Water spending: You probably don’t know the numbers

Water is a big problem in some regions of USA because of a lack of lakes and water treatment related with conservation rules. So it is quite frequent for a lot of houses to have a water well.

Pie chart of our water use

Many people underestimate the amount of water they use. Here you have some interesting numbers related with that:

  1. Dishwasher: can use up to 16 gallons of water per cycle (old models). EnergyStar ® models use 6 gallons or less per wash cycle and also save electricity.
  2. Shower: A low-flow shower-head uses about two gallons a minute, or 20 gallons for a 10-minute shower. A standard shower-head uses 2.5 gallons a minute, or 25 gallons for 10 minutes.
  3. Toilet: water use can vary significantly. Older toilets can use 3.5, 5, or even up to 7 gallons of water with every flush. Federal plumbing standards now specify that new toilets can only use up to 1.6 gallons per flush (GPF), and there are high efficiency toilets that use up to 1.28 GPF.

In Massachusetts the estimated average of water use per person per day is around 75 gallons. For a family of 4 they have to be prepared to use 300 gallons per day of water (if you don’t have a large garden with an irrigation system).

Think about these numbers if you are installing a new well in your house.

Water use and population growth chart
Source: EPA website
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How to lower the cost of electric water heating

This decision is an important one when building a new house: how can you manage the costs if you decide not to use a water heater fuel as natural gas or oil. If you decide that your house will have an electric water heater the increase in your monthly bills can drive you crazy, believe me.

Voltex® Hybrid Electric Heat Pump 80-Gallon Water Heater
Voltex Hybrid water heater tank (AO Smith)

First of all, you have to look for Energy Star systems, that can save you money because they have different functions. The Voltex® Hybrid Electric Heat Pump, for example (A.O.Smith) reduces water heating cost by up to 58% through an innovative design that pulls environmental heat while dehumidifying and cooling the ambient air at the same time.

It delivers good savings by generating heat through the heat pump technology instead of the heating elements. These tanks also offers user-friendly display, vacation mode to save money while you are away, and a heavy duty anode that protects your tank for 10 years. this model also has two heating elements that help the water heater recover quickly during periods of high demand. The tank has a 80-gal capacity, pretty nice number if you like to use your tub frequently.

If you are thinking about take advantage of the new solar panel credit program available by the government this can also help you in terms of electrical bill costs. Between financing and incentives, customers are usually cash-flow positive in their first year, and the system itself can be paid off after 3-5 years on average (depending on a lot of factors, of course – some some systems only break-even after 10 year, be aware of that).

cropped-wise-home-building-1.jpg
Solar panels and energy bills: you can save a lot with them

Massachusetts has one of the strongest solar incentive programs in the country. In addition, federal tax credits and low-interest solar loans contribute to a positive cash flow. You can also sell some energy in the market, and have positive incomes that helps you decrease your bill expenses.

 

Water spending: You probably don’t know the numbers

Water is a big problem in some regions of USA because of a lack of lakes and water treatment related with conservation rules. So it is quite frequent for a lot of houses to have a water well.

Pie chart of our water use

Many people underestimate the amount of water they use. Here you have some interesting numbers related with that:

  1. Dishwasher: can use up to 16 gallons of water per cycle (old models). EnergyStar ® models use 6 gallons or less per wash cycle and also save electricity.
  2. Shower: A low-flow shower-head uses about two gallons a minute, or 20 gallons for a 10-minute shower. A standard shower-head uses 2.5 gallons a minute, or 25 gallons for 10 minutes.
  3. Toilet: water use can vary significantly. Older toilets can use 3.5, 5, or even up to 7 gallons of water with every flush. Federal plumbing standards now specify that new toilets can only use up to 1.6 gallons per flush (GPF), and there are high efficiency toilets that use up to 1.28 GPF.

In Massachusetts the estimated average of water use per person per day is around 75 gallons. For a family of 4 they have to be prepared to use 300 gallons per day of water (if you don’t have a large garden with an irrigation system).

Think about these numbers if you are installing a new well in your house.

Water use and population growth chart
Source: EPA website

Hard water: how to solve it

In a recent post we discussed the problems that you may have with your water when you have a well. Hard water is a common condition here in New England, and to solve this problems you have to install a softener system.

Salt Water Softener Wise Home Building
Water Softener System (with the salt tank in the left side)

Waster treatment systems also have a lot of other functions. There are multiple systems by which water treatment systems companies can remove contaminants and the hardness from water:

  • Point of entry systems: they are able to treat all of the water entering a home and are installed after a water meter or storage tank – you can install after your pump filter, for example, inside a mechanical room (if you have available space).
  • Point of use systems: used where people directly access the water, like a kitchen sink or a shower head.

Specialized companies perform several different types of water treatment, such as treating hardness with water softeners and removing pollutants. They can also be treated by ionic exchange and granular active carbon.

