Faucets: Other green aspects

In the past, faucets were not a primary focus of water efficiency advocates, given the 1992 Energy Policy Act (EPAct) and subsequent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) actions limited faucet flows to 8.3 L/minute (2.2 gallons per minute [gpm]) at 414 kPA (60 psi). In the mid-1990s, however, the following U.S. plumbing codes further reduced the maximum flow rate to 1.9 L/minute (0.5 gpm) for public (i.e. non-residential) applications:

  • Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC);
  • International Plumbing Code (IPC);
  • Plumbing, HeatingCooling, Contractors Association’s (PHCC’s) National Standard Plumbing Code; and
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) A112.18.1, Plumbing Supply Fitting.

Unfortunately, many believe the maximum flow rate for faucets in commercial applications is still 8.3 L (2.2 gpm). This confusion presents skewed results of the enhanced savings associated with water, energy, maintenance, and labor costs, along with increased sustainability.

Moreover, particularly in the past decade or so, manufacturers have made major strides in developing smarter and more durable designs that are easier to install, activate, and maintain.

Certain models comply with the California Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen), which means they meet the lead-free mandates in California, Vermont, and Maryland. ‘Lead-free’ means fixtures, fittings, and pipes that dispense water for human consumption must be manufactured throughout the United States.

The District of Columbia and Virginia have introduced similar legislation, and others are expected to follow. In 2011, the Obama administration signed the bipartisan “Get the Lead Out” bill into law, which provides for a 36-month implementation period of lead-free fixtures throughout the country. By January 2014, manufacturers and importers will be required to comply with the new lead-free standards.

Older faucets in a commercial building can waste a lot of water. A high-efficiency lavatory faucet flowing at 5.6 L/minute (1.5 gpm) can reduce flow rate by 32 percent compared to an 8.3-L/minute (2.2-gpm) faucet. A 1.9-L/minute (0.5-gpm) faucet can more than double the savings. The amount of water and money saved by switching to a 5.6-L/minute manual metering faucet or 1.9-L/minute electronic faucet can be determined with various proprietary online calculators.

(For more information, see Coming Clean with Sensor and Manual Faucets.)

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