Teenagers like to take long showers. They can easily spend 20 minutes in there, idling away their time as well as the family’s hot water. I’d done a few rounds of knocking on the bathroom door. I’d even taped photos of baby Arctic seals on the door to remind the kids of the consequences. Didn’t seem to get the point across.
When one night came where one of the kids drained the hot water from our tank I knew desperate measures were needed. I threatened to switch out the nice Delta showerhead with a miserly spray one, guaranteed to save water at the price of a miserable shower experience. Certainly that would get the point across but I knew I’d soon have to swap it out. You know, the Geneva Convention and all.
I began to ponder how a proper geek might solve the problem. I am a Site Reliability Engineer in my day job and I love gathering metrics on the computers I wrangle. What if there were a way to track my kids’ use of water? Wouldn’t it be great to show them how much water their showers actually use? I began to dream up a product I could create that would do just that but then some clever Googling showed me one was already out there: the Water Hawk.
The Water Hawk is a showerhead with a self-powered display that shows you not only how many gallons have been used but also the temperature of the water. A tiny water-powered generator provides the electricity to light up the display so it needs no batteries. It keeps track of a shower’s usage up to ten minutes after the shower has ended. While I would like some remote way of reading its values, I know I can flip the water on afterwards and get the numbers if I want them.
The cool thing is, though, that since I put in the Water Hawk I haven’t had to get the numbers. My kids have miraculously returned their showers to civil levels – all by themselves! I never had to say a word – they just did it.
The first time my son showered with the Water Hark I was so stunned at how quickly he shut off the water that I thought something must be wrong. Maybe he’s turning off the water to lather up or something, I thought. But no, he was in and out. A shower that used to take 20 minutes was done now in 5. It was the same for my daughter, whose was done in a teenager-respectable time of under 8 minutes. Mission accomplished!
I think that when people know what their habits or activities actually cost, when numbers can be applied to quantify something, it spurs a shift in behavior. I first saw this when we got an eGauge power meter along with our solar panels. The eGauge itself, costing a fraction of the solar panels, was enough to spur better energy conservation in our household, all because we could now see our energy habits as they happened in real time. Water Hawk does the same but with showers.
Now I’ve got the best of both worlds: water conservation and pleasant showers. No longer do I have to bang on the door to tell the kids they’re using too much water – the Water Hawk does that subconsciously. I couldn’t imagine a better solution to my teens’ long shower habits.