Thursday, September 27, 2012

How Much Do Your Showers Cost?

For the first time in my life, I'll be having a water bill at our new house.  Even though I've never had to pay for water before because it has always been included in my rent, I've tried to do the environmentally friendly thing and conserve by not running the dishwasher or washing machine until they are full, using low flow showerheads, not leaving the water running while brushing my teeth, stuff like that.

A low flow showerhead makes long showers cheaper

Except when it comes to my showers.  I like to take a long, hot shower every morning to turn my brain on, figure out the day, and meditate a bit.  Plus, my scalp gets itchy if I don't shampoo daily (sidenote: it's a bit better with the "all natural" shampoos that don't contain things like SLS, but it is still uncomfortable.  )

At the new house, my husband doesn't want me to take long showers, at least not until we figure out how much it would cost us on the bill to have my showers.  Thus began an epic quest to determine right from the first shower in that house, how much do long, hot showers cost?

For the purposes of my question, I'm considering the heat to warm the water a constant, since that's something we've been paying here and not something that would increase our bills at the new house versus the old house.  The only variables I'm looking at are water and the related cost of sewer.

From the rate sheet on the utility's website, it appears that there is a flat monthly fee, based on the type of meter and a rate per ccf, or hundred cubic feet of water used.  Since the flat rate isn't going to change whether I use one gallon of water for a quick wipe down, or take a full-length (read: until the hot water runs out) shower, I'm not going to consider that in the cost of a shower.  The cost per ccf per month appears to be $2.56, with an additional fee of approximately $0.44 for the chemicals they use to treat it, so a total cost of about $3 per ccf.

But wait!  That's just the water coming into the house!  They charge us coming and going!  On top of the water charges, there are a flat fee and per ccf charges for sewer use as well.  Again, since we flushed the toilet at the new house already, that's going to take care of the flat rate.  We used it, it is there.  The variable rate is 4.70 per ccf commodities charge plus a $0.59 per ccf inflow/infiltrations commodity charge.  So using one ccf a month, going down the drain, is $5.29, bringing my total costs per ccf month to $8.29.

I keep the water heater set to a really low temperature, to prevent scalding by the children (or me, during an airbrained moment) and to keep other utility costs down, so one of my showers (you can stop picturing me wet and naked any time now, thanks) usually consists of the hot water on full blast with little to no cold water in the mix and goes until the hot water starts to run out.  I know from survival stuff that the average hot water heater contains about 30 gallons, so that is approximately what I use for a shower.  Since I shower daily, that means I use roughly 915 gallons a month for showering, or 1.22 ccf (1 ccf = 748 gallons).   For all my showers for the month, it will cost a projected $10.11. 

The other way to look at it is one full-length shower costs about $0.33.  Considering how much I save the family on everything else under the sun, from food to clothes to things around the house, I don't think that's too much to pay for one little thing that is a small but important "luxury" in my life!

How much do your showers cost?

For this post, I had a lot of help from my expert on all things Lansing and crazy spreadsheet lady, my friend Melissa, from Cookies, Crayons, Classes, & Chaos.  (Seriously, she put yellow on a spreadsheet to do with sewers.  Who does that?  I guess I should just be grateful for her help...and that she didn't use brown.)


  1. We have a fairly large hot water tank, and I almost always run it cold... but I also seem to always have a child in with me, getting clean. So that's two people worth of shower. I do baths about once a month, so I don't count that really. On the other hand, we don't have a convenient flat rate. The water in New Hampshire is, I believe, higher than everywhere else in the country. With five adults, one teen and two almost-seven year olds in the house, we are running a water bill of close to $200 a month. It's just sick. :( And believe me, that's with us being *careful* with the water. I'd hate to see what happens when we're casual in our use!

    We have a washing machine that auto-senses the amount of water needed, and it's never run on low. We stuff it. With that many people in the house, the dishwasher is *always* full to overloaded. Most of us shower 5 times a week, some less. We don't leave water running. We follow the "if it's yellow" rule with the toilet and when we had to replace one of ours due to a problem, we got a low-flow toilet.

    So yeah. Insane. LOL...

