Reducing water use at home

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As our community grows, we all play a role in good water management that includes conservation. The Region of Waterloo has free programs and resources including our indoor water savings tips sheet and outdoor water savings tips sheet to help.

illustration of house water fixtures


Book a free home water review

During a 45-60 minute consultation, a conservation expert will help assess how efficiently your household uses water, identify any leaks and opportunities to help reduce your water use. What happens during a home water review?

  1. We review all possible hardware-related causes of excess water use, such as leaks or inefficient fixtures and offer free water-efficient replacement fixtures to homeowners.
  2. We ask questions about water use behaviours in your household to see how much water you believe you are currently using. This includes habits such as length of showers, number of toilet flushes, etc.

If we don’t find obvious causes in the first step, the excess consumption comes from water use habits or behaviours.

People often underestimate the amount of water they’re using. This exercise helps to highlight the difference between what you perceive you’re using, and what you’re actually using. Since your water meter measures the amount of water flowing through it, we have an accurate starting point for understanding how habits and behaviours can directly contribute to your household water use.

Schedule Your Review

Why complete a free home water review?

  • Understand your household’s water use and where you could save on your water bill
  • Receive a detailed report of where and how your household is using water
  • Understand your water bill better
  • Find out the water hardness of your hot and cold water
  • Opportunity to register for the Water Softener Plumbing Rebate Program

Who is eligible?

  • Owners of single- or semi-detached homes or townhomes and/or duplexes with their own meter, who receive water from a municipality in Waterloo Region and:

Residents interested in registering for the Water Softener Plumbing Rebate Program may also be eligible.

Schedule Appointment 


Water softener plumbing rebate

Softening only your home's hot water will save you money on water and salt and helps to protect the environment. Softening hot water only can save a household of three, 108 kilograms of salt and 8,800 litres of water per year.

Limited time offer: Receive a one-time rebate of $50 per household to change the plumbing to soften hot water only.

General information on water softener is available on our Water Softener web page.

Who is eligible

  • Waterloo Region homeowners of single, semi-detached or townhouses. Businesses and large apartment buildings are not eligible.
  • Households using a salt-based softener. Non-salt technologies are not eligible.
  • Changing plumbing from softening cold and hot water to softening hot water only
  • Installing a new water softener and only softening hot water

Why soften hot water only

Softening hot water only has advantages and some disadvantages. Benefits include saving money on water and salt bills, and lowering chloride pollution in the environment. Drawbacks might include increased cleaning or maintenance to keep scale from building up on toilets, showers and appliances. Without proper care, fixtures and appliances might not last as long. These costs, however, can be offset by lower water and salt bills.

Each homeowner needs to make the decision that works for them including their level of tolerance for hard water.

How to receive the rebate

Step 1: register

Registering online:

  1. Submit the Water Softener Plumbing Rebate form
  2. You will be sent a kit to test your home's water hardness. The test takes only a few minutes by holding a test strip under running water.
  3. Submit your water hardness results to complete registration for the program

Through the free Home Water Review:

  1. Request a free Home Water Review
  2. During the visit, the consultant will test your home's water hardness and complete the program registration

Step 2: complete your plumbing changes

Complete yourself or hire a plumber. The Region of Waterloo maintains a list of licensed plumbers and water softener retailers that support the Water Softener Plumbing Rebate Program.

Step 3: confirm your plumbing changes

After the plumbing change is complete to soften hot water only:

Step 4: receive the $50 rebate

  • Submit a void cheque or the direct vendor deposit form by email, online or mailing to Region of Waterloo - Water Efficiency, 150 Frederick Street, Kitchener ON, N2G 4J3
  • Region of Waterloo will send you the $50 rebate using direct deposit

Participating plumbers and water softener retailers

These organizations support softening hot water only. The Regional Municipality of Waterloo gives no warranty, express or implied, as to the quality, merchantability, workmanship or any other matter with respect to any plumber or water softener professional listed on this web page.

Licensed plumbers

Oakridge Plumbing Solutions

69 Trafalgar Avenue, Kitchener

Taylor McCabe, Phone: 519-568-5557, Email: service@oakridgeplumbing.ca

Offers water softener tune-ups: yes

Offers non-salt technologies: no

 

Plumingo

21-55 Mooregate Court, Kitchener

Stephen Harrington, Phone: 226-929-2317, Email: plumingo.info@gmail.com

Offers water softener tune-ups: yes

Offers non-salt technologies: no

 

Weinhardt Plumbing Inc.

