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Home > Resource Conservation > Water > Sink 

Resource Conservation: Water: Sinks

pics of sinks
Sometimes we demand a little splash from our sinks and sometimes more. Whatever the use, we discuss ways we can save water for this general use water delivery system.

 

General Comments:

Sinks are interesting. Sometimes you need a bunch of water quickly, sometimes you need a drop or two and don't want to waste water.
    When looking at "greenness" of sinks we need to consider the different factors that make up the sink. They are:
  • Water Source.
  • Sink.
  • Faucet.
  • Use And Use Habits.
  • Repair.
  • Disposal Of Used Water (effluent).
  • End Of Life Disposal Of Sink.
We are not just talking about aerators for your faucet.
     The water source for the sink can be the house water source or a rain catchment. The sink can be made out of many different materials (some recyclable). The faucet can have different maximum flow rates and on/off switches. There are many choices where to send the water after it leaves the drain.
    However, a leaking sink is one of the biggest sources of water waste in America.

Energy Efficient?

Efficiency here we talk about reducing water waste. That water could be heated, so we are also talking about energy waste. It is important to keep your sinks in a state of good repair. If your sink leaked 1 drop a second for a year that would waste about 415 gallons. If the water is heated that could cost as much as $21. There are many self help web sites, here is one from eHow.
     As you can see, it is worth it to stop the leaks. However, the most water that will go down a sink drain is when you use the sink for it's intended purpose.
    
Basically, the most common ways to reduce waste is to use less or reduce the flow of a faucet.
pic of aerator   To achieve a lower flow, you can install a faucet with a low flow or you can put an aerator in your current faucet. An aerator reduces the flow of a sink from about 4 gallons a minute to 1 or so. You simply screw it onto the end of the faucet.
    We will discuss further how much money/energy you can save in the "Green Calculator" section. 

Installation:

First, we would recommend that you seek the advice of a Plumber before taking on any project that involves plumbing.
     Having said that, you may find it easy to repair or install some of the simpler devices talked about here. There are also many "self-help" videos on the internet that can help. Here is on video search from Youtube. Here is another about sink faucet installation. Here is a search on how to install a sink.
When you have looked at some videos you may also want to think about the materials used for the installation.
     Some of the jobs you undertake will use silicon sealant. You may want to check out some of the more eco-friendly alternatives (look in Our Picks section below). There are more examples of this which we will talk about in the next two sections.
   
 
Many times you will want a plumber for these jobs. Go to Angie's List. To check out a plumber or contractor.

Disposal:

If your are replacing a faucet or a whole sink, there are specific disposal issues.

The Water:
The water coming in should be from a clean source. However, the water going out may contain soap, food scraps, hair, or other materials. Make sure that wherever it goes the contents of the water do not contain FOG (Fat, Oil, Grease). After using water in a sink it is considered "greywater". Many people have thought up uses for this greywater. We suggest you visit National Geographic or Greywateraction.org for further ideas about your used water.

The Sink:
Sinks are made from many types of materials. The most recyclable are the ones made from Metal (stainless steel, Copper, Aluminum, etc.). However, some of the other types can be either reused or recycled. Some sink materials are made from recycled materials (glass, rubber tires). Take a look at 1800recycling.com for some of the creative sink options. Ceramics like porcelain in general can not be recycled but perhaps reused to the right buyer. Consider antique shops, or online selling of these items (you never know).

The Faucet:
Although the faucet and it's attached valves are made out of steel, copper and other recyclable metals, there may be some plastic or rubber material inside them. Some recyclers may want you to remove those parts before cashing in the metal. Check with your recycler.
Inlet plumbing:
Usually installed by a plumber the metal piping leading up to the sink is usually all recyclable, even if it is the flexible steel pipes.

Outlet plumbing (drain):
Since this is usually water that is not under pressure the piping can be many types of material. The most common piping is PVC (polyvinylchloride). It is cheap, flexible, easy to cut and lightweight. However, PVC is not as recyclable as metal. You may want to consider using metal (brass, stainless, or even aluminum) for your drain piping. It may be a little more expensive but at the end of life of your sink, you can easily recycle the piping. 

