Skip to main content
Lowering Your Water Bill Drip by Drip

(Photo: © NewAfrica/Depositphotos)

You are here

Lowering Your Water Bill Drip by Drip (Conclusion)

Pointers from Paulie B: Closed washer doors can reveal hot-water leakers

GLENDALE, Ariz. — You may cringe when you open your water bill. After all, laundromats are such big consumers. That said, there are a few ways that I think you could lessen your costs.

In Part 1, I suggested some tricks to save water, including selling your old washers, cutting the number of rinses, raising your vend prices, and fixing your leaks. Let’s continue:

Overfills can happen where a water valve won’t shut off or, more commonly, if a drain valve can’t hold the water in the tub due to some obstruction. When that happens, the washer will try to replace the water it’s losing by refilling the machine during the cycle. All of a sudden, a washer that consumes 20 gallons is now using 30 gallons just to maintain the water level. Newer washers can warn you of these leaks.

What’s important about these daytime leaks is that you’ll never know unless you actively look for them.

Now, you have to narrow things down.

An easy way to tell which washers are leaking hot water is to simply close the doors on all your washers when the mat closes for the night. In the morning, you will notice significant moisture on the door glass of a “hot-water leaker.”

All your washer doors might fog up a little because the machines’ drain valves default to open when the machines are off, so moisture will rise up into them from the drain line. However, those with hot water will show a lot more water on the glass.

Another easy way to find a leaking washer is to look into the soap boxes when the machines are off. Since four out of five water valves on a washer shoot water through the soap box, you should be able to trace any trickles of water when carefully examining it. However, all washers have air gaps installed (some call them vacuum breakers) where a dripping valve may bypass the soap box and drip directly into the tub.

Here’s another easy method to tell which washer is leaking and whether the water is hot or cold. Open a washer door and shine a flashlight through the basket so you can visualize the tub drain opening through the holes in the basket. If any of its water valves are leaking, you should be able to see a small stream of water dripping into the drain hole. This will catch 99% of leaking washers; only a tiny leak may go undetected.

A more labor-intensive way to check is to open the front panels of each washer when the machine is off, and pull off the drain hose to see if any water is coming through. Clean the drain valve.

Install Good Supply Hoses — A water hose popping off a washer in the middle of the night—or any time, for that matter—is an emergency. It’s a shock hazard, slip hazard, and a water waster. Buy good, heavy-duty hoses with solid brass fittings that will last. While you’re at it, buy 3/4-inch hoses so your washers can fill a little faster. I color-coded my hoses with red and blue tape for hot and cold.

Consider Ditching Your Top Loaders — Top loaders are not nearly the big water guzzlers of yesterday, but they still use more water than a good front loader of equivalent size. New ones now have a “spray rinse” rather than refilling the tub all the way up. Many also have selectable water level settings to match smaller loads.

Choosing replacements for top loaders will depend on your personal needs and goals, so it’s important to do your due diligence on this.

Thwart Customer Abuse — Some customers deliberately leave sink faucets on. Others will come to the sink to endlessly fill up containers of water in an attempt to boost the water levels in their washers (a real headache if your levels are too low). Replace standard faucets with either touchless faucets, or spring-loaded timed faucets.

Touchless faucets will shut off when the customer walks away … unless the customer (usually a “container customer”) covers the electric eye of the faucet so they can walk away while their containers are filling. They can’t do that to a spring-loaded faucet.

Seek Evaporation Credits — Did you know that some localities will give your mat a break on the sewer bills? Anywhere from 7% to 22%. This is based on the fact that mats don’t discharge all the incoming water registered on the meter into the sewer system, because some water is still in the laundry when the cycle stops. The rest is evaporated in the dryers.

Contact your local politicians for help. You never know if you don’t try. About 10 years ago, a Florida mat received help from a local council member who came up with a creative plan to give it wastewater credits and keep it open.

Tip: Whenever you have trouble getting satisfaction with any big organization, and asking for supervisors doesn’t help you, email the CEO (if a private company) or the Commissioner’s office (or its equivalent, if public office). They all have staff to help you. Some will appreciate your concerns because they are so often insulated from what’s going on at the most basic levels.

Install a Water Alarm — This is yet another simple, easy thing to do that will alert you to any significant breakout leaks, as well as sewer backups.

Get a Hose Water Meter — I believe that most front loaders often use more water than their specifications, due to “wicking up” of water above the water level through laundry that is packed into a front loader. I put these meters on my washers to verify exactly how much water a machine really uses.

Dye, Leak, Dye — For toilets, you can put a toilet dye (from the big box stores) in the tank before closing. If the dye shows up in the bowl after several minutes, bingo! You have a leak.

Lowering water costs requires a laundry owner to be vigilant and stand ready to take action as needed. To borrow from a classic saying, “a drop saved is a penny earned.”

Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].