What would be a simple and inexpensive way to modify a toilet to conserve water?

Q: My husband and I are about to embark on some home improvement projects that will save water and energy on the budget. First stop? The bathroom. Ultimately, we are interested in replacing our older toilets that use 3.5 gallons or more per flush with low-flow 1.28 gpf or dual-flush models, but financially this is not in our plans for now. Do you have any tips on temporary DIY ways (we’d rather not hire a plumber) to make our dressers more traditional while still saving up to buy the real thing?

A: You can save about 10 liters of water a day. All you have to do is get an old 1 liter plastic soda or water bottle, remove the labels, fill it partially with sand, marbles or stones to give it weight, and then fill the rest with water. Place the bottle in the toilet tank away from moving parts to prevent water from moving in the tank. The water savings from the bottle-in-tank technique won’t be as big as replacing the toilet, but since it looks like you have real dinosaurs in your house, anything you can do will be a big help. .

If you’d rather invest a few dollars in a device that does a similar job, try the toilet. Although it shares the same name as the feeling you get after eating cheap Mexican food, this device is easy to install and requires no maintenance. Simply fill the toilet belly, a plastic bag that looks like a hot water bottle, with water and hang it inside the toilet tank. If you use one, you will save approximately 80 ounces of water per flush. Or try two for double the results. Toilet tank backing is also a similar option, which displaces water.

Since your home’s toilet is old and prone to leaks, take a look at the tanks to see if the flappers, the rubber pads that keep water in the tank, are in good condition. I recommend doing a dye test to see if they are up to par. Although fins are designed to last for years, wear, tear, and use of cleaning chemicals can shorten their lifespan and make them less effective. Replacement fins are inexpensive and replacing an old one with a new one is a relatively simple process. Toiletflapper.org (yes, it’s a real website) has details on how to do this.

Sandy, there are other steps you can take to make your dresser more conservative without expensive conversions or complete replacements, the most basic of which is to follow the “soft yellow” rule. I would be careful here… one of my roommates has traumatized me for life by taking this phrase to the extreme. However, for a quick fix that doesn’t require a plumber, a lot of money, or any mold, I would start with the steps I outlined above. And when you’re thinking about replacing your toilet, keep an eye out for the EPA-sponsored WaterSense label, which guarantees that the model in question uses 20 percent less water than current federal standards. Think of WaterSense as an energy star for the customer. Good blush.