Mar 13, 2013 3:00 PM  PST

GreenPointers: Faucets, Showerheads, and Toilets

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Faucets, Showerheads, and Toilets

Our series of GreenPointers provides helpful tips for a healthier, greener home in a variety of topics. Today's topic faucets, showerheads, and toilets.

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Water in California is a luxury that we often take for granted. Less rainfall, a warmer climate, and increased consumption to meet the demands of a fast-growing population is taxing California's dwindling fresh water supplies. Installing more efficient water fixtures is an easy and effective way to cut down on water usage with little noticeable difference to the person who is washing up. Not only are they good for the environment, but they are also good for your pocketbook, as less water use means lower water, sewer, and energy for water heating bills.

Step 1


  Standard kitchen, bathroom and laundry room faucets manufactured after 1992 are designed to allow a flow of no more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute (gpm). Older faucets use even more water. If you are in the market for a new faucet, you have plenty of products to choose from that are more efficient than the minimum required by law. Select kitchen and laundry room faucets that use no more than 1.8 gpm. Select bathroom faucets that use no more than 1.5 gpm.

If you have a water-wasting faucet that you don't want to replace, you can install a flow reducer. Flow reducers come in many forms and are readily available in the plumbing department of your local home improvement store. The easiest and least expensive option is an aerator that screws into the faucet's tip. An aerator adds air to the water stream to make the flow feel stronger.

Another type of flow control device is a laminar flow control, which creates multiple small-diameter parallel streams of water that are not aerated. Both types of devices give the feeling that water is flowing at a higher rate than it actually is.

Another option is flow control valves. These are installed under the sink at the junction of the angle-stop and faucet, and can limit water flow down to 1.5 to 0.5 gpm per side (hot and cold).

Step 2


  Federal law since 1994 mandates that all showerheads sold in the United States use 2.5 gpm or less. Despite this, some showerheads actually use much more than 2.5 gpm, and shower towers that include multiple showerheads or jets can total 12.5 gpm or more. A better option is a good quality low-flow showerhead designed to use less than 2.0 gpm while providing a satisfying shower. There are low-flow showerheads available in every budget range.
Step 3


  Older toilets typically use 3.5 gallons of water per flush (gpf) or more. Standard new toilets use 1.6 gpf. Toilets that use an average of 1.28 gpf or less are called High Efficiency Toilets (HETs) and are now required by the state's building code in all new homes in California.

HETs are available in dual-flush, pressure-assist and conventional gravity-flush models. Dual-flush toilets have two buttons: one for a half flush and the other for a full flush. The average gallons per flush of dual-flush toilets is based on the average of one full flush and two half-flushes. In the past, some models of low-flow toilets didn't work well, but the majority of today's high-efficiency toilets perform well and don't require multiple flushes.


Learn more about faucets, showerheads, and toilets.

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