Lessening the amount of water being flushed down the drain


September 12, 1992|By Gene Austin | Gene Austin,Knight-Ridder News Service

Older toilets can be major water wasters, but there are both new and old ways to reduce water use.

Q: I've heard about a device for a toilet that lets you flush it two ways -- a full flush or a flush that uses much less water. Can you provide more information?

A: Older toilets -- generally those made before 1975 -- use up to 5 gallons of water a flush. According to studies, that is much more water than really needed. Some modern toilets use only about 1 1/2 gallons a flush.

A number of devices and methods have been developed to cut toilet water use. One of the most widely available is Future Flush, which replaces the existing flush valve and handle with a special valve and two-part handle. If one part of the handle is pushed, the toilet gets a full flush; pushing the other part gives a mini-flush that is said to be adequate for most uses.

The manufacturer of Future Flush, Con-Tech Industries of Cres- well, Ore., says the device cuts household water consumption ++ by up to 28 percent and can save 24,000 gallons of water per year for a family of four.

Future Flush is sold at some home centers and hardware stores for less than $20. For more information, call (800) 446-5765.

However, there are simpler less-mechanized ways to save water in a toilet flush. One simple solution is to cut the tops off one or more tall plastic bottles. Put some stones in the bottles for weights and place them in the toilet tank in positions where they will not interfere with the mechanisms. The bottles capture and hold some of the water that would normally go down the drain, resulting in less water per flush.

Toilet dams, made of metal or plastic, are another simple way to reduce flush water. The dams are simply flexible panels that fit around the water outlet in the bottom of the toilet tank, forming what amounts to a smaller water container. Dams are generally sold by dealers in energy-conservation supplies.

Q: Our house has cedar siding and we live in a wooded area. Woodpeckers keep pecking holes in parts of the siding, so I have to replace boards frequently. How can I get rid of the birds?

A: I don't know of any easy solution to this problem. I know one homeowner who had a cedar-sided home refinished with stucco because woodpeckers would not stop pecking the wood.

Some possible solutions:

* Put large plastic or inflatable owls near the house; these are available from some garden-supply and sporting-goods stores. Woodpeckers fear owls and might avoid the area.

* Shiny metal disks such as pie plates, hung near the siding so they move in the wind, might also frighten the birds away.

* If the pecking is confined to a fairly small area, try covering that area temporarily with sheet aluminum or other metal.

Readers' questions and comments should be sent to Gene Austin, c/o The Baltimore Sun, Box 8263, Philadelphia, Pa. 19101.

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