Solid Food Waste:
Preparing foods next to the kitchen sink may generate food scraps. Likewise, there may be food scraps on the plate after eating a meal. Many people choose to use a garbage disposal to "clean up" these scraps. As long as there is no FOG (fats oils grease) your municipal waste stream can handle these materials.
     To lessen the strain on your sewer system, we ask you to consider composting these food scraps. Even if you live in an apartment, you can still compost. We ask you keep a sealed container next to the sink and every few days dump it into the compost heap, bin or barrel. See if you can get the managers at your apartment to create an compost system for the tenants. If your apartment complex is unwilling to compost, there may be other places you can take your food scraps such as your local gardening center, extension office, or university food service. In general, you should not include FOG, meat, or dairy. For more information on composting check out our Composting page.

Our Picks:

Bathroom: We recommend 0.5 to 1.0 gpm flow rate. You do not need much water when brushing your teeth, washing your hands or cleaning a cut.

Kitchen: A flow rate of 1.0 to 1.5 is usually appropriate for most home use. If you are a restaurant, some of your prep and dishwashing sinks may need to have a higher flow rate (1.5 to 2.0 gpm) but not much more than that.

Other Sinks: You will have to evaluate your big basin sinks and other sinks. We suggest you look at the jobs you do and say to yourself, "can I still do this job at a lower flow."
Materials: We recommend you look to the "end of life" of your sink. Is this sink going to be recyclable? Therefore, it may be best to get a metal sink/faucet/plumbing. It may cost a little more but it will look good and last a long time. The possible materials are Stainless Steel, Copper, Aluminum and so on.

Installation: Most sink installation calls for silicon sealant. We recommend the ECO-BOND line of sealant.

Use and Reuse: Consider reusing some of the water that would normally go down your drain.
  • Aerator: There is not a large difference between aerators. They can be purchased at a hardware store or on our website. Consider purchasing them with other products to save on shipping.  Make sure you select a male/female and flow rate that is right for you.
aerator
  • ECO-BOND: In place of silicon sealant you may want to consider using ECO-BOND to seal the sink and other plumbing projects.
ECO-BOND sealant
  • Faucet: We recommend a metal faucet because it is recyclable. Many faucets are designed to have flow rates at about 2.2 gpm. If you want less, you may replace the aerator of the faucet with a lower flow one.
faucet
  • Sink: There are many materials to choose from. Stainless steel (304) is one of the best green choices. However, you can choose copper, glass and there are some rubber ones made from recycled tires.
sink
  • Composter: While we will let the debate rage on about in-sink garbage disposer, we ask you to consider small composters for your food waste.
In home composter
  • Other: We make available other materials for servicing or installing sinks. Go to the Amazon store to see some of the other products.
green decloger


Look for spec sheets for these items here.
You can find these items at our Amazon.com Store.
Look at the EPA's Rebate Finder to see if your utility has rebates for these devices.

Quick Note On Savings:

Let's start with the basics. A drop of water is about 0.05 ml. which is about 0.00021 cups of water. That is not very much water but if your faucet leaks one drop a second 24 hours a day you will waste about 415 gallons of water for a year. It all adds up but really, how much can you save?
     Water itself is fairly cheap to pump into your house (about $3 for 750 gallons). However, some speculate that it will get much more expensive in the future because of shortages. However, the main expense is heating the water. The cost of heating your water varies based on location and method of heating. 
This gives us about $0.004 for each gallon of water wasted and about $0.02 (electric water heater at $0.10 KwHr) for each heated gallon wasted. Assuming half of all the water you use out of a sink is heated water, it costs about $0.014 per gallon of water you waste. That means for every gallon of water wasted a day it will cost about $5 dollars a year.
     I guess the next question is "How many gallons a day do I waste ?" It adds up. Let us pretend that you use your sinks for 10 minutes a day. If you waste about a gallon each of those 10 minutes, you waste about $25 a year.
     You will get a better feel for this using the "Green Calculator" below. 