199 Franklin Street North, Kitchener

W.C. Weinhardt, Phone: 519-894-3670, Email: wcweinhardt@gmail.com

Offers water softener tune-ups: yes

Offers non-salt technologies: no

Information for licensed plumbers and water softener retailers

Include your business on the Region of Waterloo's list of licensed plumbers and water softener retailers supporting residents changing their plumbing to soften hot water only.

How to add your business to the list

  1. Watch the Efficient Water Softening for Plumbers video
  2. Complete the Plumbers and Dealers list form

Promote the program to your customers

  1. Display the Water Softener Plumbing Rebate Program poster
  2. Email the Region of Waterloo to request printed copies

Answers to your questions about water softeners

Select the topic of interest for answers to questions Region of Waterloo receives about water softeners and the rebate program.

The Water Softener Facts website has information on how water softeners work, a buyers guide and water hardness maps.

Laundry

Will softening hot water only void my washing machine's warranty?

Unlikely but check your owner's manual to confirm. Most common manufacturers' warranties do not require soft water for their machines. Scale buildup will happen slower when using cold water instead of hot.

Will the colour of my clothing come out less bright from hard water?

There is not definitive evidence that hard water affects colour. Use a fabric softener and a good quality laundry detergent.

Will hard water affect the amount of detergent I need to use?

It's possible you will need to use more laundry detergent when washing with hard water. Certain detergents are better suited for hard water.

Showers

Will I need to use more shampoo or will my soap not lather as well with hard water?

Results can vary. Soap and shampoo lather less with hard water, so you may need to use more. Look for soaps and other products designed for hard water.

Will my shower water feel different?

Some people notice a different feel on their skin with hard versus soft water. Soft water can feel "slippery" and hard water can feel "dry". This is a preference that you may not notice.

Will my showerhead warranty be voided?

No, manufacturers do not require softened water for showerheads. You may get scale buildup on your showerhead affecting water pressure. Remove scale buildup by soaking the showerhead in vinegar.

Dishwashers

Does hard water cause spotty dishes? Will scale buildup ruin my dishwasher?

No. Dishwashers are usually connected to hot water only, so the water supply will still be softened. You should not notice any difference with a dishwasher from softening hot water only. If your dishwasher is connected to the cold water line, consult your owner's manual before switching to hard water.

Toilets

Will hard water create scale buildup inside the toilet tank?

Yes, overtime the flapper and fill valve inside the tank can develop mineral buildup. Buildup may need to be cleaned off the flapper seat or the flapper. Once a year, use vinegar to clean the flapper. Flappers can also be easily replaced. The jets that release water into the toilet bowl may sometimes get clogged on older models. Brush away or clean using vinegar.

It is also important to check the toilet for leaks.

Will hard water create scale buildup in the toilet bowl?

Yes, this can happen. Clean scale buildup with vinegar or baking soda. Brownish-red buildup comes from iron in your water, not calcium or magnesium. You can also wash this off or consider getting an iron filter if needed.

Pipes

Will my pipes get clogged with scale buildup from hard water?

Modern pipes do not develop scale the way older galvanized pipes did. It would take a long time to buildup significant scale. Hard water develops scale much slower when cold compared to hot.

Hard water and health

Will hard water affect skin conditions like eczema?

Consult your doctor with health concerns.

Is it better to drink hard or soft water?

Softened water does have a higher salt content, which is why many homes prefer to run an unsoftened water line to the kitchen tap. If you require a special low-salt diet, consult your doctor about drinking softened water.

The environment

What are the benefits of softening hot water only?

Your water softener will use about 65 per cent less salt and water when you soften hot water only. An average family of three can save 108 kg of salt and 8,800 litres of water per year by switching to soften hot water only, an $84 value.

Why should I use less salt?

Chlorides from salt are not removed during the wastewater treatment process. Water softener salt ends up in Grand River and can be harmful to plants and animals.

Why should I use less water?

Waterloo Region relies on groundwater for drinking water. As our community grows it is important there is enough water for everyone. Conserving water also helps lower energy use and associated greenhouse gases.

Qualifying for the $50 water softener plumbing rebate

How much will the plumbing cost to soften hot water only?

Plumbing costs are unique for each home and depends on the home's layout. Early program participants are typically reporting costs of $300 to $400.

Can I apply for the $50 rebate if installing an NAC unit or another alternative water treatment technology?

No. The program currently is only for salt-based water softeners. But choosing a salt-free technology might be the right choice for your home. Let us know how it goes.

Can I apply for the rebate if I rent my water softener?

Yes. Renting your water softener does not affect your eligibility for this program. You may want to check the terms of your softener rental contract first.

