EPA finalizes WaterSense for Homes

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its version of the WaterSense for Homes standard in mid-December, although in the world of water conservation codes and standards, is a relative term. Here are the parts that will impact plumbing contractors. Everything has to be leak tested via pressure-loss testing and visual inspection. Final service pressure cannot exceed 60 psi, accomplished either

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its “final” version of the WaterSense for Homes standard in mid-December, although in the world of water conservation codes and standards, “final” is a relative term.

Here are the parts that will impact plumbing contractors.

Everything has to be leak tested via pressure-loss testing and visual inspection. Final service pressure cannot exceed 60 psi, accomplished either with a pressure-reducing valve or a statement from the water utility that pressure will not regularly exceed 60 psi.

Home fire sprinkler systems are excluded from this requirement.

To minimize water wasted waiting for hot water, the hot water distribution system shall store no more than 0.5-gal. of water in any piping/manifold between the hot water source and any hot water fixture. No more than 0.6-gal. of water can run down the drain before hot water is delivered to the fixture. To prevent recirculation when a fixture is not being used, timer- and temperature-based recirculating systems are not allowed.

All toilets shall be WaterSense labeled tank-type toilets. All urinals, if installed, shall be WaterSense labeled flushing urinals. All bathroom sink faucets shall be WaterSense labeled faucets or faucet accessories (e.g., aerators). Kitchen sink faucets shall comply with federal standards for maximum flow rate of 2.2-gpm. A listing of all of the aforementioned products may be found at www.epa.gov/watersense/Product_Search.html.

Things get interesting when it comes to showerheads and shower compartments. The WaterSense for Homes standard will change, and the changes will impact the other related green codes.

As it was published last month, all showerheads must comply with the requirements of the Energy Policy Act of 1992, which sets a maximum flow rate of 2.5-gpm. In cases where more than one showerhead or hand-held shower is provided in combination with others in a single device that connects to a single shower outlet, the entire device must meet the maximum flow requirement in all possible operating modes. Think of those “shower towers” that install outside the wall.

EPA notes that the showerhead criteria will change once it releases its WaterSense showerhead criteria some time this year. Shawn Martin, director, industry relations at the International Code Council, tells us that EPA will move to a 2.0-gpm standard along with both spray force and spray coverage area requirements. The 2.0-gpm requirement will put WaterSense in line with the International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials Green Plumbing & Mechanical Supplement, due to be published shortly.

The IAPMO Green Supplement limits flow to 2.0-gpm within a single shower compartment, defined as 1,800-sq.in. That's 60-in. × 30-in., the size of a standard bathtub. EPA, however, defines a shower compartment as 2,160-sq.in., which would be equivalent to 5-ft. × 3-ft. That may only look like 6-in., but it creates a higher hurdle to adding additional showerheads in a space. That measurement is down from 2,600-sq.in. contained in a previous draft. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating & Air-Conditioning Engineers had revised its fourth draft of Standard 189.1P, “Standard for the Design of High-Performance, Green Buildings, Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings,” to 2,600-sq.in. to match WaterSense. We're guessing that ASHRAE will revise that number downward.

The pending ICC International Green Construction Code doesn't vary much from WaterSense, although it is oriented toward commercial buildings and it includes a performance-based outcome of a 20% reduction in water use, along with some baseline faucet and fixture requirements. Martin notes the affected buildings may be as varied as stadiums, office buildings, schools or light manufacturing, so the route to the 20% overall reduction is up to the architect and engineer.

The IGCC requires public lavatory faucets to be 0.5-gpm, although residential-like occupancies such as hotels may use a residential 1.5-gpm faucet. Showers are limited to 2.0-gpm. The IGCC has left toilets at 1.6-gpf since the jury is still out on commercial HETs, Martin points out. Kitchen faucets must be at 2.2-gpm, urinals at 0.5-gpm and must be WaterSense approved, pre-rinse spray valves at 1.3-gpm and drinking fountains at 0.7-gpm.

Here's hoping that EPA gets the showerhead standard right and here's hoping that all of these codes, standards and supplements are well received.