If you’ve recently checked the faucet and faucet gear at your home improvement center, you’ve undoubtedly seen numerous shower heads, toilets, and sink faucets marked as low flow with the added claim of reducing water usage. The term “low flow” refers to faucets that use less water for everyday activities such as showering, washing hands or flushing toilets. In some cases, low flow faucets can reduce water consumption by up to 60 percent compared to standard faucets.
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Because of this, more and more states, including California, Colorado, and Texas, have passed low flow laws. If you live in one of these states, you have no choice but to buy low flow devices as retailers are barred from selling standard models. The good news is how well the low flow technology works to provide a great bathroom experience. Read on to learn the pros and cons of today’s low flow faucets – and why it’s probably a good idea to replace your old models with new eco-tech models now.
1. Less water doesn’t always mean less pressure.
While low flow sink faucets are not a concern, some people associate low flow shower heads with poor water pressure and poor, unsatisfactory showers. While a reduction in water is inevitable – that’s the purpose of low flow, after all – you might be surprised to find that many low flow shower heads can deliver a pretty invigorating blast. There are two main types of water efficient shower heads, ventilation and laminar, which create satisfactory (and somewhat different) showers while reducing water waste.
- Ventilation: An aerating shower head pushes water through small holes in a strainer, adding air to the water and creating a fine but powerful spray. While this reduces the total amount of water that the shower head delivers, it increases the pressure of the individual water streams. An aerating shower head creates a really invigorating spray, often compared to “needles” made of water, and also creates a particularly steamy shower. However, because air is added to the water, it lowers the water temperature slightly, so you may use more hot water to maintain your level of comfort.
- Laminar: Laminar technology is defined as “constant flow of non-turbulent water” and does not mix air into the water flow, so you do not get the sharp “needles” of an aeration head. Instead, laminar shower heads and faucets distribute the water in larger individual streams and often have an adjustable feature that allows the user to choose a gentle spray or a robust massage action. Laminar technology is also used in overhead rainfall showerheads to provide a gentle soak that many people find soothing. This type of shower head doesn’t generate as much steam as a ventilation model – a plus for poorly ventilated bathrooms as excess steam can damage paint, wall panel, and cabinets.
2. Low flow toilets save a lot of water.
A standard toilet is often the biggest water waster in the house. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), older toilets can use up to 6 gallons of water per flush (GPF), while low flow models use less than 1.5 GPF. Early incarnations of low flow toilets, constructed on the same principle of gravity as standard toilets but contained less water, often did not provide sufficient water pressure to flush the contents of the toilet bowl. Clogs were common and frustrated people frequently had to overturn toilets. Today’s low flow toilets have been greatly improved, and two types are now available: those with optimized gravity designs to reduce clogging and those with pressure assist technology to create a jet-like, clog-free flush.
- Flux of Gravity: Standard gravity toilets add a large amount of water to the toilet bowl until the pressure of the water is sufficient to force the contents of the bowl down through the curved “trap” under the bowl. This works well, but requires a lot of water. Newer gravity toilets have a modified trap design that doesn’t require as much water pressure before the bowl’s contents drain. This new trap design creates a “siphoning effect”, ie as soon as the water drains through the trap, it continues without the need for additional water.
- Print support: If you’ve recently used a toilet in a large public place like a mall, you’ve likely seen a pressure-assisted toilet. When the handle is squeezed, water rushes strongly into the toilet bowl and the contents are quickly flushed away. The power of the water is generated by a pressurized water tank and this type of toilet is often marketed as a “jet flush” toilet. Originally used primarily for public bathrooms, residential models are now available for home installation.
3. Standards are strict.
The EPA sets high standards for determining what qualifies as a low flow faucet or fitting. Only if the product meets strict water reduction standards during testing can it receive the EPA’s WaterSense label. Products that claim to reduce water use but do not have the WaterSense label may not be as water efficient. To qualify for the WaterSense designation, each model must meet the following criteria:
- A low flow shower head must not exceed a water flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute (GPM) or less.
- A low flow faucet cannot exceed a maximum of 1.5 GPM.
- A low flow toilet cannot use more than 1.5 gallons per flush (GPF).
4. You save more water – and money – than you think!
Depending on your water usage habits and the size of your family, you could save $ 170 or more in water costs by achieving low flow, according to an EPA report. Switching to more efficient faucets and fittings quickly pays for itself. However, the main reason for replacing your old models that are wasting water is because of the amount of water you are saving. While 71 percent of the planet is covered in water, only three percent is fresh (no salt water) and only 0.5 percent is safe to drink, reports the Bureau of Reclamation. So it is up to all of us to do our part to end wasteful water consumption. If you replace old taps and fittings with ones with the WaterSense label, you save:
- Up to 4 gallons of water or more, depending on the length of the shower. That’s a saving of about 1,460 gallons per year per family member.
- 700 gallons of water per year just by switching to low flow taps.
- Up to 13,000 gallons of water per year by replacing a standard toilet with a low flow model.
5. Manufacturers of low flow faucets, shower heads and toilets continue to improve their products.
Low flow valve manufacturers have been busy developing models to reduce some of the most common problems associated with decreased water usage. When looking for low flow faucets for your home, consider the advances made in the following products.
- Avoid double flushing by choosing a double flush toilet, e.g. B. the American Standard Dual Flush toilet (available at Amazon) with two flush buttons. One button releases 1.5 gallons, perfect for rinsing off solid waste. A second button releases only 0.9 gallons which should be used when only flushing liquids.
- If you want to get enough pressure from a low flow shower head, consider one that can be positioned in its bracket and handheld for a wrap around shower to direct a more powerful spray exactly where you need it. A low flow adjustable shower head, like the High Sierra shower head (available from Amazon), uses just 1.5 GPM and can be set for an invigorating spray or a vigorous massage action.
- If you’re not ready to replace your current sink faucets but want to save more water, you can add an aerator to your existing faucet. These devices, which simply screw onto the end of the faucet, can reduce the water flow from your faucet as much as if you had installed a new low flow faucet. Additional aerators such as those from the AM Conservation Group (available from Amazon) reduce your sink’s water flow to 1.5 GPM and offer the same low flow benefit as if you had replaced your entire faucet with a water-saving model.