Water-saving is a global impact that is here to stay, so choose smartly when it comes to fixtures
It seems that far from being the final frontier, space is proving to be a fertile field for innovation to bring back to earth. One of the most recent of these mind-bending discoveries is the shower system from the Swedish company Orbital Systems, that saves 90% water and 80% energy compared to old-fashioned showers.
What they have termed the Shower of the Future was inspired by an academic project with NASA that founder Mehrdad Mahdjoubi undertook in 2013, when he was a last-year student at the University of Lund in southern Sweden.
He realised that the technique used to recycle and reuse water on space stations could be implemented in earthly bathrooms as well, both in private homes and in institutions such as gyms, schools, communal baths and hotels.
The Website lets you discover how much money and water you can save by using the system, and in Sweden (where water rates are quite low) the saving for the Swedish editor’s home can according to the saver calculator be up to $1,605 (AUD $2,292) – and that’s because she has two teenage daughters. The most satisfying number that pops up on the screen though is the amount of water saved – a remarkable 189,800l per year that are at the moment going into the drain…
The Russian Houzz editor, Elena Igumnova, lives and works from Moscow, and she is used to a special regulation set to water bills in Russia: ‘“We used to pay for water, based on the cube/tenant norm (including infants) until recently. Starting from January 1st 2015, individual hot and cold water meter installations in apartments, became compulsory. People who installed the meter have lowered their water bills by 30% – since the actual water consumption turned out to be less than what people were used to pay for. As a result, Russian people have had the opportunity to save some money on water without changing their habits. And they therefore have no real motivation for water saving habits.’’
Mikhail Chizhov, Marketing Director of Hansgrohe in Russia, agrees with Elena: ‘’As to the showers, we now have both EcoSmart collections and basic ones. The cost difference between two models is unsubstantial, nevertheless – 95% of the showers sold in Russia are those without water saving options.The customers are not very willing to purchase these models, and big shops don’t order those “economic” showers very often. It’s all because water is very cheap in Russia, so customers are not motivated to lower water consumption – taking a “proper”” shower with a strong stream of water is way nicer.’’
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‘’Meanwhile in Russian commercial projects there’s a totally different situation. When it comes to building a spa-center, a hotel, a shopping mall with a large number of customers, the problem of water saving is very relevant. At this point, the water-saving mixers allow Hansgrohe to win this kind of tenders. For this occasions we have special super-saving aerators ( 2,7 l/min compared to 5/l min using EcoSmart technology). Those very models are very popular in commercial projects. I am sure that as soon as the water prices increase in Russia people will need the water saving.’’
To compare, Russian Houzzers such as Natalya Stogova noticed a large difference between adding a meter to her apartment:
‘’We installed water meters a few years ago. We never expected that it would result in such big savings! The real amount of water used turned out to be 2-3 times lower than what we were getting on the bill for average consumption.’’
There’s nothing like a long, luxurious bath. That luxury takes a lot of water – roughly 50 to 70 gallons per bath. Being water wise doesn’t have to mean giving up your long soak. When renovating or building, look for smaller tubs with a capacity of less than 60 gallons. Also, when you’re just looking for a quick clean, you’d be more water smart to jump in the shower, where you’ll use about half the water.
The Danish user Jette Yde, commented that she definitely against bathtubs: ‘’I will go against the grain and say no to bathtubs. It may well be that the kids love it and it’s cosy and idyllic with the idea to sit there with great music and a glass of wine. I would never be able to defend to fill such a vessel, I think the environmental concerns weigh heavy on here and water reserves are not infinite. So out with the bathtubs and make a cool shower instead. It creates better space in the room, in your wallet and for the environment.’’
In addition, many of the baths in Japanese houses has a ‘oidaki’system installed. It fills hot water in the bathtub and reheats it with a reheating system that is installed. Simply pushing the button on the control panel, you can fill hot water automatically. And, when the next person takes a bath, the water might not be hot enough, so you press the “oidaki” button and the water is reheated again by the boiler installed outside the bathroom. (the boiler can be electric or gas.) This oidaki system contributes greatly to saving water.
The Houzz contributor Julie Kim, studied architecture at UC Berkeley and urban planning at UCLA before working in affordable housing architecture for many years. She is passionate about beautiful, environmentally-sensitive design, and has commented via Houzz on water-saving fixtures on Forbes:
“Rainfall is at record lows in many parts of the United States. California, in particular, is in the midst of an extreme drought. A professor from the earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Berkeley has stated that the state is on track for having the worst drought in 500 years. A recent law mandates that Californians reduce their water consumption 20 percent by the year 2020. The typical American family uses about 400 gallons of water every day. According to Rea Gonzalez, a representative at the Los Angeles Department of Public Works, most of that water – about 60 percent in relatively arid California – is used outdoors for watering the yard and filling a swimming pool or hot tub. So, obviously, a great place to start water conservation efforts is outside.