Hard water treatment

Water softening by definition is the process to remove calcium and magnesium from the water through a process called ion exchange using a polymer resin bed which gives off a sodium particle in exchange for hardness minerals. You need salt on the system to do it, and that’s the most common process used (at the least expensive)

Salt based water softeners use an electronic metered valve mounted atop a fiberglass resin tank that meter water by the gallon and then run a cleaning cycle when the ion resin bed reaches a saturation point. During the cleaning cycle, the electronic valve cycles a series of back flushes to purge the hardness particulates that have been captured from the system and flush them down a drain line. The sodium is also replenished in the resin bed during the cycle and all is ready to go again.

Some systems are salt-free, and doesn’t remove the naturally occurring healthy minerals such as calcium and magnesium from your water. Also they don’t put excess salt waste or chemicals into your waste water or the environment. Some of theses systems are available at the internet. Salt free water softeners are actually not softeners, they are water conditioners. We don’t have experience with the use of these systems, but it seems reasonable to think about that.

Hard water: myths and truths

If you have a water well in your house probably you are familiar with this term. But if you are starting to look for a way to have a well in your house and are confuse about that, you can find some information here.

Water well wise home building

As water moves through soil (after some rain, for example) it dissolves very small amounts of minerals and holds them in solution. Water described as hard has a high amount of dissolved minerals, specifically calcium and magnesium. Hard water is not a health risk, but a nuisance because of mineral buildup on fixtures and poor soap and/or detergent performance. Hard water is very common to be found in New England region because of the characteristics of the soil.

Hard water can satin my clothes during washing: TRUE 

Hard water interferes with almost every cleaning task from laundering and dish washing to bathing and personal grooming, and even more problems can happen:

  • Clothes laundered in hard water may look dingy and feel harsh and scratchy.
  • Dishes and glasses may be spotted when dry.
  • Hard water may cause a film on glass shower doors, shower walls, bathtubs, sinks and faucets
  • Hair washed in hard water may feel sticky and look dull.
  • Pipes can become clogged with scale that reduces water flow and ultimately requires pipe replacement

Hard water can damage my appliances: TRUE

Hard water also contributes to inefficient and costly operation of water-using appliances. Heated hard water forms a scale of calcium and magnesium minerals that can contribute to the inefficient operation or failure of water-using appliances. The water filters in some refrigerators can quickly be clogged.

Hard water is dangerous for health: MYTH

Hard water is not a health hazard. In fact, the National Research Council from the National Academy of Sciences states that hard drinking water generally contributes a small amount toward total calcium and magnesium human dietary needs. They further state that in some instances, where dissolved calcium and magnesium are very high, water could be a major contributor of calcium and magnesium to the diet.  The problem with hard water can be the arsenic content, and because of that is recommended for every well installation that you perform a test in qualified lab facilities.

Hard water can easily be managed by installing a softener system: TRUE

The water softener is just a special type of “filter” that removes the calcium and magnesium in hard water by using plastic beads and cleans itself periodically by a process called regeneration.

Water softeners have three main components: a mineral tank, a brine tank, and a control valve. We will talk about them in other posts. The cost to install a system can vary from several hundred dollars up to several thousands, depending on what you would like to do with your water within your house. You can also add filters and more complex process (like the reverse osmosis) to have almost a completely sterile water.

5 questions that help save you money when buying a new house

 

FreePhoto builder design Wise Home Building

Tons of options are available in the market if you are a buyer. New home buildings are soaring during the last 5-7 years, and the inventory is low. Unfortunately for home buyers, new residential construction is coming at a steeper price. Nonetheless, there are still ways you can save money when buying a new home. Try to ask these questions for your builder:

  1. Which are the standard finishes and the options you have if we change our mind?

You have a lot of options for faucets, appliances and fixtures. A builder that is really interested on serving your needs will show all options and you both can decide how to better adapt the budget. Sometimes small modifications in these part of the building process for a new home can save you a lot of money.

2. In this region what are the Home Owners Association (HOA) rules?

HOA sometimes have very restrictive rules. Some states clear that, for example, is not permitted to build homes with a vinyl siding. Each HOA have its Declaration of Covenants, and you have to read them before take any decision on buying a house in that neighborhood. You have HOA that don’t allow storage sheds in the backyard, some of them don’t allow the installation of solar panels, or even have limitations for private fences and landscape design.

3. What are the options we have for the HVAC equipment?

Energy efficiency is a new tendency for all new homes, but in the majority of the cases this comes with a price. HVAC that use heat pumps are one of the most energy efficient ones, but they can cost 2 times more than a simple system that use natural gas. Discuss with your builder the options that are available in your project.

4. What are the financial incentives that you have for us if we use your preferred lender?

Builders normally have good contacts with lenders, and some of them have good deals to offer. You can also negotiate prices or upgrades some features in your house – like upgrading your floor of deck areas, for example.

5. What are the warranties that you have for us? Can you increase your warranty time?

Builders normally offer 1 year of warranty but you can always negotiate more time if you are ready to close the deal. Also take a careful read on the warranty. Remember that wood frame houses will be accommodating during the first years, and some problems can occur. But the builders are expecting them. Nonetheless if is difficult to find your builder during this time it will be a problem for you in the future