BY ROBERT P. MADER
OF CONTRACTOR'S STAFF
ANN ARBOR, MICH. — NSF International in mid-March announced its participation in a new certification program designed to verify the performance of high-efficiency toilets, which can save up to 900 billion gal. of water each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The effort is a key part of EPA's new WaterSense program, which recently approved NSF's participation in the program as an independent, product-certification organization.
EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson previously announced that the agency was starting a water conservation labeling program that would include plumbing fixtures (July 2006, pg. 1). Johnson said the WaterSense program is similar in concept to Energy Star.
Other EPA-certified testing organizations include Canadian Standards Association International, International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials Research & Testing, independent laboratory Intertek and Underwriters Laboratories USA.
The EPA launched the WaterSense program to focus on high-efficiency products and services designed to conserve water. The voluntary labeling program is available to all companies that partner with EPA and manufacture, sell or distribute household plumbing fixtures.
The testing program is applicable to these toilets: single-flush, tank-type gravity; dual-flush, tank-type gravity; dual-flush, tank-type flushometer tank (pressure-assist); tank-type, flushometer tank (pressure-assist); and tank-type electrohydraulic as well as any other technologies that meet the performance specifications.
The testing program is based on the the MaP test pioneered by Ontario, Canada-based Veritec Consulting. The test, Maximum Performance Testing of Popular Toilet Models, uses 50-gram, 4-in. long pieces of extruded bean curd encased in latex. Toilets are loaded in 50-gram increments until they fail to flush the load, and the top performers can flush a kilogram.
The EPA testing and certification program has modified the testing regime slightly. Effective flush volume will not exceed 1.28 gal. (4.8 liters). Solid waste removal must be 350 grams or greater. The Veritec testing states that 250 grams is the baseline requirement. The EPA test uses the same type of 50 gram, 4-in.-long bean curd cylinder, but it's not encased in latex.
The toilet must conform to the adjustability and other supplementary requirements specified in the standard. The toilet has to be modifiable so that it can be tested under a variety of real-world conditions.
Toilet model performance is identified as either a pass or fail depending upon whether it can successfully clear all test media from the fixture in a single flush in at least four of five attempts. Only toilet models that pass will qualify for the EPA WaterSense label.
Test media consists of seven test specimens, 50 ± 4 grams each, consisting of soybean paste forming a "sausage" 4 ± 0.5-in. in length and 1 ± 0.25-in. in diameter and four loosely crumbled balls of single-ply toilet paper as defined in the test protocol.
The test protocol also tries to determine if the toilets will continue to save water years down the road. For example, one aspect of the test is designed to determine whether the fill valve shuts off at a consistent water level in a toilet tank independent of any change in inlet water supply pressure.
In addition, the test addresses off-the-shelf replacement flappers that homeowners buy at home centers or hardware stores. The tank trim adjustability and after-market seal test is meant to determine the upper limit to the volume of water that may be discharged when an off-the-shelf replacement flush valve seal/ flapper is installed on the toilet. In the case of a standard configuration 2-in. flush valve, a Fluidmaster Bullseye Super flapper or a Coast Foundry Ultra Blue flapper will be used.
For non-standard flush valves, including 3-in. flush valves, one or more replacement seals available at hardware, plumbing supply, and building supply stores or from the manufacturer or other recognized source will be used.
By choosing products designated with the WaterSense label, consumers will be saving water for future use. According to the EPA, the average household adopting water-efficient products and practices could save enough water to supply a year's worth of drinking water to 150 neighbors.
Certified products will be included on an EPA product registry and will bear the WaterSense label. In addition to authorizing label use and providing artwork, NSF will list all its certified products on its Website at www.nsf.org. A more detailed list of requirements can be found at: www.epa.gov/watersense/docs/spec_het508.pdf.
"EPA's WaterSense program is the ideal complement to NSF's overall sustainability initiatives," NSF Vice President Bob Ferguson said. "While providing new services for our clients, we will also help to conserve water and protect the environment for future generations."
During the initial phase of the WaterSense program, the EPA is focusing on high-efficiency toilets. The program is expected to expand to include requirements for high-efficiency bathroom sink faucets.
NSF's participation in the WaterSense program is being overseen by Jeremy Brown, NSF codes and regulatory manager. He can be reached at [email protected] or 734/7695196. For other approved testing and certification bodies, call CSA International, Ken Loewenthal, 216/524-4990, ext. 8371; IAPMO R&T, Anish Desai, 909/472-4137; Intertek, Kevin Nakamoto, 604/520-3321; and Underwriters Laboratories USA, Thomas Bowman, 847/664-3796.