Saving Household Water With Low Flow Fixtures

Where They Make Sense—And Where They Might Not!
May 27, 2011 7:00 PM ET

Where Low Flow Water Fixtures Make Sense—And Where They Might Not

By Trish Holder

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indoor faucets account for more than 1 trillion gallons of water use in the United States each year. That’s about the same amount of annual water use in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami combined.

The EPA has all kinds of factoids like this to convince homeowners they need to save water, but I really don't need convincing.

Even though our home has a well and we pay no extra for the water we use (or waste), we still chose dual flush toilets and low flow fixtures throughout the Greenspiration Home. For the most part, this hasn’t felt like a sacrifice. The dual flush toilets work great—better than any toilet I’ve ever had. Plus, any WaterSense labeled toilet (mine are) save 11 gallons of water per day per toilet. That equates to about 2 million gallons per day across the country.

Low flow showerheads and bathroom sink faucets also save a tremendous amount of water and from personal experience, I’d say that these make good, practical sense. (Besides, excessively luxurious showers lead to excessively long showers, which not only waste water but time. The idea is to get in, get clean and get out, right?)

That said, there are a few places that low fixtures don’t make much sense—at least not to me. First, there’s the kitchen sink. Think about it. This is a “volume based” point-of-use. If you are filling a pot you’re going to use the same amount of water regardless of GPM. Trust me, I’ve spent enough time tapping my foot waiting for a pot to fill to realize that a low flow kitchen fixture can produce more frustration than savings.

My own experience has convinced me that low flow bathtub fixtures are also counterproductive. If you take baths you’re probably going to use the same amount of water regardless of how long it takes to fill the tub. Plus, the longer it takes to fill the tub, the more heat that escapes, so you continue to add more hot water to maintain a comfortable temperature. That not only wastes water, it waste water heater energy.

My advice? If you really want to save bath water in a new home or renovation, choose a tub with a smaller footprint. You’ll save water, energy, and precious bathroom space.


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