Switch to High-Efficiency Plumbing Fixtures to Save Water, Energy, and Money
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. For additional information on the benefits of saving water, see this EPA webpage.
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 1.28 gpf (the current EPA WaterSense standard); or better yet, a…
- 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. (Dual-flush conversion/retrofit kits are also available to convert a regular toilet into a dual-flush.) Or even better, consider installing a…
- Composting toilet, which uses little to no water for flushing.
In California, new legislation has mandated that all new toilets sold or installed in the state after 2014 must be high-efficiency toilets. At some point, federal standards might also be raised to this standard.
For commercial/office-building bathrooms, install ultra-low-flush (ULF) urinals in lieu of regular urinals.
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 showerhead, which is easy to do. And unlike days of yore, many of today’s models of high-efficiency showerheads will give you a good strong shower stream.
If you have an old or inefficient showerhead (one that uses more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute: gpm), replace it with a high-efficiency / ultra-low-flow showerhead that uses no more than 2 gpm (the current EPA WaterSense standard). 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 showerheads 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 (the current EPA WaterSense standard) OR add a water-saving aerator or flow restrictor to the existing faucets (an easy and inexpensive modification).
Some utility companies and cities offer rebates or other incentives for buying high-efficiency toilets or plumbing fixtures. Check with your local agencies or take a look at the WaterSense rebate finder.
To see listings of high-efficiency plumbing products, see the GreenSpec product guide at GreenBuildingAdvisor.com. (You can sign up for a 10-day free trial subscription.)
Also, choose high-efficiency appliances, such as Energy Star clothes washers and dishwashers, to save additional energy and water.
For more information on how to conserve water, take a look at our related post:
…and these other online resources:
- H2OUSE, Water Saver Home (California Urban Water Conservation Council)
- Water Conservation article (Whole Building Design Guide)