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Waste Water Woes
Toilets: Highest water use in most homes is toilets. A major step to avoid a budget breaker is to be sure your toilet NEVER, NEVER leaks. Put a little food coloring in the tank. After about an hour, if there is any tint at all in the bowl, it's a leaker. Do this every few months. A major leaker can run into hundreds of dollars extra on your bill if not controlled.
Make sure all family members realize the importance of reporting leaks and making sure they are fixed. Until you can repair, keep the toilet water supply turned off. Flush by turning it on temporarily, or use a bucket. Take kids aside; let them listen and watch a normal non-leaking flush. Then lift the stopper in the tank slightly and let them listen to a leak. Let them know that if they fail to report any leak promptly, and turn off the water to the toilet, they will have to help pay the bill by giving something up - TV for a month, their cell-phone, some outings, or treats. Otherwise most children could care less if their toilet leaks.
If you have boarders, or tenants who do not pay their own water bill, make sure they know that if they let a toilet leak without reporting it to you personally, they will be held responsible for increases in the bill.
Flushing is the next big cost. Out of work or on a really tight budget? Take to heart the saying; "If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down." Eliminating just a few flushes a day saves a surprising amount of money. You may have to brush daily but elbow grease is free!
Experiment to see how little water will flush your toilet. Add bricks or bottles of water in a far corner of the tank to reduce the amount of water; just don't block the flushing action! Or better yet, tamper with the float so the tank fills less. Make sure the amount is sufficient to flush cleanly.
Keep a good plunger in each bathroom. Small clogs cause slow draining, which may prompt one to keep flushing until it's all gone. Best to use a plunger immediately and save water.
Next time you have to replace the innards in the tank for any reason, consider instead replacing the toilet with a high efficiency one. You can save 20% to 30% of your toilet water use. Check the rating; the lower the GPF (gallons per flush) rating, the more you'll save. Even consider one that has two flushes; one for liquids, another with more water for solids.
Replacing a toilet isn't hard to do if you are experienced with home repairs. I've done it; a disgusting job, true. Be aware, however, that if you tighten the bolts that hold the tank to the bowl too much, you may crack the tank. Also, if dropped or handled roughly, you can crack the whole toilet - an expensive and possible dangerous error! The pieces are sharp! Note: lots of do-it-yourselfers don't realize that many toilets were set on linoleum or vinyl tile floors, then the floors were changed to ceramic or stone which increases the space between the toilet base and drain pipe. Solution: use two wax rings instead of the normal single one.
If not handy, best call a plumber for this one; it may be cheaper in the long run. This is not a job for a novice.