  2. Do you have an electric water heater? Our rates in CT are some of the highest in the US. THat said, I was paying $267/month for a budget plan on electricity. I am now in another house, due to divorce and we have an oil fed boiler. I take 5-8 minute showers, depending if I am shaving or not. One kid takes a comparable shower while his brother can take a 45 minute one! I bought a kitvhen timer just for him, and give his 10 minutes or I physically drag him out of the shower. Oil is pricey, I fear how much this is costing me. WHile my electric is now half of what it was, I continue conserving however I can.

    1. I'm not sure what kind of water heater we have. I haven't really looked at it beyond seeing it had a big yellow EnergyStar sticker.

  3. Watch your water bill closely. Our township pulled a nasty trick on us this year - first the rate went up, and people were complaining about the higher bills. Then after a couple of billing cycles, they changed the cycle from every three months to every two months.

    All of a sudden it looks like the bill is smaller! Most people are satisfied with this, unbelievably. But the bill is still pretty high, to the point where I don't feel comfortable washing my hair every day (I have dry skin so washing hair daily is a bad idea anyway, but still...). I still bathe daily but it is usually just a quick "wash the body and get out" shower.

    Fortunately my kids are competitive. Once I challenged them to find out who could get clean in the shortest amount of time, they've stepped up to the plate and perfected the art of a six-minute shower.

    1. I usually have to drag the kids kicking and screaming into the tub and the younger ones usually double up anyway, so I'm not worried about their water usage. It's mine that would have had a questionable impact on our bill, at least until I calculated out how little it would actually be!

  4. Also watch for things like special assesments that are added in...we get charged extra for so-called sewer improvements and such...Example,our actual water usage came to $21.98,but they add in trash collection,and sewer upgrades,etc,etc bringing our bill up to $66.53 for the month of August.
    If your new house has a basement you can divert gray water to a holding tank and use it for filling the washer,watering non food plants,etc,etc,we don't waste water on keeping our lawn green either.Grass will go dormant during drought and come back on it's own when it rains regularly again,so why bother?

    We installed a low flow shower head,one with the lowest output we could find,and have a rule of keeping to 5-6 minutes in the shower.

    1. Trash collection is a pay-as-you go service, separate from utilities, and between the "free" (paid by taxes) curbside recycling and the compost heap I'll have, I don't imagine we'll have more than a bag or two a MONTH. Paying by the bag works out to $1.75 each, so that shouldn't break the bank either.

      Our house has a Michigan basement, which I thought was in pretty terrible shape, but when my parents saw it, they though it was actually a pretty GOOD Michigan basement! I'm still deciding what all I'm going to use my limited basement space for besides storage.

      And I have no intention of having a lawn. Our lease specifically states I can have a garden, I just have to replant grass before moving (but I may end up buying the place, which would make that a non-issue), so I plan on filling the WHOLE yard with garden. If I can't eat it or use it as medicine, it doesn't need to be cluttering up my yard!

  5. Where will the kids play if all your yard is garden? Great that you can have a garden as long as you replant into grass. Never heard of something like that. Good for you.

    1. I plan on doing something similar to what I did last year, where I had lots of small patches of garden with paths, except now I am not required to keep grass on those paths! The kids thought that was the BEST yard ever, because they could have "battles" with Nerf guns, play hide-and-seek, tag, or lots of other games around it that was a lot more fun than a plain, boring yard. There do appear to be some areas on the fringes of the yard in which grass isn't growing because of the heavy shade, so I doubt much else will either, so that's where I'm sticking things like their sandbox, slide, etc. They also will have an easel and sand-and-water table set up on the patio or deck. PLUS, I'm going to ask the business next door if it is okay if they play in the parking lot behind their building when the business is closed (I don't see why this WOULD be problem, but it seems courteous to ask anyway). There are LOTS of places to play, even without a traditional yard.

  6. I also went on a tear to drop my showers to 5 minutes or less to save money, but I then pondered what I was giving up. To give some perspective, I'm retired so I don't have to shower to get ready for work, etc. It's entirely optional. Still, I love the process of getting in the shower to wake up, clear my sinuses (I know, GROSS!), and get my mental gears spinning. I was going to do these calculations myself, but you saved me the time. With a typical shower being that cheap, I'm going back to fifteen minute showers!