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Second in a series, today’s Green Minute features Johnson Controls top ten list on how to conserve water in your home and office building. Each eco-friendly tip provides not only ways to conserve water and protect the environment, but also numerous examples on how to save money. This is a valuable “tip sheet” – something to share with friends and business partners.
1. Reduce energy use. Water and energy are closely connected. It takes a lot of energy to heat and pump water, and it takes a lot of water to cool systems that generate energy. Energy and water retrofits in your facilities can reduce energy and water consumption by 10 to 50 percent through conservation and operational changes.
2. Conduct a water audit of your facility, campus, or geography to determine where water is being used and wasted. Buildings consume 20 percent of the world’s available water. Reduce water consumption by maintaining equipment and fixing leaks. Pay special attention to toilets, sprinkler heads and ice machines. A leaky toilet can waste as much as 200 gallons/260 liters of water per day.
3. Install more efficient equipment, such as HVAC and pumping systems. The HVAC system uses as much as 40 percent of a building’s total water usage. More efficient equipment runs less and runs smarter, and has the added benefit of losing less water to evaporation through cooling towers. On average, applying water-efficient designs and products leads to 15 percent less water use, 10 percent less energy use, and 12 percent lower operating costs (McGraw-Hill Construction, 2009).
4. Take a look at your technology. Low-flow and dual-flush fixtures are already used in many facilities, but it may be time to evaluate more widespread use as technology has expanded choices, and some prices have decreased. Water-efficient fixtures and faucets are now a prerequisite for LEED®certification.
5. Rethink your approach to landscaping. Use native drought-tolerant species for most landscaping, along with weather-based or moisture-sensing irrigation controls. Avoid watering during the day or when windy to minimize evaporation losses.
6. Install a storm water management system to reduce use of municipal water. Water runoff from parking lots and other paved areas can be directed to retention ponds and then used for irrigation. Using water runoff also avoids sending water to the storm sewer system.
7. Capture savings. Rainwater and snow melt can be captured from roofs, and then filtered, disinfected and stored for use to flush toilets and urinals in buildings.
8. Consider using geothermal energy and ground source heat pumps to heat and cool your building. Heat pumps can reduce energy costs by 25 to 40 percent over conventional systems. They eliminate cooling towers and thus save the thousands of gallons of water those towers would lose to evaporation.
9. Use education and communication tools such as on-site kiosks, dashboards and training modules that teach and engage building occupants to conserve water and energy. Engage occupants by educating them about water stewardship, suggesting choices such as replacing plastic water bottles with reusable containers. It takes 1.85 gallons of water to manufacture the plastic for the average .5-liter commercial bottle of water.
10. Harness the heat of the sun. A solar thermal system can provide hot water for your facility. This on-site renewable energy system means you use less power from the grid or gas, while providing hot water for boiler preheating, swimming pools and domestic water uses. It can even be used for solar cooling, through which hot water is used to power absorption chillers. More efficient heating means less water used for cooling — a double win.