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Tap into savings with low-flow faucets

​After upgrading your showerhead to low flow (Because I bet you did after reading my first article!), where else can you reduce your hot water use—or any water use for that matter—without having to visit a major appliance store? How about your faucets?

What the faucet?

Along with bathing, faucets are another primary use of water in a household. So it makes sense to make them as efficient as possible. And there’s more you can do than turning off the tap when brushing your teeth. First off, why not do an audit to determine the flow rates of your home’s faucets? Just use the simple 10 second test I described in my showerhead story. Compare the flow rates of your faucets to the rates in the table below and you’ll get a sense if you can make some improvements.

Don’t be tapped out by water waste

Like showerheads, maximum faucet flow rates were standardized in the US in 1992. The maximum bathroom faucet flow rate standard was further reduced in 1994, but the US government decided in 1998 that all residential faucets should have the same flow rate standard and added kitchen faucets to the mix. The BC building code adopted this standard in 2006. But while researching this story I noticed that WaterSense® didn’t offer options for low-flow kitchen faucets. I asked the folks at WaterSense why, and they said kitchen faucets were excluded from this specification due to the variety of uses, such as pot and container filling. Essentially, when filling buckets, sinks and pots, low flow isn’t always practical. 

A history of faucet flow standards

Flow rate standards​ Litres per minute (LPM)​ ​Gallons per minute (GPM)
​Prior to 1992 3 – 7​
​1992 US standard ​9.5 ​2.5 (both bath/kitchen)
​1994 US standard ​8.3 ​2.2 (bath only)
​1998 US standard ​8.3 ​2.2 (all residential faucets)
​2006 BC Building Code standard (current) ​8.3 ​2.2
​WaterSense labelled models (current) ​5.7 (bathroom only) ​1.5 (bathroom only)

A faucet audit

Like you’re going to do right after reading this article, I did an audit of the faucets in my home. Until writing this, I’d never thought about how much water I was using (or wasting) via my faucets. I mean, I upgraded to a low-flow toilet and replaced the dishwasher and clothes washer with ENERGY STAR® models, so wasn’t that enough?

I only have three faucets as my house is so little. I bought my kitchen faucet in 2011 when planning for my eventual kitchen renovation. Now installed, I measured its flow rate at 7.2 LPM, which is lower than the 2006 BC Building Code standard of 8.3 LPM.

My bathroom faucet, also bought in 2011, rated 4.2 LPM, which is even better than WaterSense-rated faucets. The lower flow rate of these faucets is likely due to the incoming water pressure to my home, 60 pounds per square inch (PSI). Some homes have a PSI of 80, meaning they’d have a higher flow rate on their plumbing fixtures. My laundry faucet? That’s another story.  
 
​ 
My kitchen faucet's flow rate is 7.2 LPM.
That's good.

My bathroom facucet's flow rate
is 4.2 LPM. Even better!

Big spender in the basement


 

My gushing laundry faucet before I retrofitted it with an aerator. 

When it was time to plumb for my new kitchen in 2013, I had the plumber also upgrade the laundry plumbing in my unfinished basement. My laundry sink is one of those old concrete clunkers, original to the house and so heavy it would take a forklift to remove it. Plus, I’m kind of nostalgic about it, as it’s a piece of the home’s history. Being that this laundry sink was staying, and to keep with the utilitarian, unfinished feel (saving me money on my budget), I went with a basic commercial grade mop faucet attached to the wall. It was a huge step up from what I had, which was a leaky hose bib with separate spouts for hot and cold water.

But what I didn’t think about was the flow rate of the new faucet. I don’t use the laundry sink that often and I don’t fill a lot of buckets, so having a fast flow rate isn’t important as say, it would be for a high school janitor having to clean 5,000 square feet of grimy floors by class time. So when I discovered my funky faucet spewed a titanic 19.8 LPM, I almost drowned in embarrassment. How can someone who dries her laundry on a clothesline eight months a year and wears bulky wool sweaters in winter to stay warm (rather than turning up the heat) be such a hypocrite with a faucet spewing like Niagara Falls? At least it was hidden from view in the basement and I didn’t use it that much except for washing grimy dog toys and rinsing dirty rags used for cleaning up after my senior dog’s puddles in the basement. Still, I could do better.

Don’t throw the faucet out with the flow

I wasn’t about to call a plumber to replace my laundry faucet. My solution? A simple $12 fix. Using a laundry aerator and a hose bib adaptor I picked up at my local hardware store, I reduced the flow on my almost 19.8 LPM faucet to 8.3 LPM. Plus, with the aerated flow, I had great water pressure for scrubbing and rinsing.

You can lower the flow on your existing faucets simply by adding or replacing your faucet’s existing aerator. Then when it’s time to shop for new faucets, be sure to look for the WaterSense label on bathroom faucets and read the specifications on the kitchen faucets to ensure they meet the standard of no more than 8.3 LPM.


My new laundry faucet aerator with hose bib.

Ta da! Flow rate reduced by
58 per cent with a simple $12 fix.
  
If you’re not sure how to install a faucet aerator, we have a how-to video that will show you. And if the selection of aerators in your hardware store is limited, you can buy one online.

I’d love to hear how you’re saving energy with faucet aerators or showerheads. Or do you have your own energy-saving tip you’d like share? Send me an email at diystories@fortisbc.com
 

If your kitchen faucet has a threaded
spout like this one, it’s easy to install
a water-saving aerator like the one
shown here.