Water Saving Special
23/08/2012 | Most manufacturers will claim similar water consumption rates for water efficient products in their portfolios. The Water Label has had the effect of encouraging manufacturers (whether BMA members or not) to compete and innovate, and the last four or five years has seen a lot of work done by them to produce the best possible products. It is therefore sometimes quite difficult to say what are the “best” water saving products. For example – WCs. The law requires a maximum flush volume of 6 litres long flush and a maximum of 4 litres short flush. Virtually all manufacturers have products which beat these limits. 5 and 3 litre flushes are available and 4 and 2.6 litre flushes are quite common. We think that 4 and 2.6 is probably at the limit of simple ‘wet’ technology. At least one manufacturer ( Roca) has gone a stage further by creating a washbasin/WC combo which they claims uses even less fresh water since it recycles the used water form the washbasin to flush the WC. For the example of baths, one manufacturer has produced a bath with a really low water capacity of just 110 litres. But it is made from steel, is 1500 x 700 mm and is “shallow”. I have not listed this since it wouldn’t do for an upmarket consumer mag! For the purposes of the Utopia article I have used the Water Label website to search randomly for products which are at the top of the water saving lists but can be regarded as a product for a more upmarket bathroom. I have also chosen those for which we have good images! BATH TAPS: These do not feature in Water Efficiency tables. It would be pointless. Anyone using a bath would like it to fill up as fast as possible. A low flow rate for a bath tap wouldn’t make sense. WASHBASINS: These do not feature in the water efficiency tables BIDETS: These do not feature in the water efficiency tables SHOWERS: By showers we mean shower controls ELECTRIC SHOWERS The best water and energy efficient shower (by default) would be an electric shower. You didn’t like the idea of featuring these in the mag so have not used them as ‘best.’ Its worth noting that from the Autumn if an electric shower is to be sold in B&Q stores it MUST have a Water Label. ________________________________________ WCs For years the WC has been regarded as the bathroom’s bad boy because of its water guzzling characteristics. Around 30% of the water consumption in an average UK home can be attributed to flushing the toilet. Water supply companies in the UK are doing a lot to highlight the need to reduce water consumption and have rightly targeted the domestic WC. Some companies give away cistern displacement devices to reduce the flush volume in WC suites. These freebies are great in highlighting the need for water conservation. But members of the BMA are constantly frustrated by the complaints they receive from consumers who have used these devices but have then found that their bathroom products don’t work correctly. Of course, it is not the original product which is at fault but the incorrect use of the water saving device which has caused the problem. Bricks, bags and bottles are called cistern displacement devices and the idea is to place one of these in the cistern and immediately save water by reducing the flush volume. But these devices can cause problems if used in a cistern which has been installed within the last decade. Modern low volume WCs - some are already down to 2.6 litres, short flush - are carefully designed to clear and cleanse the bowl. Using a displacement device will stop the WC working correctly and more water, not less, is inevitably used. Additionally, some plastic devices will deteriorate over a period of time and when they crumble they can block the drains. The only real way to save flushing water is to install a modern WC which has water efficiency designed in to it. Carefully designed, developed and manufactured WCs, with super-efficient flush, are now common place. They no longer grace only the portfolios of a select few top-end manufacturers. They are widespread, and reliable branded products, which conform with the regulations and are guaranteed to actually work, are here to stay. Effective average flush volumes of 3 litres (2.6 litre short flush and 4 litre full flush) are available at realistic prices and are no longer ‘special.’ At least one innovative product is now available which combines the function of the washbasin with the WC. Waste from the basin is diverted, disinfected and stored in the cistern prior to being used to flush the toilet. This type of breakthrough thinking is both surprising and effective. The move to low volume flushing has also given manufacturers the chance to re-visit the fundamental design of the WC suite. Low volume flush has given designers the opportunity to create ‘rimless’ or ‘rimfree’ pans. Clever design of the rim without the usual invert or box section is now possible since lower volume flushing is more easily controlled and has a lesser tendency to splashing or overflow. The resulting improvement in hygiene and ‘cleanability’ has been jumped upon by busy and careful householders. Commercial versions have also started appearing in hospital and care establishments. Rimfree designs have been the stars of the current crop of trade exhibitions. TAPS Taps with built-in click-stop and thermo regulators have