9 DIY Projects You Can Do To Save Water

Changing up the way that you use water might be a good way to manage your water bill, but being careful with how you run your faucet, water your lawn, or take a shower can only have so much of an impact.  

 To make your water conservation efforts have an even better effect, you should seriously considering making some changes to the things around your home that supply and use water. Don’t worry, though, the do-it-yourself projects detailed below are fairly easy to do and give significant water-saving benefits.  


Replace Toilet

Time: 30-1.5 hours 

Skill Level: Intermediate  

Tools: Crescent Wrench, Putty Knife, Sponge  

Cost: $100 – UP 

If your home was built before 1994 you should think about replacing your toilet. The average person flushes the toilet 5 times per day, and these 5 flushes are on average 31% of of your water usage.   

 Depending on the age of your toilet you could be wasting 35 gallons of water per day. Toilets made before 1980 use between 5-7 gallons of water per flush (gpf). At least 3.5 gallons of that water goes right down the drain every time you flush a toilet made between 1980 and 1994.  

The Energy Policy Act of 1992 had a wide range water savings measures, including a max flush rate of 1.6 gpf. This policy went into effect in 1994 for residential buildings and 1997 for commercial buildings.  Toilets with 1.6 gpf are known as Ultra Low Flush Toilets (ULF).  

High Efficiency Toilets (HET)  uses a maximum of 1.3 gallons of water per flush. And, for the highest water savings, a dual flush toilet will average 0.9 gpf. Incase you have not experienced a dual flush toilet, they have one button for flushing liquids (0.8-1.1 gpf) and another for flushing solids (1.3 -1.6 gpf). 

The watersaving benefits of installing a new toilet are so great that many local water companies offer some form of a rebate. For example Denver Water offers up to $150 rebate for installing a 1.1 gpf average toilet. Laguna Beach County Water District offers a $40 rebate for toilets flushing only 1.06 gpf. American Standard has built a rebate locator to help you find out if your local water company is offers rebates for your conservation efforts 

Pro Tip: If you live in an older house measure the distance from the back wall to the floor bolts. The industry standard is 12” from the finished wall to the center of the flange. Older homes have a 14” offset. There are still plenty of companies that make 14” offsets, but your selection will be limited.  


How Do I know if I have a high efficiency toilet? 

Most manufacturers either will stamp/or cast the manufacture date on the lid or the inside back of the toilet. If you can’t find a date, a simple test can give you a good idea of how much water each flush is. Detailed Instructions 

  1. Turn off the water supply line 
  1. Flush the tank 
  1. Take the lid off 
  1. With a gallon jug, fill the tank until you reach the max fill line.  
  1. Fill the bowl to water level mark 
  1. Add the amount of water you put in the tank to the amount of water you put into the bowel. This will give you a good idea of how much water is used on each flush.    

Installing a toilet is very straightforward and can be done in under an hour. Besides a sponge you will need a crescent wrench and putty knife.  


Check Your Toilet Leaks

Time: 30 minutes 

Skill Level: Beginner   

Tools: Food Coloring 

Cost: Less than $5  


Approximately 12% of residential water use is due to water leaks and, since a toilet consumes 30% of your water usage, this is a good place to start.   

With most toilet leaks, you can hear the sound of a weak hissing or a slow trickle of water. However, sometimes water will slowly and quietly flow into the tank, making the leark nearly undetectable unless you do this test:   

This is by far is the easiest DIY project you can do.  

  1. Take the lid off the tank 
  1. Drop 10 drops of food coloring into the tank. Red food coloring works best 
  1. Place the lid back on the tank, but do not flush 
  1. After waiting 30 minutes, look to see if the water in the bowl has changed colors – If so, then you have a leak  

If you find a leak, here are a couple things you can look into before replacing the whole toilet.  Check to make sure the water level is adjusted to the “water level” line stamped on the inside back of the tank.  The internal diaphragm seal could be worn and need to be replaced. Finally check flapper is clean and seated correctly. 


Insulate Hot-Water Pipes

Time: 30 minutes 2 hours 

Skill Level: Beginner   

Tools: Scissors, Measuring Tape, Utility Knife  

Cost: Less than $20-$50  

Insulated hot-water pipes keep water 2° to 4°F warmer than uninsulated pipes. When insulating, you see savings in two ways. First, since the water will stay warmer in the pipes, there is less need to purge the water lines of cold water, thereby saving water. And because of this water conservation on heated water, your water heater will work less, saving you on energy costs, too. 

If you have an unfinished basement or crawl space, this is a great project.   

Pro Tip: Some foams are flammable. Check your owner’s manual of your water heater for minimum clearance of combustible materials.   

Copper Water pipes come in multiple sizes, but the 2 most common sizes in residential use is ¾” and ½”. You will want to measure the diameter of these pipes before heading to the plumbing supply store. The outer diameter of a ½” pipe is ⅝” and a ¾” pipe is ⅞” 


Install a RainBarrel

Time: 1- 2 hours 

Skill Level: Beginner   

Tools: These will vary, but typically a hacksaw, screwdriver and drill  

Cost: Less than $75-$150  

Installing a rain barrel is a great DIY project that can help save water and green up your plants or brown spots in your lawn. Since most rain barrels are in the 55 gallon range, don’t expect to see much of a drop in your water bill, but you can feel good knowing you are doing your part to help save water.  


Rain barrels range in size from 40 gallons up to 55 gallon and can be purchased at your local hardware store, nursery or online.  

