Low Flow Plumbing Fixtures
Responsible Water Conservation
Reducing your water use has multiple benefits. In addition to helping to conserve and protect your community’s vital water supplies, saving water also helps you save money and energy. According to the U.S. EPA, if all U.S. households installed water-efficient fixtures and appliances, the country would save more than 3 trillion gallons of water and more than $18 billion dollars per year.
Conserving water also conserves energy, because energy is used to treat, deliver, and heat water. If one out of every 100 American homes were retrofitted with water-efficient fixtures, that would save about 100 million kWh of electricity per year—avoiding 80,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions: equivalent to removing nearly 15,000 automobiles from the road for one year.
Low-flow fixtures have been on the market for a while. These days, there are also many ultra-low-flow fixtures that conserve even more water without compromising performance. The EPA’s WaterSense program labels ultra-low-flow, highly water-efficient plumbing fixtures that have been independently tested and certified to meet efficiency and performance standards. In addition to being approximately 20% more water-efficient than average products, WaterSense labeled products have been verified to perform “as well or better than their less efficient counterparts.”
To select the most water-efficient plumbing fixtures, you should look for products with certain flow thresholds. The following sections outline the thresholds to be aware of when selecting ultra-low water-use toilets, showerheads, and faucets.
HIGH-EFFICIENCY, WATER-SAVING TOILETS
Toilets are often the source of the most water use (and water wasting) within a home, accounting for nearly 30 percent of an average home’s indoor water consumption. If you have a toilet(s) that uses more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush (gpf)—as do almost all toilets installed before 1994—replace it with one of the following:
High-efficiency (or ultra-low-flush) toilet model that uses no more than 1.3 gpf
Dual-flush toilet, which has a lower-flush button for liquid waste and a higher-flush button for solid waste; this type of toilet is common in Australia and Europe and is becoming increasingly popular in the U.S.
Showering accounts for up to 20 percent of the average household’s indoor water use. You can cut your shower water use by as much as 70 percent by switching to an ultra-low-flow shower head, which is easy to do. And unlike older low-flow shower heads, many of today’s models of high-efficiency shower heads will give you a good strong shower stream.
If you have an old or inefficient shower head (one that uses more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute: GPM), replace it with a high-efficiency / ultra-low-flow shower head that uses no more than 2 GPM. Be aware: Those “luxury shower towers” or pie-plate-sized, monsoon-downpour-imitating fixtures are major water-wasters; they can use as much as 20 gallons of water per minute!
Using ultra-low-flow shower heads will also save you money on your energy bills, by reducing the demand on your water heater. According to the WaterSense program, a household could save 300 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, enough to power its television use for about a year.
If you have inefficient faucets (which use more than 2.5 GPM), either replace them with high-efficiency faucets that have a flow rate of no more than 1.5 GPM, or add a water-saving aerator or flow restrictor to the existing faucets.
Tankless Water Heater
Smaller, Faster, Smarter
Did you know that your hot water heater is the second highest energy using appliance in your home? A standard 50-gallon electric water heater will cost about $520 per year at 10.6¢ per kWh. These “tank” water heaters consume a lot of that energy keeping the water hot when you’re not using it, wasting hundreds of dollars each year. Tankless water heaters are relatively new to the US new construction but have been used in Europe and Japan for decades. The concept is simple: the unit heats the water only when you need it.
Benefits of Tankless Water Heaters
- No Cold Showers – If you have teenagers in the house, you probably are used to cold showers in the morning. A propane tankless water heater makes that a thing of the past. Since the water is heated as you need it, there’s no running out and no cold showers. A 50-gallon electric water heater can take over an hour to completely recover the hot water.
- More Hot Water – Propane tankless water heaters allow you to run more appliances at the same time. You could take a shower while the dishwasher and laundry are going. Plus, a tankless unit will let you take full advantage of your Roman bath or Jacuzzi tub.
- Lasts Longer – Most tankless units have 10-15 year warranties and can last up to 20 years before replacement. Tank units typically have a 6-year warranty and only last 8-10 years. You may have to get two or three tank units for every tankless unit.
- Less Waste – Many propane tankless water heaters are made of entirely recycled materials where as most tank units must be disposed of in landfills.
- Saves Money – You save money by only heating the water when you need it. While tank water heater waste energy heating water you aren’t using, the tankless unit save energy by only using gas when you need hot water. This can cut your costs by up to 30% per year!
- Space Savings – Tankless units can be placed almost anywhere in the house. They are hung on the wall, either inside or outside of the house (depending on climate). You can regain valuable floor or closet space.
- Cleaner Water – Traditional water heaters can build up rust and scale inside their tank, where the hot water you use for bathing and drinking is stored. With tankless water heaters you will experience fresher, cleaner water.