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Bathtub Overflow Cover

Posted on Feb 28, 2011 in Eco, Product, Quotidien things, sustaina-bling

It is a growing concern of mine that publications from the product design community continuously tend to focus on innovations in form, style and lifestyle influence, attributes of products that are central to their perceived value by us users, but that are really only a small part of the story of their measurable impact as tools. The sustainability movement has raised critical awareness and has increased the chic value of the conservative utility of new products, but what remains of concern is that we are still talking about innovations and new products, i.e. more stuff. So one thing I’d like to do more of here is celebrate quotidien, existing and (from my perspective) unsung heroes in products and product design. Probably that will mean just the products themselves as most of them will not be glamourous enough to have afforded their innovators any notoriety, but so what, it is better to do good than to be thanked. So with that said, let’s begin…. And let’s give thanks along the way.

Over the past year and a half, my two and a half year old son and I have been bathing every evening before his bedtime, and as he grows taller, we let the water level get higher. But as the water level rises, so does the amount of water lost to the overflow drain toward the top of the tub. For months of filling and refilling I stared at the overflow and listened to the sound of wasted water, remembering my own father’s lament at the same. I remembered what he brought back as a solution and decided it was time to hunt one down myself:

The bathtub overflow stopper is a remarkably simple, single part device that uses suction cups to surround and seal the tub overflow and restrict drainage through a hole that can be positioned anywhere around the drain’s perimeter.

To date I have not measured the amount of water I save each bath but I would guess that it measures in the tens of gallons, equal at least in displaced volume to me and my son combined. The packaging says it will allow 60% more water into the tub, or save you 60% of your water use without it, but my tub is quite old and unusually deep and long, so that number is going to be smaller. I have a 150 gallon hot water heater and know that without the overflow stopper, over the course of a typical 30 minute bath in our big old tub, after refilling a few times to keep from freezing our shoulders we started to lose peak hot water and I could feel the dilution of cold into the hot water tank coming through the line. So I can guess that we were approaching the 100 gallon mark per bath. Insane. Over the course of a week, that nearly reaches the basic water rate in Brooklyn set by the DEP which is “$2.61 per Hundred Cubic Feet (HCF which is equivalent to 748 gallons of water.” With the overflow stopper, I don’t lose water to the overflow and I don’t refill the tub anymore. I am guessing I use half as much water per bath. That’s only a buck and a quarter per week, but it’s enough water to fill two Hipporoller water carriers– per day! If I could divert that water to the needy I would. For now, I am grateful for a simple solution to a huge waste of water.

And bathing with family is fun.

Couldn’t resist. (So modest.)