A few tips: 

  1. Do not buy a square barrel. These tend to fail much easier than round ones 
  1. Elevate it to increase the flow rate when using the captured water 
  1. Make sure the barrel is on solid footing – a 40gallon barrel will weigh over 300lbs  
  1. To prevent the barrel from tipping over when full, make sure it is level 
  1. Make sure to put mesh or a cover on your barrel to keep mosquitoes from laying eggs 
  1. Empty the barrel at least once a year and clean with a mild soap 

Check with your local and state laws for restrictions.   


Change shower head

Time: 30 minutes 

Skill Level: Beginner   

Tools: Crescent Wrench, Teflon Tape 

Cost: $30-$100  


A Standard shower head uses 2.5 gallons of water per minute (GPM). If a family of 4 installed a low flow shower head it would save over 10,000 gallons of water annually (based on 7minute average showers). That is enough water to fill a 28’ round pool at 4’ deep. According to the EPA, 17% of residential water is used is for bathing.  

Depending on the age of your home a shower head can use between 3.5+ GPM to less than 2 GPM. Part of the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (see above) the federal government mandated all shower heads have a max flow of 2.5 GPM. Shower head manufacturers have gone a step further than the mandated minimum GPM and now also make shower heads that use as little as 1.25 GPM.  

When shopping for a new shower head look for the WaterSense log on the packaging. A WaterSense logo indicates the shower head has a flow rate of 2.0 GPM or less. Some water companies offer a rebate for installing an efficient shower head. Either contact your local water company or check here.  

Finally, saving water is great, but most of us use hot water for showers, installing a low flow shower head will also reduce your energy bill since you will end up using less water 



Time: less than 30 minutes 

Skill Level: Beginner   

Tools: Crescent Wrench or Channel Locks, Teflon Tape or Silicone Grease 

Cost: Less then $10  

An aerator reduces the amount of water coming through the faucet by mixing air with the water while still giving the user the perception of a highflow sink. Still, chances are good your kitchen and bathroom sinks have some sort of aerator already installed. Nonetheless, in most cases there is a more waterefficient aerator available for you to install and help save water. 

A good example, Delta Faucets lavatory faucets meet or exceed WaterSense standards since 2012, but they still look and feel like faucets that use much more water.  

In most cases the flow rate is stamped on the outside of the aerator. For bathroom sinks you want to aim for 1.5 GPM or less and kitchen sinks should be between 1.5 and 1.8 GPM. 


Tuning Up Your Sprinklers 

Some experts estimate that as much as 50% of residential home irrigation is wasted due to runoff, evaporation and wind. There are too many variables to even consider calculating a water savings, this report from Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, indicates a 8 zone system running 15 minutes per zone twice a week will use 15,360 gallons a month. Below are 3 easy projects you can do to save water outdoors. 


ChangeYour Sprinkler Heads

Time: 30 minutes 

Skill Level: Beginner   

Tools: Screwdriver, Pliers  

Cost: $20-$50 


Traditional pop-up sprinkler heads spray water into the air in a fine mist. There are a couple problems with this. These tiny droplets are easily be blown around by the wind. If it is hot out. some of the mist will evaporate before it ever hits your grass. Spray heads also use water at a high rate, which leads to runoff on hills.  


Highefficiency rotating sprinkler nozzles shoot jets of water that move back and forth across your lawn. These nozzles are less prone to water being blown away in windy days. Also, the delivery rate of water is slower, allowing for the water to absorb into the ground leading to less runoff.  



Install a Rain Sensor 

Time: 30 minutes 

Skill Level: Beginner-Intermediate   

Tools: This will vary, but typically: Wire Cutters, Controller Compatible With Rain Sensor, ladder, screwdriver 

Cost: $20-$100  

 There is no point in running your sprinkler system if it has been raining the last couple of days. A rain sensor automatically monitors rainfall in your yard and shuts off your sprinkler to prevent unnecessarily watering.  

You will want to place the sensor in a position that will receive the same amount of rainfall and sun as the rest of your yard. Ideal installation locations include attaching it to a rain gutter or fence.  The sensor collects rain and when it is wet it stops the watering. Once the controller dries out, it lets the sprinkler system return to its normal schedule.  

Pro Tip: Since most rain sensors are hardwired to the controller, you will want to position it relatively close to the controller to keep from having to run wire over a longer distance than necessary.  


9 Install Smart Controllers  

Time: 30 minutes 

Skill Level: Beginner   

Tools: Screwdriver and Wire cutters  

Cost: $60-$300  

Like many common household appliances, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and apps have been integrated into new sprinkler controllers. The EPA notes that the average home could save 8800 gallons of water a year when installing a smart controller that meets WaterSense standards. EPA PDF Report.  

Programming your sprinkler system is much easier with apps – gone are the days of the confusing buttons, dials and a tiny LCD screen. If you notice a section of your lawn is turning brown, you can easily modify the run time for that zone with a couple of taps on your phone.  

Some of the more advance controllers can also monitor the local forecast to delay running the system if rain or freezing temperatures are expected. Additionally, the controller can make changes to zone runtimes based on the levels of evaporation from temperature changes and humidity.   


As you can see, there are a variety of things that you (or a helpful friend or family member) can do that offer up some excellent ways to keep your water use from getting out of control. What is even better is that these water-saving DIY projects are fairly affordable – especially when you consider how expensive other DIY home improvement projects can be. Not only that, but these projects can also work toward raising your home’s value. So not only will you be saving money by lowering your water bills, you will be potentially increasing how much you will receive when (or if) you decide on selling your home.