Water-saving faucets and toilets

Smart HomeOwner staff

Saving water makes sense. That’s the concept behind WaterSense, a program sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency that is designed to help homeowners conserve water and reduce utility bills. WaterSense has partnered with bathroom fixture manufacturers to set water-use standards for toilets, bathroom faucets and shower heads. Approved water-efficient products receive the WaterSense label, making it easy for homeowners to identify products that reduce a home’s water usage without sacrificing performance. That means you don’t have to shower under a trickle or wash your hands with just a few drops to save water.

“Each of our specifications include not only the water efficiency component, but also a performance factor,” says Virginia Lee of the WaterSense program. “At a recent kitchen and bath show, one manufacturer set up a standard faucet next to a WaterSense faucet and people couldn’t tell a difference in how (the water flow) felt. That’s exactly our goal.”

The right thing

Manufacturers know that most consumers want to do the right thing without making extreme sacrifices. “It’s easy to take a shower head and restrict the flow,” says Paul Patton, senior product development manager at Delta. “But all you’ve done is restrict the experience. People want to participate in the green movement, but they don’t want to give up anything. As we look at any new technology, the end user’s experience has to be number one.”

With that in mind, the goal is for WaterSense products to perform equal to or better than the less-efficient products they replace. More good news: Retrofitting your home does not need to involve a professional, because many of these products are fairly easy do-it-yourself installations.

So what can you expect from a fixture with a WaterSense label? With a WaterSense toilet, for example, you will be using up to six times less water than with a pre-1994 commode. Prior to 1994, toilets typically used 3.5 gallons per flush (gpf) and some used as much as 7 gpf. In 1994, a new nationwide standard reduced that to 1.6 gpf. To be WaterSense-certified, a toilet can use only 1.28 gpf, or 20 percent less.

If a family of four replaces an older, 3.5 gpf toilet with a WaterSense-labeled toilet, they could save 16,000 gallons of water per year and about $90 on their annual water bill. Over the lifetime of the toilet, they could save about $2,000 on water and wastewater bills, Lee says.

Go with the flow

For bathroom faucets, the WaterSense standard establishes a flow rate of 1.5 gallons per minute (gpm). That is a 30 percent improvement over the 1998 standard of 2.2 gpm and much better than older faucets, which typically use 3.5 to 7 gpm.

In many cases, manufacturers have met the WaterSense standard with special aerators that increase airflow, so you don’t notice the reduced water flow. Many manufacturers also offer aerators you can easily install on your existing faucets, eliminating the need and expense of replacing the entire fixture. A WaterSense-labeled faucet or aerator could reduce your household’s annual water faucet use by more than 500 gallons, Lee says, and save up to $150 over the life of the product.

If every home in the United States installed WaterSense-labeled bathroom faucets or faucet aerators, we could save 60 billion gallons of water annually, more than $350 million on water bills and about $600 million in energy costs to heat water.

Here’s a quick rundown on some of the water-efficient products that are available for your home:

Price Pfister
The Ashfield single-control bathroom faucet features a country-inspired design with a country pump-style handle and a wide, flat trough-like spout, which provides a unique water flow. Price Pfister notes that the Ashfield was the first bathroom faucet to earn WaterSense certification. Made from solid brass, the faucet is available with a number of finishes, including polished chrome, satin nickel, rustic pewter, and rustic and Tuscan bronze, some of which are higher-priced.

The Cimarron has been designed to provide water savings as well as superior flushing and rinsing performance, thanks to its commercial-grade flushing technology, called Class Six. The Cimarron uses just 1.28 gallons per flush, which can save up to 3,200 gallons of water per year when compared to a typical toilet, according to Kohler. It also features a Comfort Height seat, which is comparable to a standard chair.

American Standard
Featuring an Asian-inspired design and all-metal construction, the Green Tea centerset faucet has a flow rate of 1.5 gpm and a unique pull-out spray spout that makes it easy to rinse the sink or wash your hair. Ceramic disc valves ensure smooth handle operation and a drip-free performance. The faucet is also compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines. Designed for quick and easy installation, it is available in polished chrome or stainless-steel finishes.

With a design inspired by ocean waves, the Lahara centerset bathroom faucet features a high-arc spout and easy single-handle operation. The WaterSense-certified faucet has a flow rate of 1.5 gallons per minute and a washerless stem cartridge valve. It is part of a larger suite of products with similar styling and is compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines. It is available in chrome, Venetian bronze, brilliance stainless and aged pewter.

The Rothbury WaterSense-certified faucet is the first from Moen to feature the manufacturer’s flow-optimized aerator, which reduces water flow to 1.5 gallons per minute. The classically styled two-handle bathroom sink faucet is available in either centerset or widespread configurations, and with chrome, brushed nickel, antique bronze or oil-rubbed bronze finishes. Moen also sells a low-flow aerator as a replacement part for $5 for retrofitting existing Moen bathroom faucets.

The Sydney Smart 305 Round Front Plus dual-flush high-efficiency toilet from Caroma has two buttons for flushing — one for liquids (0.8 gpf) and one for solids (1.28 gpf). Caroma notes that the toilet averages 0.89 gpf (since the 0.8 gpf flush is used more often). The toilet can reduce water use by as much as 2,975 gallons per year over a typical high-efficiency toilet, according to Caroma.

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