become freely available. These not only save water but save energy since less hot water is wasted. They are also ultra-safe in the family bathroom. These hi-tech taps have seen steady growth in the UK as a result of changes to household plumbing systems and water pressure. The internal valve mechanisms, made from technical ceramics, usually have very small water passages but high pressure water allows designers to create sufficient water flow for satisfactory use. The styling and functionality of bathroom taps has blossomed in the last few years. The choice is now greater than ever before. Specialist manufactures of basin and bath taps have invested heavily in designing products which are both eco-friendly and easy to install. They are also breaking new ground with styling. More advanced units also control the temperature – safety and energy saving being in the minds of the designers. And for gadget-lovers taps with built-in temperature sensitive LEDs glow red or blue depending on the temperature of the flow. The styling of taps and mixer fittings has come a long way. Gorgeous curvaceous models have arrived and so too have simple joystick controls. For the smallest room in the house, ‘aerated’ spray taps are particularly useful in the cloakroom or ensuite for simple hand washing. These achieve a minimal flow rate, way below the taps from decades ago, but still maintain satisfying use and an effective wash. SHOWERS High-tech is also available in eco shower controls and shower heads which have enjoyed massive growth. These, like click-stop taps, show huge savings in both water and energy consumption. Digital shower technology has advanced to such a degree that its precise temperature control can be accurately set to a safe maximum and play an important part in reducing utility bills by ensuing hot and cold water is not wasted. Energy and water supply costs are kept to a minimum. The development of showers has been focussed on reducing water flow whilst still maintaining the demand for a “good experience”. A user wants a shower to give a refreshing drench. These new products meet that demand but also contribute greatly to the push for sustainability. Aerated shower heads, which break up the water flow with air sucked into it are now quite common. The resulting shower uses less water but gives a good drench. These eco-friendly showerheads can save as much as 75% of the water used compared with a traditional handset, even at the same water pressure. Thermostatic mixer showers ensure that hot water is not wasted since the temperature of the water flow can be set to suit the individual. Some digital showers can even be set to switch off after a set period. Instantaneous electric showers have eco credentials too. They are great water and energy savers. They heat water as it is required and a typical 9.8 kW shower uses around 10 litres per minute maximum. BATHS It was not so long back when the average new bath was filled with around 200 litres. Today, without much effort, a consumer can find a really comfortable bath with a capacity of just 130 litres. It’s all in the design. Manufacturers of steel or acrylic baths responded quickly to the need for low capacity baths. There have been two solutions to the design requirements. The first and easiest has been the lowering of the overflow hole. But how far can the overflow be lowered without affecting user satisfaction? A good long soak in a bath cannot be achieved in a couple of inches of water! BMA members realise that their baths will be looked at more favourably if they use less water but at the same time meet customer expectations of a good deep soak. The other solution has come from clever internal shaping which reduces capacity. Shapely designs are now appearing which have a total volume as low as 120 litres - way below the current allowed maximum of 230 litres. GREYWATER RECYCLING The requirements of both the Code for Sustainable Homes and Approved Document G of the Building Regulations are encouraging housing developers to install greywater recycling. One definition of greywater is that it is the wastewater from showers, baths, washbasins, washing machines and kitchen sinks which can be collected and, after basic and minimal treatment, be used for other purposes around the home such as flushing the toilet or watering the garden. These are uses which don’t require perfectly good water of pure drinking quality. Typically, a basic simple domestic system will collect greywater and store it before reusing it to flush the toilet or divert it to the garden. A more complex system treats the greywater to a standard that can be used in washing machines. Note that care must be taken not to use dirty water to irrigate crops. Systems for flushing the toilet can save around a third of the daily household water demand. A trial by the Environment Agency showed a range of water savings from about 5 per cent to 36 per cent. As newer properties tend to have lower toilet flush consumption, the maximum savings in a new build might be closer to 20 per cent. The cost-effectiveness of greywater recycling is as variable as the systems themselves. The amount saved will depend on volume of water saved, the price of the mains water it replaced and the cost of installing, running and maintaining the system.
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