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The basic idea behind water-saving devices is to restrict water consumption rates where heaviest use occurs. Indoor water usage runs at about 40 percent for toilets, 30 percent for baths and showers (more for baths), 15 percent for clothes washers and 15 percent for cooking and kitchen use.


The first target for water conservation is the toilet. A number of devices are designed to reduce the amount of water used to flush a conventional toilet.

One such device is a dual-flush mechanism that allows about one-half tank flush for liquid waste by depressing the tank lever handle in the normal manner and full-tank flush for solid waste by depressing the lever and holding it down. These devices can save from 40 to 50 percent of normal water consumption.

There are also water-saving toilets that have smaller holding tanks and use less water to flush.

Leaks in the toilet tank can also be a source of excess water usage. These are usually due to worn out parts. Leaks can be detected by adding dark food coloring to the tank and checking about 20 minutes later to see if the toilet bowl water has turned the same color.


Showers and baths are the next target for water saving. The most common devices are flow-control valves, flow restrictors and aerators that can be added to existing fixtures. New showerheads can also be installed that feature water-saving capabilities.

There is a distinct difference between a flow-control valve and a flow restrictor. The flow-control valve restricts the flow of water to about 2.75 gals. per minute, automatically making adjustments for water-pressure changes.

A flow restrictor does not make an automatic adjustment if the pressure changes. Therefore, more water is used as the pressure increases.

Some of these devices have manual controls to adjust water flow from flood to shutoff. Many include a weep to help prevent back pressure in the pipes.

Many of these showerheads also have manual controls to adjust the amount of water flow so less water can be used for soaping and more for rinsing.

These devices help restrict the flow of water from a typical rate of seven gals. Per minute to about two to three gals.


The third target for water saving around the home is the bathroom and kitchen faucets. Like the shower or bathtub, water is consumed at the rate of about 7 gals. Per minute. A restrictor (or aerator) can reduce the flow to 2- to 3- gals. Per minute.

There are models which automatically adjust the flow to 2- to 3- gals. per minute. There are models which automatically adjust the flow rate according to water-pressure changes and other models which do not make automatic compensations. Some have manual controls for the consumer to preset the amount of restriction.

Several states, such as New York and California, have code requirements on faucets and showerheads. Since these water-saving devices also control the proportion of hot water used, they have the additional selling point of being a fuel saver.


Garbage disposers fit standard 3-1/2" to 4" sink drain openings and are installed under the sink drain. Garbage is deposited in the sink opening; it drops into the disposer hopper onto a high-speed rotating table powered by a sealed motor.

Impellers fling the waste against a stationary shredder, cutter or grinder; this action, together with a full flow of cold running water which must be used while the disposer is operating, reduces the garbage to fine particles and flushes them down the drain to the sewage system.

Cold water congeals grease and prevents it from coating the drain line. Hard particles, such as bone and eggshell, actually scour the drain line as they whirl down and help keep it clean.

Continuous-feed disposers are just what the name implies-garbage can be fed while the machine is in operation.

These disposers are controlled by a wall switch and operated with a continuous flow of cold water. A flexible splash guard at the disposer opening stops back splash and helps to catch nonfood items that may accidentally fall into the opening.

Batch-feed disposers grind or pulverize food wastes one load at a time. The hopper is filled and cold water added. When the cover is put in place, the unit begins operating. Some models have a magnetic switch control in the cover; others require a locking turn of the cover to activate the unit. No other switch is necessary.

Most garbage disposers are powered by a sealed motor requiring an electrical hookup; there is one type, however, that uses water pressure to power the impeller and flush away refuse, eliminating the need for electrical wiring.

Disposers will grind most garbage, but they are not intended for glass, crockery, leather, metal, newspaper, paper cartons, rubber or plastic.

Persons with septic tanks should not grind cigar and cigarette stubs or lobster, crab and shrimp shells. Tobacco will impede the bacterial action in the tank; seafood shells cannot be decomposed by bacterial action and will sink to the bottom of the tank, adding to the sludge.


Copper-, stone- and glass-lined water heaters perform better than unlined aluminum or galvanized steel heaters. However, a stainless-steel alloy called HWT is designed to resist corrosion as well as the lined models.

Unlined galvanized steel tanks perform least well, but they are the least expensive and may prove satisfactory in localities where the water supply does not have adverse effects on equipment.

Internal tank corrosion can be appreciably inhibited by an anticorrosion device which is not required for copper-lined tanks. A magnesium-coated metal rod is hung inside the tank 3" or 4" away from the bottom. Because the magnesium paper eventually will be eaten away, the rod should be inspected from time to time and replaced when necessary.

Better-grade, nonmetallic gas water heaters are also entering the market. The tanks, although more expensive than metal models, are light, easy to install and corrosion-proof.


Hot water insulation kits contain enough insulation to cover up to an 80-gal. hot water tank, a lid and the tape needed to install the "blanket" of insulation. No special knowledge is required to install the hot-water tank insulation. There are simple "how-to" instructions on the package.


Tankless water heaters are small heating units that are hooked into plumbing lines and heat water only as needed. They do not store water but heat it as it moves through the unit.

