While not exactly food related, saving money on your water bill is something that a frugal person like myself would consider doing when they’re always looking for easy ways to cut back on every day expenses. Being frugal doesn’t stop in the kitchen. It’s a way of life. It’s spending less in every area possible, because you can and your money can go to so many more other worthwhile causes.
Like nitrate-free pepperoni or raw milk. Or bacon.
About nine months ago, I got a wild itch to experiment with a homemade toilet water displacement system. I’ve heard about these things, how they save water every time you flush, but I didn’t want to fork over the cash to pay for an “official” system.
In case you’re not familiar, a water displacement system is something that takes up space in the back of your toilet so that when you flush, there isn’t as much space to refill with water.
It’s a leave-it-and-forget-about-it type of thing, which fits fantastically with my schedule.
According to the Sustainability of Semi-arid Hydrology and Riparian Areas (SAHRA) research institute, you can save 4.2 gallons of water per day, per toilet with this tip.
What does that look like in dollars and cents? According to my last water bill, I pay 0.8¢ per gallon of water. If I put a displacement in all three toilets in my house, my bill would go down by at least $36 in a year, or up to $87! Do you know how much bacon you can buy with that?!
I thought this savings was worthy enough of experimentation, but I’m too frugal to actually BUY something for the toilets in my rental. Instead, used what we already had on hand and made our own!
This post is part of an ongoing experiment to see if random money-saving techniques really work. I collect ideas via this board on Pinterest, to which you’re welcome to join and pin to as well! Follow me, then leave a comment on that board requesting to be a pinner and I’ll add you within a day or two. Previous experiments include cutting the ends off of toothpaste, which resulted in an awesome copycat Earthpaste recipe that costs 60% less to make!
How to Reduce Your Water Bill up to 15%
Here are three simple steps to making your own toilet water displacement system:
- Locate empty plastic containers. Water bottles in the 16-18 oz range work well and a single 32oz bottle will fit too. Be sure to test the bottle to see if it fits before moving on to the next step.
- Fill the bottle with heavy items. Ideally, fill it halfway with rocks, then the remainder of the space with sand. Be sure the bottle is closed tightly when you’re done.
- Flush the toilet and place your bottle(s) inside. Allow the water to fill back up, making sure the bottle don’t hit anything in the process.
- If there’s more room, repeat steps 1-3 and add more bottles!
How Much Does it Really Save?
The amount of money you save really depends on how much water you can displace and how many times you flush the toilet on a given day. I mentioned before that we pay 0.7¢ per gallon and when you add up the three water bottles, we’re displacing about 1 1/2 quarts in each toilet.
Now, I haven’t taken the time to actually count the number of times the three toilets in our house flush on any given day, since I consider myself a fairly busy person like the rest of you, but I can tell you that our water bill has been consistently less every month, with an average savings hovering around $4.
If you flush more, or displace more, or have more toilets, you can save more money. However, you know as well as I do that even the little pennies add up over time, so don’t sit and do nothing if you live alone with one toilet. Grab something heavy and get to it!
Other Water Saving Ideas
The more you think about it, the more you’ll see that you can put ALL SORTS of stuff into the back of your toilet to displace water. The key is that they are a) heavy, and b) fit your toilet. Some suggestions (other than a water bottle) and other water saving ideas for your toilet:
- plastic jugs from quarts of milk or creme, filled at least 3/4 of the way with rocks
- large rocks
- bricks wrapped in a plastic bag (to prevent pieces breaking off and harming the flushing mechanism)
- Toilet Tank Bag (yes, someone actually makes this!)
- Fill Cycle Diverter (saves 1/2 gallon per flush and next on my to-try list)
- Adjustable Flapper (saves up to 3 gallons per flush)
If I kept the current set-up, but added a fill cycle diverter and an adjustable flapper, I just might be able to lower my water bill by another $5 every month! How crazy is that these simple ideas could create a savings of almost $150 each year?!
And you say you can’t afford a quarter of a cow… pfft! 😉
Are There Any Drawbacks?
