Just when you thought you had a handle on all the high prices out there, here comes one more: water.
In many places across the country, residents are being informed that their water bills are going to rise, with the high cost of energy a prime reason used to justify the increases.
What's worse, the way you use water can have a double impact on your wallet. In many cases, you're not only paying for water, you are also paying for the energy to heat that water.
Learning to cut down on both water usage and what it costs to heat water can help the environment and your pocket book at the same time.
Here are some ideas.
Hot, Warm, Cold
The first easy step is to adjust the temperature of your water heater. Most water heaters are preset at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, which is warmer than most people need, especially in summer. Adjusting your water heater temperature down to 130 degrees(you don't want to go below 125 degrees because common bacteria can grow in your water tank) will save 3% to 5% on your energy bill while still being plenty hot for showers.
Throw on a water-heater blanket to reduce costs more.
Another easy step to take is to switch the setting on your washing machine so that it will wash your clothes in a cold/cold cycle. While this won't save any water, it will save about $100 a year in energy costs from heating the water. Improved detergents should guarantee that your clothes still come out clean.
To reduce the amount of water you use with appliances, make sure to use your washing machine and dishwasher only when they are full. Even when the appliances have different size settings, full loads still are the most water efficient. If you do wash a smaller size load, be sure to match the water level with the size of the load.
Water Down the Drain
Take the time to install water reduction kits in your house. Most will include faucet aerators that will reduce water flow by about half, but actually make the water intensity increase, low-flow showerheads that decrease the amount of water used while making the shower water pressure feel stronger, and toilet tank banks which displace water in the tank so you use less with each flush.
In addition, the kits may include dye tablets that will allow you to see if your toilets are leaking, and possibly a timer to help you take shorter showers.
The water saving kits save money in two ways: They reduce water consumption and lower energy costs needed to heat the hot water from faucets and showers.
Before purchasing a kit at a store, check with your local water or electric company. Many offer these kits at heavily discounted prices to customers as part of their conservation efforts.
About 40% of water use goes for outside watering during the summer.
The best way to reduce this is to landscape your house with plants native to where you live. Since native plants can survive the summer heat while requiring no watering you can greatly reduce the amount of water used outside.
Even better, there is no need to purchase fertilizer, pest spray or other products to maintain the plants since they will grow naturally and are already pest and disease resistant.
Even if you already have landscaping in, it can be worth the time to run the numbers since switching to native plants can often pay for itself in reduced water and gardening costs within a few years.
Go From Clear to Gray
If switching to native plants isn't an option, there is still a good way to reduce your garden watering costs. The water that you use inside your house ends up literally flowing down the drain, but it doesn't have to.
Water from bathtubs, dishwashers, sinks, showers and washing machines (but not toilets) is referred to as "graywater" -- and it's not only safe for your garden, it can be beneficial for it.
By reusing graywater that previously went to waste, you can irrigate a good part of your yard without using any more water than you would have been using anyway. You can find out more on how to utilize your graywater
Let It Rain
Another option instead of, or in conjunction with, graywater use is to install a rain barrel. Most rain barrels today are so simple that all you need to do is place them under a gutter and attach to your hose. Once in place, you get free water for your garden each time it rains.
A quarter-inch of rainfall runoff from an average size roof will fill a typical rain barrel.
If a rain barrel sounds appealing, check with your local water department to see if it's sponsoring a rain-water harvesting project. It's becoming more popular for water districts to encourage rain barrels as a method of conservation.
Those participating will offer rain barrels at reduced prices or provide a rebate if you make a purchase from a designated store. Some may even offer workshops and supplies to build your own system.
Taking a few simple steps can greatly reduce the amount of water you use and the energy needed to heat that water, which will make both the environment and your wallet happy throughout the summer.
Jeffrey Strain has been a freelance personal finance writer for the past 10 years helping people save money and get their finances in order. He currently owns and runs SavingAdvice.com.