repair Toilet Leaks

Toilets are one the most common sources of leaks in the home, and usually go unnoticed because the leaks are often silent and out of view.  Several research studies have found 20% to 35% of all residential toilets leak to some degree. Large toilet leaks can be detected when the valve constantly emits a hissing or gurgling sound when the toilet is not in use.


To begin looking for leaks remove the tank lid and inspect the flush mechanisms. The water level in the tank should be no higher than 1 inch below the top of the overflow tube.  If the water level is to the very top of the overflow tube, water is slowly leaking into the overflow tube and down the drain.  The problem has one of three causes:  1) the water level is adjusted too high; 2) the float is damaged and not shutting off the refill valve; or, 3) the refill valve (ball-cock assembly) is worn and needs replacement.

Simple Dye Test

You can perform a simple dye test to check for leaks in the flapper valve.  Place dye tablets or a couple drops of food coloring into the tank water to give the water color.  If the colored water appears in the bowl within 15 minutes, there is a leak in the flapper valve. Leaks occur when the flapper valve does not create a watertight seal.  The seal can be compromised due to several reasons:  a) the chain snagging, not allowing the flapper to drop completely onto the valve seat; c) the valve seat is worn; or c) the flapper is worn or warped.  A worn flapper is the most common cause by far, and can be easily replaced.

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