Green Calculator:


Calculate waste water from sink.
Drip Calculator (Repair Leaky Sink)
(Small Leak) Drop Per Minute: (Big Leak) Cups Per Hour:
Drops Per Minute: Cups Per Hour:
% Heated Water (%): % Heated Water (%):
*Cost To Heat Gallon Water ($): *Cost To Heat Gallon Water ($):
Repair Cost ($): Repair Cost($):
*Cost Of Water (per gallon)($): *Cost Of Water (per gallon)($):
*Filled in amounts are averages. You can change any number.
Water usage cost calculator.   Water heat cost calculator.  
_______________________________________________________________________________________________
Is everything filled in above?
 
Results:
Yearly Water Waste (g): Yearly Water Waste (g):
Yearly total water costs($): Yearly total water costs($):
Return on Investment (Months): Return on Investment (Months):
______________________________________________________________________________

Flow Rate Calculator (Aerators And Water Conserving Faucets)
Current Sink: Proposed Change:
Current Flow (gpm): Proposed Flow (gpm):
% Heated Water (%): % Heated Water (%):
*Cost To Heat Gallon Water ($): *Cost To Heat Gallon Water ($):
Average Time Running/Day (Min): Average Time Running/Day (Min):
*Cost Of Water (per gallon)($): *Cost Of Water (per gallon)($):
Cost To Change Make Change ($):
*Filled in amounts are averages. You can change any number.
Water usage cost calculator.   Water heat cost calculator.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________
Is everything filled in above?
 
Results:
Yearly Water Use (g): Yearly Water Use (g):
Yearly Total Water Costs ($): Yearly Total Water Costs ($):
Yearly Water Savings (g):
Yearly Water Cost Savings ($)
Return on Investment (Months)
______________________________________________________________________________

Glossary Of Terms:

  • Aerator: A device placed in a faucet to reduce the flow rate (gpm) of the water coming out the faucet.

  • Compost: A material that provides fertilization to gardens and fields. Usually made from broken down (decomposed) organic material such as food or yard waste.

  • Greywater: Water that has been used for some other purpose.
  • GPM: Gallons Per Minute.

  • Brass: An alloy of Copper, Lead, Zinc and Tin.

  • 100 Cubic Feet of Water: About 748 gallons of water.

References:

http://blog.builddirect.com/eco-friendly-bathroom-remodeling-recycled-bathroom-sinks/ , Eco-Friendly bathroom remodeling, taken 8/2/12.

http://www.ehow.com/how_7514612_recycle-galvanized-steel-sink.html, How to recycle galvanized sinks, taken 8/2/12.

http://greenliving.nationalgeographic.com/can-recycle-water-3090.html ,How can I recycle water? taken 8/2/12.

http://greenliving.nationalgeographic.com/faucet-fixtures-recyclable-20071.html, Are Faucet Fixtures Recyclable? taken 8/3/12

http://www.ehow.com/how_8028420_rid-old-faucets.html, How to get rid of old faucet, taken 8/3/12.

http://www.treehugger.com/kitchen-design/is-my-in-sink-garbage-disposal-eco-friendly.html, Is My In-sink Garbage Disposal Eco-Friendly? taken 8/6/12.

http://www.nature.org/ourscience/sciencefeatures/ask-the-conservationist-march-2012.xml, Are garbage disposals eco-friendly? taken 8/6/12.

http://www.enviromom.com/2008/11/are-insink-garbage-disposals-ecofriendly.html, Are in-sink garbage disposals eco-friendly? taken 8/6/12.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21494919/ns/us_news-environment/t/crisis-feared-us-water-supplies-dry/,  Crisis feared, taken 8/6/12.

http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-03-514, States' View of How Federal Agencies Could Help Them Meet the Challenges of Expected Shortages, 2003, taken 8/6/12.

Water conserving products in our Amazon.com store.

  • Showerheads:
    Showerheads ________________
  • Sink & Faucet:
    Sink And Faucet ________________
  • Hot Water Heaters:
    Hot Water Heaters ________________
  • Toilet:
    Toilet ________________
  • Swimming Pool & Hot Tub:
    Swimming Pool & Hot Tub ________________

 

 
 

Check out WaterSense at the EPA: