Restrooms Fixtures And Water Savings

Contributed by the U.S. Department of Energy
From the April 2017 Issue

Most federal buildings have faucets in restrooms, kitchens, and laboratories. Many federal installations have showers, including barracks, family housing, recreation facilities, and locker rooms. Significant opportunity for water and energy savings exists for these fixtures when upgrading to efficient technology and employing conservation practices.

restrooms fixtures
(Photo: Sloan)

To address lavatory faucets intended for public use, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers A112.18.1/Canadian Standards Association B125.1 Plumbing Supply Fittings specifies that public lavatory faucets (all faucets other than those defined as private), other than metering, must have a maximum flow rate of 0.5 gpm.

The U.S. EPA WaterSense program released a specification for showerheads requiring a maximum flow rate of no higher than 2 gpm (gallons per minute). The WaterSense specification for showerheads also includes performance requirements. All WaterSense showerheads must meet minimum spray force and coverage specifications.

Operations and Maintenance

To maintain water efficiency in operations and maintenance, federal agencies should do the following.

  • Establish a user-friendly method to report leaks and fix them immediately.
  • Encourage cleaning or custodial crews to report problems.
  • Test system pressure to make sure it is between 20psi and 80 psi. If the pressure is too low, high efficiency devices won’t work properly. If it is too high, they will consume more than their rated amount of water.
  • Install expansion tanks and pressure reducing valves and reduce water heater settings where appropriate to prevent temperature and pressure-relief valves from discharging water.
  • Correctly adjust and maintain automatic sensors on faucets to ensure proper operation. Sensors must be calibrated to ensure water use only when washing hands and not be triggered by users passing in front of the faucet.
  • Encourage users to take shorter showers. Place clocks or timers in or near showers to allow users to track their timing better.
  • Post energy/water awareness information to encourage efficiency from users.

Retrofit And Replacement Options

The following retrofit and replacement options help federal agencies maintain water efficiency across facilities.

  • When installing new showerheads, for new construction, major renovation, and fixture replacement, choose models with a WaterSense label, which have flow rates no higher than 2 gpm. Verify that the hot and cold water plumbing lines are routed through an auto-compensating mixing valve (either thermostatic or pressure balancing) designed for the flow rate of the showerhead. This valve prevents significant fluctuations in water pressure and temperature, if designed for the flow rate of the showerhead and can reduce risks of thermal shock and scalding.
  • For faucet retrofits in public restrooms, install faucets or faucet aerators or laminar flow devices that achieve 0.5 gpm flow rate, required by plumbing codes.
  • For faucet retrofits in private restrooms (e.g., residential housing, barracks, hotel guest rooms, hospital rooms), install WaterSense high efficiency faucets, faucet aerators, or laminar flow devices with a maximum flow rate of 1.5 gpm.
  • Automatic sensors on “touchless” faucets are not considered conservation devices. Studies have shown that automatic sensored faucets can waste water because they can be triggered when not needed and flow at the maximum flow instead of partial flow, which is more common for manually operated faucets.

To find out more and for more guidance, visit the U.S. Department of Energy Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) website.

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  1. One of the bullets in the article is:
    “Establish a user-friendly method to report leaks and fix them immediately”. – but how?
    A solution is to make sure that you get immediate notification if anything is wrong / broken / leaking. Cleaning and inspection checklists seem so ineffective as a practice when this article is talking about uses of technology and we all know they do not work.
    Other facilities enable on the spot feedback via the visitor’s own cell phone, that immediately notifies the right staff and tracks the issue until completed. You can even upload a photo. This can also be done for restrooms only – look at ‘’ for example – to ensure water savings and lower maintenance…without the checklists.

  2. Hi. My kids have non-water urinals in their school. The urinals also have a little fly sticker, from what my boys say, and they just aim for that everytime. Haha. Boys. They, and quite frankly myself too, love that fact they do not have to touch the urinal once done. We all know how quickly germs spread with kids so the less they have to touch the better when it comes to the bathrooms. Plus a bonus, these waterless urinals save a ton of water! Highly recommend.

  3. another huge water saver not mentioned in the article are urinals; urinals are used three times more often than a toilet (in a men’s room) and use about 30,000 to 40,000 gallons of potable water! Waterless urinals eliminate that use plus are more hygienic due to the non-water use and dry surfaces.

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