Water Efficient Appliances

Water efficiency is a key part of green building, since buildings are major users of the delicate potable water supply.

Water efficiency is a key part of green building, since buildings are major users of the delicate potable water supply.

In fact, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system has a Water Efficiency credit category that not only requires a minimum level of water savings, but also awards points to water efficient building projects.

Free LEED GA Practice ExamBaselines for Water Efficiency

LEED has developed baselines for water efficiency based on the Energy Policy Act (EPA) 1992, the Uniform Plumbing Code, and the International Plumbing Code. The baselines for water using fixtures are as follows:

Toilet: 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf)
Urinal (commercial buildings): 1.0 gpf
Showerheads: 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm)
Faucets: 2.2 gpm for private, 0.5 gpm for public

These are baselines, meaning that fixtures and appliances should use less water than these to be considered “water efficient”.

LEED and Water Efficient Appliances & Fixtures

LEED awards points to projects that reduce overall water use below the baseline. According to the LEED for New Construction rating system, water efficient fixtures could contribute to the following credits:

• Water Efficiency (WE) Prerequisite 1, Water Use Reduction (0 points):
This credit requires that the building uses 20% less water than the baseline.

•Water Efficiency (WE) Credit 3, Water Use Reduction (2-4 points):
This credit is the same as Prerequisite 1, except it awards points for greater levels of water reduction. It awards 2 points for 30% water reduction, 3 points for 35%, and 4 points for 40%.
LEED recommends using WaterSense labeled fixtures where possible.

Note that these credits do not address irrigation, clothes washers, dishwashers, steam cookers, or ice makers, and does not establish baselines for these appliances and fixtures.


WaterSense is EPA’s partnership program that “seeks to protect the future of our nation’s water supply by promoting water efficiency and enhancing the market for water-efficient products, program and practices”.

This essentially means that WaterSense partners with manufacturers, retailers, utilities, and distributors to label products for water efficiency and quality so that consumers can make smart, sustainable purchasing decisions. Plus, WaterSense partners with irrigation professionals and programs to encourage water saving irrigation techniques.

The WaterSense label, which acts kind of like a water conservation counterpart of ENERGY STAR, tells customers that the product has met rigorous standards for water efficiency and quality.
Products with the WaterSense label are 20% more water efficient than typical models in that product category, provide tangible water savings, perform as well or better than average products in their category, and have achieved independent, third-party certification.

WaterSense addresses more types of fixtures and appliances than LEED, including toilets, bathroom sink faucets and accessories (such as aerators) urinals, showerheads, and weather-based irrigation controllers. Water softeners and pre-rinse spray valves are in the pipeline for the label.

WaterSense is a great way to easily locate high quality, water efficient fixtures and appliances, because if it has the label, you can trust that it will save water.

Water Efficient Dishwashers and Clotheswashers

WaterSense and LEED both do not address dishwashers and clotheswashers. However, both are eligible for ENERGY STAR labels, which is another EPA program that labels products that meet minimum energy efficiency and quality standards.

ENERGY STAR has labeled dishwashers and clothes washers for both energy efficiency and water efficiency.

ENERGY STAR qualified dishwashers are 10% more energy efficient and 20% more water efficient than standard washers. An ENERGY STAR qualified dishwasher will save 1,300 gallons of water over its lifetime, on average.

ENERGY STAR certified clothes washers use about 20% less energy and 35% less water than regular washers. On average, they cost $85 to run per year (about 270 kWh of electricity) and use 15 gallons of water per load (compared to the 23 gallons used by a standard machine). Plus, the washers have greater tub capacities, which allows fewer loads to wash the same amount of laundry. They also use high-pressure spraying instead of soaking, which saves water, too. Over its lifetime, a typical ENERGY STAR clothes washer will save 27,000 gallons of water.

Therefore, when shopping for new dishwashers and clotheswashers, it is important to look for the ENERGY STAR (not WaterSense) label.

Water Saving Showerheads

Conventional shower heads use 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm), so any shower head with a lower flow can be considered water efficient. Many water saving shower heads use much less than this, at 1.5 gpm, which produce tangible water and cost savings.

The following three products are examples of water saving shower heads that are currently available on the market.

1. Caroma Flow

Caroma’s Flow show head, which uses 1.5 gallons per minute (gpm) at 80 psi, saves 10 gallons of water per 10 minute shower when compared to a conventional showerhead. Since it can be installed on a standard shower arm, it works for both new installations and retrofits. It’s adjustable for a wide or concentrated spray. On some sites, the Flow sells for about $35.

2. American Standard FloWise

American Standard’s FloWise 3-Function shower head is an adjustable showerhead that can use 1.5, 1.8, or 2.0 gpm depending on the setting. Obviously, the 1.5 gpm setting saves the most water, and can cut water use by up to 40%. Labeled by WaterSense, the product is ideal for small commercial and residential settings. It is listed for $62-93 on American Standard’s website, but is listed for less on other sites.

3. Delta Leland Monitor 14 Series

Delta’s Leland Monitor 14 Series is a 1.5 gpm shower head, which, because of Delta’s H20kinetic technology, uses 36% less water than its conventional counterparts. The product is WaterSense Labeled, and has a “Monitor Scald-Guard”, which keeps the water’s temperature even. It also meets the CALGreen Standards for a water efficient product.
The 14 Series sells for $87.20 on Delta’as website, though it may cost more with a handle and other accessories.


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