W1. Install Water-Efficient Showerheads and Faucet Aerators
About half the hot water consumed in a typical household is for bathing, and another 7 to 14 percent is used in the sink. By reducing the flow of water coming from the shower and faucets, water efficient showerheads and faucet aerators can generate significant energy savings at low cost and with easy installation. In addition to saving energy, showerheads and aerators save on water and sewer costs, which are rising in many areas.
Older showerheads deliver as much as 5 to 10 gallons per minute (GPM). New showerheads are required to be water efficient, delivering 2.5 GPM or less at a standard water pressure. Water-efficient, or low-flow, showerheads are designed to provide an acceptable shower at a greater reduced flow rate. Most are equipped with a button to switch the water off at the showerhead, to wave water while shaving or lathering. Water-efficient showerheads should not be confused with the flow restrictors used in the 1970s and early 1980s, which simply reduced the flow rate far below design level, often resulting in an unacceptable shower.
The average faucet has a flow rate of about 3 to 5 GPM. Adding a screw-in faucet aerator reduces the flow to 0.5 to 1.5 GPM in the bathroom and 2.2 GPM in the kitchen. In addition to saving energy and water, the “foamier” water that comes from faucet aerators wets objects better than water from a faucet with no aerator, which tends to bounce off the object rather than thoroughly wetting it.
- Single-family and multifamily buildings that do not have water-efficient showerheads and faucet aerators
- Water-efficient showerheads
- 2.5 GPM
- On/off switch
- Faucet aerators
- Bathroom 0.5-1.5 GPM
- Kitchen 2.2 GPM
- High-quality showerheads should be selected, as lower-quality showerheads may simply restrict water flow, resulting in poor performance.
- When water-efficient showerheads are installed, the old showerheads should be removed from the household to discourage reinstallation.
- Where vandalism is a problem, vandal-resistant aerators and showerheads should be selected.
- Mist-type showerheads provide a poor-quality shower and can increase apartment humidity more than other showerheads. Laminar-flow showerheads will cut down on humidity.
- Residents should be informed about the button or switch on low-flow showerheads that enable them to shut the water off to save water while shaving or lathering.
- Efficient showerheads and faucet aerators reduce sewer and water utility costs.
- Water-efficient showerheads can reduce hot water consumption for bathing by 30 percent.
- A high-quality, low-flow showerhead costs $10 to $20 and will pay for itself in less than a year.
Energy Conservation for Housing – A Workbook, HUD, September 1998. Pages 7-93 through 7-95 address the installation of water efficient showerheads and faucet aerators.
Improving Energy Efficiency in Apartment Buildings, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, 1995. ISBN 0-918249-23-6. Page 112 address low flow devices in apartment buildings.
Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings, American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, 1999, ISBN 0-918249-38-4. Pages 132 and 133 address the use of water-efficient showerheads and faucet aerators.
PATH Technology Inventory: Low-Flow Plumbing Fixtures. Explains faucet aerators, low-flow showerheads, and low-flush toilets, including types, installation, benefits, costs, and limitations.
Reduce Hot Water Use. Part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Consumer's Guide. Discusses the installation of low-flow fixtures.
Water-Efficient Fixtures & Appliances. Provides an overview of these types of fixtures, GPM considerations, as well as additional links for additional information.
Install Low-Flow Fixtures. Part of the Department of Energy's Consumer's Guide. Provides information on choosing low-flow showerheads and faucets.
TURN OFF UTILITIES: Turn off electricity, gas, propane, and other utilities before starting repairs, cleaning, or installations to avoid accident or injury.
BE AWARE OF LEAD-BASED PAINT HAZARDS: Many residences built before 1978 have paint that contains lead, which can pose a serious health hazard if paint, chips, and dust are not handled properly. See the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lead brief before disturbing painted surfaces in homes of this vintage. Follow the HUD "Lead-Safe Housing Rule" for requirements for notification, evaluation and reduction of lead-based paint hazards.
BE AWARE OF ASBESTOS HAZARDS: Homes older than 1977 may have building products that contain asbestos such as insulation, high-temperature gaskets, roofing and siding shingles, and vinyl sheet flooring. See the EPA asbestos brief before disturbing such materials.
BE AWARE OF MOLD AND MOISTURE HAZARDS: Molds can gradually destroy materials they grow on; can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people; can cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold; and can cause other serious health problems. To learn more about preventing and cleaning up mold in homes, see these mold guides and the EPA brief on What to Wear When Cleaning Moldy Areas.