Larger tankless heaters are installed at the point where water enters the house; smaller units are installed at the point where water is used, thus requiring more than one in a house. Some operate on house current, others on gas.

Some of the larger units require different-sized plumbing lines and different-sized flue vents than do tank-type heaters. If gas fueled, the heater must be properly vented; if electric, it may need to be wired with two units in series which may not be practical for existing home wiring. Larger units require a 220V or 240V line; smaller ones will operate on standard 110V lines.

Tankless heaters are more expensive than tank types; the small ones retail for upwards of $200 and the larger models cost $500 or more. They do, however, produce savings in annual energy consumption and cost.

Although tankless heaters will deliver continuous hot water, they are limited in quantity. The central units cannot support hot-water demands from several points at the same time; obviously, the smaller units will heat water delivered only at the points where they are installed.

Because of the high initial cost and the fact that American consumers are not used to the limitations these heaters place on the availability of hot water, recommended use is to supplement existing tank-type heaters or in summer homes or locations where demand for hot water is light.

How to Select the Right Size Water Heater
No Home Laundering# of People in Family1 (in gal.)1-1/223
W/ Automatic Washer240404050
 # of People Using Hot Water*W/ WasherW/O Washer 
* Count each child under 7 as two persons. Note: In homes with more than one bathroom, order high-speed model or one size larger.


Water softeners help remove minerals (magnesium, calcium, iron) that cause "hard" water.

Quality water softeners have either fiberglass linings or steel tanks which have double coatings of epoxy for guaranteed rust-proofing. Fiberglass tanks prevent electrolytic action, which causes excessive rust and corrosion, because there is no metal-to-metal contact.

Operation of the typical home water softener is simple. Water enters the home and is directed into the water softener. Water passes over a mineral bed, with minerals holding the lime and magnesium present in the water. It is the presence of lime and magnesium that makes water hard.

Depending on hardness of the water, the rate of consumption and the unit's capacity, there comes a time when the chemical must be regenerated, cleaned or replaced.

Regeneration is accomplished by reversing the flow of water through the softener tank and adding salt, which is instrumental in the process. The reversed water flow quickly flushes accumulated minerals from the chemical.

Quality water softeners have solid brass and copper parts, such as valves and bearings. Iron or steel parts are seldom used in a quality softener because salt can cause rust.

Another quality feature of a water softener is an automatic bypass. With this feature the water is never shut off, even during the regeneration period. This prevents the possibility of the customer drawing brine water into the house line or water heater during the regeneration period.

Better-grade water softeners have a daily capacity of about 30,000 gals. or a weekly capacity of about 210,000 gals. The flow rate is about 11 gals. Per minute, while the backwash rate is approximately 1.8 gals. Per minute. The brine tank usually holds about 250 lbs. of salt.


Water filters are used to remove bacteria and/or chemicals, improve the taste and smell of water and remove sediment. Most filters install under sink or at the point where the water supply enters the building.

The basic types of water-filtration devices are activated-carbon filters, reverse osmosis, distillation and aeration.

Activated-carbon filters are the least expensive water-filtration devices. They can remove impurities and improve water taste and odor, but do not eliminate dissolved minerals or bacteria. One solution is to combine a carbon filter with a chlorination system.

Reverse-osmosis systems take out dissolved lead, mercury, cadmium and other heavy metals that are present in the water, but will not eliminate microorganisms. They are also relatively expensive, ranging from $300 to $5,000.

Distillation removes most impurities in the water system. Distillers work slowly and must be cleaned regularly. Aeration reduces, but not necessarily eliminates, the levels of iron, chlorine and other gases in the water. It works best when combined with other treatment forms.

How bacteria/sediment/taste/odor filters work: water flows through a silver-impregnated ceramic wall, which traps particles down to one micron, then through a granular-activated charcoal liner, which absorbs chemicals, unpleasant tastes and odors. Bacteriologically pure water then passes through center hole and out of the filter.

How chemical/taste/odor filters work: Water enters the filter, and completely surrounds a cartridge inside. Water then passes through the hole at the bottom of the cartridge and flows up through a bed of granular-activated carbon, which absorbs chemicals, tastes, and odors, and then out of the filter.

How sediment filters work: These are installed at the source of the supply. Water containing sand, silt, algae and rust enters the filter and completely surrounds the cartridge, which is tightly sealed at both ends. Water passes through the cartridge well, which traps sediment particles. Relatively free of solid matter (depending on micron rating of the filter), the water flows up through the center hole and out of the filter.

Some filters, based on ceramic technology, will remove up to 100 percent of bacteria as well as chemicals, tastes and odors. Some have proven effective in removing such chemical contaminants as algae, chlorine and detergents found in many urban water supplies. Testing has proven some to be 100 percent effective in removing bad tastes, odors and color.

Some filters feature cartridges that can be cleaned and reused several times before replacement. Even if they cannot be cleaned, cartridges are replaceable; some filters are disposable, for one-time only use.

It is important to remember that cartridges should be changed regularly. Once they have reached their filtering capacity, they can begin to release previously filtered substances or block water passage altogether.

With the increase of humidifiers on central-heating units and instant hot-water dispensers, small filters that remove or reduce scale buildup are also in demand. Magnetic water conditioners and chemicals are also used to combat scale buildup.

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Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

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