Unfortunately, there is. Every now and then, one of the bottles tip over and prevents the flapper from closing all the way and the toilet “runs.” My super simple solution is to open the tank and fix the bottle. Considering I’m saving money with that little bottle, I don’t mind putting it upright one bit. (Although Mr. Crumbs finds it irritating, lol.)
I also read that sometimes toilets don’t flush as well with the displacement if there are a lot of solids, so you end up having to flush twice to move them (which means you’re not saving any water). However, we’ve been doing our business just fine without having to flush twice, so maybe that’s just a “possible” drawback rather than a fairly common one.
Finally, I read that some of the displacement materials (i.e. the water bottle) might deteriorate over time. I’ve been doing this for several months so far and haven’t noticed anything withering away so far, but if it does, I’ll just take my rock and fill up more bottles. Problem solved!
Do you have a water displacement system in your bathroom? How much money does it save you?
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I have the same issue. Did you find a good solution?
I have 3 gerber 1.6GPF/6.0LPF toilet, and my tank comfortably holds a big one gallon size Crystal Geyser spring water jug. It doesn’t tip over at all when filled to the rim of the jug with water. I have this in all 3 water tanks. At Kroger, these jugs are like 89¢ a jug. Can’t beat that for extra savings. I use the water then when it’s empty I refill with tap water and place it in the tank. Mine and my gfs water Bill monthly is usually around $48-51 a month.
Tonya Lee Mercer
You could save electricity, by doing this you have to pay to pump the water out of the ground.
Our bathtub is too big. Not enough hot water to fill. Is there a larger, waterproof sand bag to displace water and also serve as back rest?
So all i have to do is place a water bottle with rocks and sand into the hole in the back of the toilet? Just wanted to make sure that I’ll do it right lol. Moving into a house where i’m paying all utilities on. Before i had an all bills paid house and apartment that i only had to pay electricity. So anything will help esp with only being on disability. ❤ thank you in advance.. Ps. Id like to be added in Pinterest
Yep, you’ve got it Jessica!
I have been saving water by collecting the cold water that comes out first when I turn on the hot water..it takes up to a 2liter bottle every time…and also when turning on the shower I fill a small plastic waste container to flush toilet , I can use saved water in washing machine ,to water plants or rinsing sink after doing dishes…
We have a two liter bottle filled with water in our tank. Works like a charm
you could try duck tape to hold them all together and stick it to the side of the tank where theres no water to keep your bottles from falling… DUCK TAPE fixes everything hehehe
You could try snipping off a part of a wire hanger to loop one end around the top of the bottle and hook the other end over the edge of the bowl at the back so the bottle doesn’t fall. The lid would hopefully hold it all in place.
Aha! Thanks for the idea Mabel!
Yes, you can! Although you’re supposed to wrap it in a plastic bag to prevent it from deteriorating and those little particles from damaging the plumbing system.
There’s always the “If it’s yellow let it mellow” method. So if it’s liquid waste only you just flush it after several liquid trips or a solid. People swear it doesn’t smell. I don’t know.
LOL, yes there is. I can’t do that right now while teaching little ones to flush (it tends to be an all or nothing lesson), but hopefully when they’re older and they can distinguish between the two, we might be able to employ this method. 🙂
Susan – we did this for a few years when our children were younger. It was not very pleasant. It did add a different scent to the bathroom, especially in warmer weather. And the toilet bowl needed to be scrubbed more frequently due to the stagnate urine and TP. We stopped bothering when we got the smaller tank, high-efficiency toilets. I think the water displacement idea is a much better one for larger tanks than the yellow-mellow method. 🙂
I’ve done this before, but instead of filling the bottles with rocks, I just fill them with water.
Hello! I tried this too, but since the weight of the water itself cancels out, the bottle material needs to be heavy. Mine wasn’t, and they ended up floating. 🙁
Julie @ Logger's Wife
My mom did this when I was a kid. She would fill a half gallon milk jug with water just in case the bottle broke or something. Then it was just extra water to deal with in the toilet, not sand, etc. I don’t remember there ever being an issue with it floating. Maybe she put a couple of rocks in the jug first. It was a long time ago. I don’t have a water bill (we have a well and septic system) so never anything I tried myself.
Half gallon milk jugs with water work great, that’s what we use.