Promoting Energy Efficiency with luxury

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Promoting Energy Efficiency with luxury
by Lori Henderson

We all know we should eat healthier foods, protect our- selves from the harmful rays of the Florida sun, exercise every day, and turn off the shower when we’re done rinsing. But why do so many Florida residents resist doing things that are good for them?I’m sure that inertia is a big reason many Floridians avoid making changes in their life styles and personal habits. But as a plumbing professional, you have opportunities every day to talk with your customers about advancements in energy effi- ciency. After all, a few simple changes can help your cus- tomers beautify their homes, maintain the “wow” factor, and save money by conserving resources. Now is the time to take advantage of this opportunity to educate your customers and build your plumbing business.As you know, there are many ways you can help your cus- tomers upgrade their current homes to use water more effi- ciently without losing their favorite design elements, affecting their lifestyles, or breaking the bank.Some of you out there are already doing your part, and we thank you for that! The reader I am addressing is the contrac- tor who doesn’t know what to say to the customer or thinks these new options are just too expensive for today’s market.Through this article we will explore the different options and resources for your residential and commercial customers to conserve water without sacrificing design and luxury.

(Left) American Standard’s Reliant 3 LifeStyle collection: Cadet 3 HET and Reliant 3 shower.
(Above) Watermark’s Titanium faucet.There are many ways you advise your customers about upgrading their current residence and promote a healthier life style and elevate the design of your home. We are going to focus on a few out of the many options, including:

  • Changing out an older toilet for a high-efficiency toilet (HET).
  • Replacing the old showerhead, faucet, or body sprays with WaterSense-certified selections.
  • Selecting attractive, recycled materials for sinks and vanities.
  • Replacing a water heater with a heat pump unit.

Discussing these types of options with your customers pro- vides an ideal opportunity to generate new business. After all, a homeowner who starts off wanting to add new water-saving faucets might eventually decide to redo the entire bath.

Advantages of HETs

Let’s start by examining the benefits of changing out a customer’s toilet for an HET.  As a plumbing professional, you know there have been enormous advancements in toilet technology in the past 20 years, going from 5 gallons down to 3.5 gallons down again to 1.6 gallons and now down to 1.28 gallons per flush (gpf).  However, your customers are probably not aware of these changes and need someone to explain things to them.  They may also have misconceptions about HETs that make them hesitate to try it. Here is an opportunity to explain the advances in technology and the benefits to upgrading the bath.

After all, many of the toilets we have available to us today flush better than the antiquated 5gpf toilets.  In 2003 MaP (maximum performance) testing for toilets was developed. A toilet that is MaP approved must flush 350 grams of solid waste and tests up to 1,000 grams of solid waste (over 2 pounds). Now that we are able to rate the toilet’s performance, the best toilets strive to function at or over the 1000 gram mark while using a 1.28gpf.

Once a company has mastered HET performance the next focus is the style. In the high-performance toilet category, styles ranging from traditional to contemporary and everything in between are now a must in all price points.  Since there are many options available, try to narrow down what features are most important to your customer.  Luxury features can add benefits a homeowner may never have considered, such as:

• Higher seats, designed at the same height as if you were sitting on a chair.

• Enclosed trapways

• A smooth side to cover the dust catching rolls on the base of the toilet

• Dual flush, one for liquid and one for solids to help save even more water

• Antibacterial agents, infused or baked into the glaze to help protect against germs

• Bidets

• Heated toilet seats

• Water cleaning functions built into the toilet.

Tell the homeowner she doesn’t have to sit on a cold toilet seat and watch her eyes light up. And with slow closing toilet seats, slamming the seat is a thing of the past.  These are just a few of the features available while your customer is getting the best performance and saving water with each flush!


Now for the shower

Let’s talk about the shower next. About 17 percent of residential indoor water use in the United States is from showering.  This adds up to more than 1.2 trillion gallons of fresh water each year nationwide, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

When you replace your customer’s older inefficient showerhead, handshower or body spray with a WaterSense model, there are potentially big savings on the water bill and on the energy bill as well, since there will be less demand on the water heater.

WaterSense provides consumers with the confidence these products will work effectively and efficiently with a 20 percent or greater water savings.  Think about this: If one in every 10 homes in America installed a WaterSense faucet or showerhead, it could save 6 billion gallons of water per year!

A good showerhead can make or break the shower experience. No one wants to end up with soap in our hair or a trickle of water coming out to rinse with.  Performance is the most important feature of the showerhead or faucet so you want to make sure the model has innovative function that qualifies it as WaterSense®.  If the model has the option for a low-flow aerator to reduce water flow it probably isn’t the best function.  The best models have a mechanism or function that allows the water to flow at a lower rate while providing the same experience as a high flow model.

Many manufacturers have introduced innovative showerheads and faucets that are WaterSense certified while maintaining superior function.  When helping your customer search for a new showerhead, look for multiple spray patterns, adjustable flow rates, non-removable flow restrictors and rubber nozzles.  Many shower arms are available to add height and adjustability to the showerhead as well.

Faucets are available in a variety of styles, finishes, shapes, construction and function.  Find a WaterSense labeled faucet with quality construction features, including ceramic cartridges, cast brass construction, lifetime warranties and brass drains. Then let the customer’s preferred style be your guide!


Selecting recycled materials

In addition to conserving water, there are other simple ways for a homeowner to save energy. Many manufacturers now create products with reclaimed, recycled, and sustainable materials that require less energy and reduce the drain on our natural resources.  Many of the designs created from these materials are unique and hand crafted. Imagine a vanity for the bathroom created from wine-making oak barrels or made from the sustainable properties of bamboo.  A kitchen sink today could be made up of reclaimed copper that kills bacteria or recycled stainless steel. Each piece could be one-of-a-kind, adding a piece of artwork to the home while being ecologically friendly.


Consider heat pumps

Here is a great idea for helping the homeowner: Install an Energy Star® rated electric heat pump that is more than twice as efficient as a standard electric water heater.  The hybrid electric heat pump water heaters will heat the water while cooling the air surrounding the unit.  Electric heat pumps use the surrounding heat of the room to heat the water while dehumidifying and cooling the air. This averages about $360 dollars a year in energy savings  – before you install all of the WaterSense products – according to the Department of Energy. Imagine a garage with cool air or directing that cool air up into the attic to help cool the entire home!


Rebates add to affordability

When comparing costs for these energy-saving upgrades, be sure to tell you customers about rebates that can help offset the costs to make these important changes. Federal, state and local rebates are now available in most locations.  The rebates offer substantial savings from $100 on HET to $650 on heat pumps to $1 per square foot on a whole energy efficient home.

Some examples of products for which rebates are available, include water heaters, heat pumps, central air conditioners, building insulation, windows, roofs, solar screen, window film, heat pump water heater, tankless water heaters, pool pumps, in-ground irrigation, cooking range, dryer, solar water heat, photovoltaics, washers, toilets, showerheads and more.

Here are two websites that offer information on rebates:

• Federal –

• State –

Clearly, you can benefit from helping your customers understand the many “green” options available that will allow them to conserve our natural resources and enhance their homes with beautiful designs.  Good luck!


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