Can I apply for the $50 rebate if I'm buying new softener?

Yes, as long as you install the new softener on hot water only and were not previously softening hot water only. This applies if you are buying a replacement water softener or your first one.

What about concerns I'm receive from my plumber or water softener retailer?

Plumbers and water softener dealers may raise valid points for you to consider. Keep in mind water softener companies are in the business to sell water softeners. They may emphasize concerns with hard water to improve sales. There are pros and cons to both hard and soft water. Our participating licensed plumbers and water softener retailers are available to help customers who wish to soften hot water only.

Can I apply for the $50 rebate if I install a bypass valve so I can choose when to soften cold water or not?

We hope you will commit to softening hot water only and enjoy the water and salt savings. However at this time we still provide the $50 rebate if you install a bypass valve as part of the plumbing changes.

Can I apply for the $50 rebate if I disconnect my water softener?

No. The intent of the rebate is to help with documented plumbing costs.

Can I apply for the $50 rebate if I live in apartment or condominium building?

No. This program applies to single, semi-detached and townhouses with their own water softener. The Region of Waterloo has water conservation programs for multi-residential and commercial properties.

I already soften hot water only. Can I apply for the $50 rebate?

If you made the switch within the last six months and have the required documentation, you can apply for the rebate. Our rebate program is to encourage people to make the switch and compensate for the plumbing costs.

How long does it take to realize benefits of switching to softening hot water only?

For an average family of three, softening hot water only saves an estimated $84 per year. Repayment time depends on your plumbing costs. If the plumbing change costs $350, the investment will repay itself in 42 months.

Can you help me find a plumber to switch to softening hot water only?

The Region of Waterloo does not endorse or recommend specific organizations but we have a list of licensed plumbers and water softener retailers who will help customers soften hot water only.


Checking for leaks in your home

Leaks can be costly in water loss and money. Dripping faucets and other leaks can add up over time. Watch this video to learn where to look for leaks in your home.

Toilet leaks

Your toilet can silently leak up to 330 litres a day; about $50 a month in lost water. In many cases, replacing the flapper can be an easy fix. If you haven't changed the toilet flapper in several years, it is worth checking for a possible leak.

How to check if the toilet flapper is leaking

  1. Add a few drops of food colouring to the tank of the toilet
  2. Wait 15 to 20 minutes
  3. Look in the toilet bowl. If you see food colouring, you have a leak.
  4. Flush the toilet to avoid staining

Outdoor watering

Outdoor watering use such as watering grass or gardens, filling pools and washing cars can quickly increase your water use and your water bill. Watering 10 minutes every day with a hose nozzle uses 4,500 litres of water per month and adds about $25 to your monthly water bill.

Try these outdoor watering tips to use less water this summer.

Lawn watering and the Water Conservation By-law

The Region of Waterloo Water Conservation By-law 07-069 is in effect from May 31 to September 30. The By-law helps to lower daily water use and level off peak demands that can put a strain on the water supply and distribution system.

Find your outdoor watering day and learn more about the Water Conservation By-law

Rain barrels

As of 2023, the Region of Waterloo is no longer holding rain barrel sales. Consider supporting a local community fundraiser event through RainBarrel.ca. The Waterloo Wellington Children's Groundwater Festival is currently hosting a rain barrel fundraiser supporting water education for kids in our community. 

Using rain water reduces stress on the municipal water system during the summer months from increased demand and more drought weather events. Rain barrels also help divert water from paved surfaces keeping water cleaner and reducing stress on stormwater infrastructure during rainstorms.

If you are using a rain barrel, you may be eligible for a stormwater credit on your water utility bill. Contact the City where you live to learn more.

City of Kitchener stormwater credit program

City of Waterloo stormwater credit program

 

Winterizing your rain barrel

Before the winter months, it is important to properly store your rain barrel so it is not damaged by winter weather. Water left inside the rain barrel can freeze, causing the rain barrel to crack or deform.

  • Make sure your rain barrel is emptied of all water
  • Disconnect all hoses and spouts
  • Store in a dry place like a garage, basement or shed
  • Store the rain barrel upside down to prevent any water from getting in

Native gardens and irrigation systems

Pools and hot tubs

If you own a pool or hot tub, you know the enjoyment they can provide. It is also important to maintain your pool and hot tub properly to protect and conserve our community’s water supply.

Reducing the amount of water you use can save you money and help ensure an adequate supply of water for our growing community.

For more information on water saving tips for pools and hot tubs visit the pools and hot tubs page.

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