Install low-flow faucets.
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Upgrading a facility’s faucets results in water savings. Estimating a return on investment (ROI) for faucet upgrades is relatively easy to do.
Project Talking Points
- Water flow can be reduced up to 75 percent by upgrading 2.0 gpm lavatory faucets to 0.5 gpm laminar spray flow faucets for hand-washing applications and 1.5 gpm laminar flow for process applications.
- Water flow can be reduced up to 40 percent by upgrading 2.5 gpm shower heads to 1.5 gpm fixtures.
Triple Bottom Line Benefits
- Cost benefits: Switching to low-flow faucets can include the benefits of reduced water, sewer, and energy costs due to reduced potable water consumption and reduced need to heat water.
- Environmental benefits: This upgrade also decreases amount of water withdrawn from natural water bodies, protects the natural water cycle and decreases the strain on the municipal water supply. Additionally, it reduces energy use and emissions associated with treating, supplying, and heating potable water.
- Social benefits: Newer laminar flow faucets can reduce splashing associated with hand-washing and other processes, providing better infection prevention. Upgraded fixture controls may include touch-free options, which reduce the risk of spreading infection.
If you have sample environmentally preferable purchasing language for products or contracted services to share, or other related resources, please contact us or participate in the discussion below.
Complete a fixture and flow inventory for all fixtures to identify the upgrades that will provide the best return on investment.
- Replace existing high-flow faucets (2.0 gpm and greater) with updated low-flow laminar faucets. In lieu of replacement, laminar flow control could be added to applicable faucets to reduce flow.
- Consider installing more appropriate faucet controls (single-handle, sensor-operated, etc.) to increase fixture efficiency and reduce the risk of spreading infection.
- When installing sensor-operated faucets, consider the existing electrical infrastructure. Hard-wired installations may not be an option and, in that case, sensor-operated faucets will have to be either battery- or solar-powered. Research battery life expectancies to understand the maintenance requirements.
- Note that sensor-operated faucets may increase the risk of Legionella growth (more in this whitepaper) and may have trouble delivering hot water due to the short run time. Lack of hot water can lead to a buildup of solidified soap in drain piping. Check with your vendor and evaluate these issues before selecting a product.
- In public areas with high traffic, consider installing metered faucets to restrict water usage. Metered faucets run for a pre-set amount of time (e.g., 20 seconds) per use.
- Shower heads
- Replace existing high-flow shower heads (2.5 gpm and greater) with low-flow (1.5 gpm) fixtures.
- Specialty plumbing fixtures
- Evaluate bedpan washers, sprayers, decontamination pre-rinse outlets, and food preparation, janitorial, and other specialty water outlets for process efficiency. Replace inefficient outlets with more efficient, higher-pressure models.
Always keep in mind that faucet upgrades should be made with infection prevention in mind. The water flow velocity, order of fixture connections, and avoidance of piping dead legs can help reduce the risk of pathogens.
Veteran Affairs Medical Center, Huntington, W.Va.
- Key Points
- The Huntington VA Medical Center implemented an award-winning faucet and shower head water efficiency program in 2007.
- The efficiency improvements save the medical center more than 1.5 million gallons of water each year.
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, N.H.
- Key Points
- The facility conducted an extensive water conservation retrofit program, including fixture upgrades and retrofits.
- The total cost of the program (retrofit, consulting fees, and fixture and hardware costs) was $350,000.
- An annual savings of $100,000 is realized from water, sewer, and energy cost reductions.
Veteran Affairs Medical Center, Portland, Ore.
- Key Points
- A range of fixture upgrades were implemented.
- Costs and savings were documented.
Regulations, Codes and Standards, Policies
- Local regulatory agencies may have a requirement for sensor-operated faucets; check your local regulations. The applicability of building codes will depend on the scale of the retrofit.
- Due to the urgency of water conservation in California, the state leads the way in terms of related regulations. Reference documents include the Water Conservation Act of 2009 and the 20x2020 Water Conservation Plan.
Cross References: LEED
- LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations + Maintenance
- Water Efficiency Prerequisite 1: Minimum Indoor Plumbing Fixture and Fitting Efficiency
- Water Efficiency Credit 2: Additional Indoor Plumbing Fixture and Fitting Efficiency
- LEED for Healthcare: New Construction and Major Renovations
- Water Efficiency Prerequisite 1: Water Use Reduction
- Water Efficiency Credit 3: Water Use Reduction
Cross References: GGHC
- Operations: Facilities Management FM Prerequisite 4: Minimum Indoor Plumbing Fixture and Fitting Efficiency
- Operations: Facilities Management Credit FM 2.1-2.5: Potable Water Use Reduction:Total Building Reduction
- Alliance for Water Efficiency, general information on water conservation
- The Greener Side of Restroom Design, an article on low-flow fixtures and controls
- Transition to Green Plumbing in Healthcare
- Healthcare Environmental Resource Center, Facilities Management - Water Conservation
- North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources,Water Efficiency Manual for Commercial, Industrial and Institutional Facilities
- Plumbing Efficiency Research Coalition, Drainline Transport of Solid Waste in Buildings
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), WaterSense Program
- Plumbing Fixtures
- Basic Device Upgrades
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