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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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