4 Ways to Incorporate Water Efficiency into a Home

Sustainability and Green Building

According to the latest edition of NAHB’s What Homes Buyers Really Want, water-conserving fixtures such as toilets, showerheads and faucets are among the 20 top green features desired by home owners, with more than half of prospective home buyers surveyed indicating each as an essential or desired home feature.

Incorporating these into homes along with other water-focused strategies can provide multiple benefits for builders and consumers alike. Builders can save time and money on materials and labor with proper planning while positioning customers to save on their utility bills and have an overall improved living experience.

1. Fixtures

Water-conserving fixtures have been on the market for decades and are readily available for no additional cost; you should not be paying a premium to have your plumbing contractors specify and install efficient toilets, faucets or showerheads. Choose certified fixtures, such as WaterSense products, to ensure good performance as well as water savings.

2. Appliances

ENERGY STAR appliances are certified to save water as well as energy. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), a standard-sized certified dishwasher costs about $35 per year to run and can save an average 3,870 gallons of water over its lifetime; certified clothes washers use about 25% less energy and 33% less water than regular washers. You can find certified appliances, as well as available rebates in your area, at energystar.gov/products.

3. Water Heaters

Water heating accounts for about 18% of a home’s energy use; ENERGY STAR also certifies water heaters. There are several factors to consider when choosing between tank, tankless or a solar water heater, including:

  • Available fuel sources,
  • The number of heating/cooling days in your climate, and
  • Cost.

Check out DOE’s Energy Saver and water efficiency infographic to help make the best choice for your project.

4. Structural Plumbing

Recirculation Loops

“No matter what type of water heater you have, installing a recirculation loop so you aren’t waiting on hot water is important from both a water and energy savings and customer satisfaction perspective,” shared Jerud Martin, co-owner of Urban NW Homes. “The lines off the loop are short runs to the actual valve or fixture, so hot water reaches them faster than with traditional piping. You can increase the efficiency by setting it on a timer so it’s only pumping hot water through the loop during the high demand usage times.”

Learn more about recirculation loops and other green building techniques from Urban NW Homes’ Home Performance Counts: Virtual Green Home Tour replay.

Efficient Piping

Working with other design disciplines early in the process can eliminate potential conflicts with structural and mechanical elements in the home. Early collaboration can also save materials and time during construction by working out those issues in advance.

By grouping rooms where plumbing is required, you can improve the efficiency of the supply and waste systems and save your client water and energy. For instance, you can place the kitchen near or adjacent to the laundry room and have the bathrooms back onto each other.

Consider a voluntary, above-code whole home water certification — such as WaterSense Label for Homes, WERS or HERSH2O — to demonstrate savings to your customers through third-party verification and help differentiate your homes in the marketplace.

Finally, give your customers the tools to keep their home operating well. Smart water leak detectors can alert home owners to potential water leaks located throughout the house with alarms, via an app, or automatically turn off the water to protect their home, as water damage repairs cost on average about $2,500.

To stay current on the high-performance residential building sector, with tips on water efficiency, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and other building science strategies, follow NAHB’s Sustainability and Green Building efforts on Twitter.

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