We have a secret. A shameful, wasteful secret.
We live on the fourth floor of an old apartment building. The water heaters that provide our hot water are in the basement. In the winter it can take as long as 5 minutes of running the water in the bathtub to finally get hot water. The issue here is that old metal water pipes take a long time to heat up, so instead of the heat from the water coming out of the tank coming right up to my shower, it is “spent” heating up the pipes. And four stories worth of pipe is a lot to heat up.
Some quick googling tells me that a regular tub faucet turned on high lets out about 7 gallons of water per minute. Which means during the past 3 winters that we have lived in our old apartment building Husby and I have let 35 gallons of water run down the drain each time we wanted a hot shower. As a comparison, that is more water than I used in the average week while I was living in Tanzania. Ugh, I feel awful just thinking about it.
There are a couple things we do to try to lessen this waste. We stack our showers as often as possible, meaning that if one of us hops in the shower right after the other gets out so the pipes only have to heat up once. Or we’ll take our showers shortly after doing the dishes. We don’t need hot water to do the dishes, so we can use the water that hasn’t heated up yet for that, and heat up the pipes at the same time in preparation for a shower.
In the summer it’s not quite so bad. The pipes aren’t as cold to begin with, so that don’t take as long to heat up. And we’re far more likely to jump into a cold shower in the summer as well.
If we had access to the pipes in our building, the other thing we could do to help lessen that amount of water would be to insulate our pipes, keeping them from getting so cold in the first place that it took so much hot water to heat them up again.
For now, we look forward to the warmer weather and do our best to reduce the amount of wasted water in pursuit of a hot shower.
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