Why is DOE Regulating Showerheads?

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Why does the Department of Energy care what kind of showerhead you have? Well, unless you shower exclusively in cold water, the more water you use, the more energy is needed to heat that water.

The Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA) states that a showerhead manufactured after January 1, 1994, can deliver no more than 2.5 gallons per minute at a flowing water pressure of 80 pounds per square inch. However, the term “showerhead” was interpreted by manufacturers to be a device sending water over a bather. Each device was considered to count separately and  separately needed to meet the standard.

The draft interpretive rule published by the DOE clarifies that “a showerhead is any plumbing fitting that is designed to direct water onto a bather regardless of the shape, size, placement, or number of sprays or openings that it may have.”  All nozzles would need to jointly meet the 2.5 gallon per minute standard. This primarily will affect high-end showerheads that deliver much more than 2.5 gallons per minute.

The entire draft interpretive rule can be found on the DOE website here.

At this point, the DOE is planning enforcement actions only against the manufacturers of the offending showerheads. Some of the products that manufacturers have stopped selling as a result of letters from DOE include the “Shower Rose” from Grupo Helvex, which delivered 12 gallons a minute. The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors – National Association (PHCC-NA) is up in arms over the new interpretation of the definition and is trying to spin the new definition as having a negative impact on water conservation (though no reason is given in this article).

An article at BuildingGreen.com goes into more detail about reactions from plumbing manufacturers, the water conservation community, and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

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For readers in the East Bay, East Bay Municipal Utility District offers self-survey kits to help check flow rates and find leaks and free low-flow showerheads (2.0 gallons per minute).

Readers in San Francisco can schedule a free water use evaluation and free low-flow showerheads through the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

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San Francisco’s Smart Water Meters

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                                                                                          water supply leak, Free Foto.com

San Francisco began to roll out its new ‘smart’ water meters to city residences this month. The new devices can accurately track water usage in real-time and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) plans to make personal water use data available to customers online. Other benefits include the streamlining of operations- meters communicate wirelessly, eliminating the need for house-to-house readings- and the early detection of system leaks and unusual usage surges.

The SFPUC will replace over 175,000 meters beginning with 5,000 this spring/summer,with an estimated install completion for the full number by 2012. The expectation is that the new meters will be able to assist individual and system-wide conservation efforts, increase response time for problems, and allow for a more accurate and refined fee structure.

California, as a drought-prone state, can stand to benefit greatly from increased water use data collection. As it stands today, water use is not uniformly tracked in all homes and businesses, nor is there any correlation between regional water scarcity and water service rates. While agriculture, industry and conveyance also play leading roles in the general water picture in the state, having accurate home and commercial usage data is a step forward, and can only be a benefit in creating sound management policies for this precious and scarce resource.