The expression goes, “time is money.” Conversely, wasted time is wasted money. And so too, wasted power is wasted money. When it comes to heating your water, the same is true. It’s more than likely you’re wasting power, money and water every time you take that hot morning shower. So what can you do?
If you haven’t realized it already, the trend to “go green” is growing rapidly and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is here to make sure our built environments are thoughtful and sustainable. Those sustainable efforts and design practices, turns out, save resources. Which saves money. Which saves time. You get the idea.
Thanks to the growing popularity of “going green,” it’s easier to stop wasting and start saving. In the past, eco-friendly products were marginally effective and expensive, showing little or no return on investment. The only real payback was a sense of treehugger pride. Now tree-huggers and industrialists alike can enjoy their hot water guilt-free and save a little green – mother earth and dollar bills.
The evolution of green solutions has come a long way. For a little perspective, let’s examine a snapshot of water conservation history.
In the United States the first plumbing codes were developed in the 1940’s with 7.5 gpm (gallons per minute) used to define a “fixture unit.” That 7.5 gpm equaled the discharge from a standard lavatory or hand sink. Toilets were equal to 6 fixture units or six times the discharge of water from a lavatory. Not much saving occurring here.
The first major water conservation measure took place in 1980 when toilets were required to be reduced from 5 or 6 gallons per flush (gpf) to 3.5 gpf. Manufacturers were not totally prepared when the deadline arrived and they simply offered smaller tanks and reduced flow flush valves without redesigned bowls. The resulting performance was awful. (Technology did eventually catch up to the mandate.)
The Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPACT) mandated 1.6 gpf toilets, 2.2 gpm lavatory and kitchen sink faucets, 2.5 gpm shower heads and, again, performance and efficiency of design lagged behind the mandate.
Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a new and, as of yet, not mandated standard called WaterSense. This voluntary partnering program seeks to further reduce water consumption without negatively affecting the performance of the fixtures. Instead of simply requiring reductions, the EPA has partnered with manufacturers, engineers and other professionals to set realistic goals. The WaterSense label can now be found on products that meet or exceed these new voluntary standards. For more details of these new standards you can visit the EPA website.
Now, when it comes to saving money through saving power and water you must examine the process of creating hot water.
Manufacturers have caught the vision of building GREEN. More and more innovative products for water savings become available every day. Just a few of these new technologies include:
- 1/8 GPF Urinals (1 GPF standard)
- HET (high efficiency toilet) @ 1.28 GPF or less (1.6 GPF standard)
- HEU (high efficiency urinal) @ 0.5 GPF or less (1 GPF standard)
- Water saving shower heads @ 1.8 GPM or less (2.5 GPM standard)
The first cost comes as water must be drawn from a source, filtered, treated and then delivered to the point of use. The next cost occurs as the water is then heated and then must be delivered to your kitchen sink or shower fixture. But, what happens to that heated water in the pipes that connect from the heater to the faucet when no one is drawing hot water? The result is wasted energy to heat water that eventually returns to surrounding ambient atmosphere temperature. So, when you turn the knob for that hot shower, you’re waiting for the cold water to be eliminated from the piping before you dare step in.
Not only have you paid for that water to be delivered to you, you also pay for it to go away. That requires power at
the sewage plants to sanitize the water to a level allowing its discharge back into the same source from which it was drawn. So the cycle goes. Oh, by the way, power plants require water for cooling and, in the case of coal plants, for stack scrubbers as well. Therefore, saving water really does save power, which saves water, which saves power,
To make sure all of us are taking advantage of the benefits of going green, plumbing engineers, designers and installers need to rethink what has been done for decades. With reduced flow rates requiring less water volume, pipe sizing can be reduced without adversely affecting the performance of the hot water fixtures. Routing of piping must also be considered. Shorter runs of noncirculated lines. More centralized location of hot water generation equipment. Better insulation. All these can play a part to reduce water wasted waiting for it to get hot.
Even if green is not your motive, there are several things you can do in your existing home to reduce the wait for hot water and save time, water and money. Here are just two examples of things you can try that do not involve a complete reworking of your hot water system.
Insulate your hot water lines to delay the cool down during periods of non use. Notice I said delay. Insulation will not stop cool down. Install a circulating system. If your water heater is located on a level below your hot water plumbing fixtures there is a fairly inexpensive choice if you are willing to tackle a little DIY project. It is made by Nibco plumbing products and is called Just Right Rapid Hot Water Delivery System. It works on the principal that heat rises. It requires no pumps or electricity to operate.
Other circulating systems do involve pumps. There are many manufactures out there with residential systems, some requiring a separate return line back to your water heater. But, there are now several systems available which utilize your cold water line as the conduit for eliminating the ambient water from your hot water lines. Some of these systems utilize remote switches to activate the pump before you turn on the faucet. It runs until a set temperature is achieved at the point of use or at the sensor. Others are thermostatically controlled and maintain the set point temperature 24/7.