By LAURA T. COFFEY
You can save hundreds of dollars a year and help the environment by conserving water at home. The following water-saving tips can be done for free or at a small cost.
1. Watch your dishwasher use. Run the dishwasher only when it is full, and don't prerinse dishes. If you wash dishes by hand, fill the sink or a dishpan rather than allow the water to run continuously.
2. Load up that laundry. As with your dishwasher, you can save water by running your washing machine only when it is full. If your machine has variable load control, you can adjust its water level to correspond with the size of the load.
3. Fix leaky toilets. You can save more than 100 gallons of water a day by fixing toilet leaks, which aren't always noticeable. To spot a leak, put food coloring in the tank water, wait 15 minutes, then check the bowl. If the food coloring is there, you have a leak.
4. Pay attention to personal care. Keep the faucet off when brushing your teeth or shaving, and take shorter showers. When taking a bath, close the drain before turning on the water, and fill the tub half as full as you normally do.
5. Install new shower heads and faucets. Shower heads made after January 1994 use a maximum of 21/2 gallons of water a minute. Low-flow sink faucets also can contribute to cost savings.
6. Get a handle on hoses and sprinklers. Repair leaky hoses and hose connections. Opt for pistol-style hose nozzles because they shut off automatically. Water your lawn during the coolest times of the day to reduce evaporation, and don't let your sprinklers waste water on sidewalks and driveways.
7. Sweep it all away. Rather than cleaning sidewalks, driveways and outdoor steps with a hose, sweep them with a broom. If you hose them down, you'll use about 50 gallons of water every five minutes.
8. Be conscientious when washing your car. Fill a bucket with water rather than let the hose run continuously. By keeping the hose off between rinses, you can save up to 150 gallons of water.
9. Consider your pool. Cover your pool when it's not in use to lessen evaporation. Keep the pool filled a little bit lower than normal, and steer clear of fountains or water ornaments that don't use recycled water.
10. Check your water meter. Spot system leaks by turning off all faucets and appliances that use water for half an hour. Take a reading at the beginning and end of the 30-minute period. If the dial moves, you'll know that you have a leak.
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