But water consumption indoors shouldn’t be overlooked, either. Gonzalez has outlined the top five most effective and budget-conscious ways for Californians to save water at home, detailed below. Now, if we could all just organise a mass rain dance …
By choosing eco-friendly faucets, shower heads and even toilets, you can save loads of water and money without sacrificing style.’’
‘’In the drought-stricken state of California, homeowners as well as politicians are working to reduce the amount of water residential landscapes consume, which, according the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, accounts for about 30 percent of daily household water use.
Starting December 1, 2015, turfgrass and other water-intensive plants will be limited to roughly 25 percent of new yards over 500 square feet (46 square metres) and renovated yards over 2,500 square feet. Landscapes less than 2,500 square feet (232 square metres) can meet the restrictions through a prescriptive checklist. This is down from 33 percent high-water-use plants only applying to landscapes more than 2,500 square feet. “Revising the ordinance was well due. We’re moving in the direction Californians would like to move,” says Vicki Lake, program manager at The State Department of WaterResources.
Homeowners across the United States are addressing how their yards use and conserve water through new landscape features. In the 2015, Houzz Landscape and Garden Trends Study conducted in May, 1,600 homeowners in the U.S. who had completed an outdoor project in the past 12 months, are working on one or plan to start in the next six months, responded that water topped their list of challenges addressed during the landscape renovation. In California, 70% of homeowners cited drought considerations as their top renovation challenge. “Our two most recent projects were entirely motivated bywater reduction,” San Francisco Bay Area landscape designer Sara Warto says.
Nearly 1 in 5 homeowners who plan to upgrade their space will add some sort of rainwater harvesting device and 29 percent will add or update sprinklers or irrigation systems. Three percent of homeowners plant to install a greywater system so that they can recycle the gently used water from their sinks, laundry and showers back into the landscape.
To find water-wise fixtures, look for the WaterSense label. WaterSense, is a partnership program with The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: an independent organisation that reviews plumbing fixtures for water efficiency (among many other jobs). Their certification, or approval, is given to fixtures that are at least 20 percent more efficient without compromising performance. The average bathroom makeover with WaterSense fixtures saves 7,000 gallons of water annually. That’s enough water to wash six months worth of laundry.
Bathroom faucets. Getting a faucet with the WaterSense can reduce your sink’s water flow by up to 30 percent. Doing so will save the average home 500 gallons of water annually. You can also add an aerator to bathroom taps. An aerator decreases water flow while maintaining or even increasing water pressure by mixing water with air.
And regardless of how much water comes out of your tap, don’t forget to turn off the faucet while shaving or brushing teeth.
This autumn, Hansgrohe has launched in France a new Showerpipe, the Rainmaker Select 460 3jet EcoSmart, that includes a new technology: The Select button. It is directly integrated on the XXL Thermostatic or temperature control tap (70 cm), and this enables it to stop water by simply pushing an intuitive button. “The temperature is automatically saved so the user doesn’t have cold water when putting water back. This tool has been made to change the homeowners’ habit of keeping the water on during all the shower, and encourage them to stop it when soaping to save water,’’ comments Evelin Stratmann.
But even if all these tools are efficient, we have to keep in mind that a current huge trend is the grand French bathrooms, where its all about Italian style showers with huge rain showers, known to be major water consumers. So if the equipment needs to be adapted, the habits need, first of all, to be changed!
RAAB Architecture knows a few great solutions to save water in your bathroom:
Step 1: First simply start by using water differently, turn it off when you are soaping or brushing our teeth… For the shower, there is a cheap ingenious system called ‘Shower stop’. It allows you to have hot water since you turn water on, without waiting and wasting cold water. The most courageous ones can put a bucket under the faucet to water the plants with the cold that comes first or heat it for a cup of tea.
Step 2: You can also use a simple water reducer (in DIY stores) that shrinks the jet with the same benefit as usual and cuts almost 50% of your water consumption. Almost all new faucets have one.
Step 3: A simple installation called ‘power-pipe’ can be put on your plumbing by a professional. It allows it to retrieve the heating delivered by the grey water as a pre-heating energy for clear water coming into the water-heater. It is quite cheap and very interesting for energy saving since the water will be warm, so the water-heater won’t need then as much energy as usual to heat it.
Skyring Architects from Australia suggests taking shorter showers: “Cutting your water bills is easy with this simple adjustment to your family’s daily routine. If you love a long shower, though, don’t beat yourself up. Just stick to a four-minute showers on weekdays and indulge in longer showers on the weekend. A water-saving showerhead will cut your bills even further.’’
Showers typically use less water than baths, as long as they’re kept brief. A timer can help you keep an eye on how long you’ve been lathering up.