How to cut your water bill

I’ve talked a lot about how to cut your electric bill and how I successfully cut mine 19 percent, but I haven’t talked much about water bills. Part of it is because water is cheap in St. Louis–the two largest rivers in North America converge here–but in some parts of the country, water usage is at critical levels, so cutting your water bill could mean saving real money.

I’ll never forget a commercial I heard when I was in third grade. “Did you know that every time you flush your toilet, you use 5-7 gallons of water?” a guy said with a drawl, before urging people to flush less. Being very juvenile, I thought it was funny.

But if your house is older, your toilet may very well be trickling water all the time, literally nickel and diming your water bill continuously. You can fix that for less than $10.The next time you flush your toilet, listen to the tank fill back up. When it’s done, the bathroom should be silent. If the sound of the water trails off but never completely goes away, your toilet’s fill valve is nickel and diming you.

Take the lid off your toilet’s water tank, snap a picture, and go to the hardware store. Unless you have certain models of Kohler toilets, a Fluidmaster 400A will probably fit what you have, but if you bring in a picture of what you have, someone at the store will be able to confirm it. I have a 400A in an Eljer and an American Standard in the house I live in, and most of our rentals have 400As in their toilets as well. If you want to be safe, pick up a new water supply line as well. You’ll probably be able to reuse your existing line, but if you have an old solid line rather than a metal braided line, it may be a good idea to go ahead and replace it.

Installation takes about 20 minutes if you don’t know what you’re doing, and some people claim to be able to change them in two minutes. The instructions that come with the part are clear and helpful. The packaging on some of these units claim it’s as easy as changing a light bulb. It’s a little harder than that, but not that much.

In my case, the 400A stopped the continuous water running, which will reduce my water bill, but it also fills the tank much faster than the old, traditional ballcock valve that my toilet has had since the 1980s, if not the 1960s. It used to take several minutes, but now it takes around 40 seconds. So in addition to being a money saver, it’s also a slight quality of life upgrade.

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