Friday, March 19, 2010

Fixing Small Leaks Conserves Water, Saves Money

The sound of a dripping faucet or running water inside the toilet is more than a minor annoyance; you are wasting water and pouring money down the drain. In fact, more than one trillion gallons of water are wasted each year in U.S. homes due to leaks. To raise awareness of the problem, the Environmental Protection Agency organized the “Fix a Leak Week” (March 15-21) campaign aimed at educating homeowners on how to locate and repair water leaks.

For example, during Fix A Leak Week, Pennsylvania American Water teamed up with plumbers to demonstrate how to find and repair leaks, as well as install water-saving fixtures. Live demonstrations for the media took place at the Ronald McDonald Houses in Hershey and Scranton; the Rainbow Kitchen in Homestead, Allegheny County; and Krause Youth Center in New Castle, Lawrence County. Pennsylvania American Water and many industry leaders are members of the EPA’s WaterSense program.

Leaks can account for an average of 10,000 gallons of water wasted in the home every year, or enough to fill a backyard swimming pool. These tips will help you save water -- and money -- by correcting household leaks:

Regularly check your toilet, faucets, and pipes for leaks. Pennsylvania American Water offers leak detection kits, which are available under the Customer Service tab of our Web site at If you find a leak, have it fixed as soon as possible.

Reduce faucet leaks by checking faucet washers and gaskets for wear and replace them, or, if necessary, replace the faucet with a WaterSense-labeled model.

Leaky toilets are most often the result of a worn toilet flapper. Replacing the rubber flapper is a quick fix that could save a home up to 200 gallons of water per day.

For a leaky garden hose, replace the nylon or rubber hose washer and ensure a tight connection to the spigot using pipe tape and a wrench.

Tighten connections on your showerheads if drips appear when the shower is off.

Check your garden and lawn irrigation system for leaks, or hire a certified WaterSense expert to check it for you.

Consider installing water and energy-efficient appliances. The EPA reports that certified Energy Star washing machines use up to 35 percent less water per load. Water-saving shower heads, toilets and faucet aerators also help cut your water usage.

If you have to replace plumbing fixtures, look for the WaterSense label. WaterSense-labeled toilets and faucets are independently tested and certified to save water and perform as well as or better than standard models. Visit for more information.

-Terry M. Maenza
Director, Communications & External Affairs
Pennsylvania American Water

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Greening Your Home

The energy section of The State of the Environment Report has a very useful list of green initiatives for homeowners. These include installing compact fluorescent light bulbs, using low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) products, plugging the leaks, setting back thermostats and installing low-flow showerheads.

I want to add one more --- dividing your heating and cooling system into zones. Especially if you live in a large home adding zones for heating and cooling will save energy and money. The concept is simple: You create separate zones for heating and cooling so that you are only making the spaces you occupy comfortable. Adding zones initially or after the fact is more costly than caulking or changing light bulbs but it can pay substantial dividends.

We added zones to our home and the building where my business is located. I want to focus on is what we did in our residence because it was a relatively economical solution. We added thermostatic radiator valves in the rooms that we did not need to use on a daily basis. I first came across these when I lived in New York where they were in common use in large buildings with rooms that had wide ranging heating requirements.

Thermostatic valves replace the knob valves on radiators and can be adjusted from about 46 degrees to 74 degrees. We had a plumber do the work. The cost was about $300 per radiator, including the valves. We just had the valves installed prior to this heating season so we only have a few months’ gas bills to compare our consumption to previous winters. So far, it looks like we cut our gas consumption by about 20%. We estimate that the energy saving investment will pay for itself in three to five years. In the meantime, we’re consuming less natural gas and reducing our carbon footprint if ever so slightly.

One caution is that these valves only function as cut back heating elements. Your central thermostat will continue to control your central boiler. The valves cannot “call” for more heat than your central thermostat.

Two manufacturers of thermostatic radiator valves are Dan Foss and Honeywell.

For more information on thermostatic radiator valves:
Thermostatic radiator valves explained
Dan Foss valves
Honeywell valves

Bill Vitale

Monday, March 1, 2010

Top "Cleanest" Fruits and Vegetables

Like the dirty dozen of produce, there is a list of the top cleanest produce you can purchase that is not organic. These are least likely to contain pesticide residue.

Here's the Cleanest:

When organic is not available, here's some tips to protect you from "non-organic" produce:
Buy fresh vegetables and fruits in season.

Trim tops and the very outer portions of celery, lettuce, cabbages, and other leafy vegetables that may contain the bulk of pesticide residues.
Peel and cook when appropriate, even though some nutrients and fiber are lost in the process.

Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. This would limit exposure to any one type of pesticide residue.

Wait until just before preparation to wash or immerse your produce in clean water. When appropriate, scrub with a brush.

Special soaps or washes are not needed and could be harmful to you, depending on their ingredients. Read the label!