Switch to High-Efficiency Plumbing Fixtures to Save Water, Energy, and Money

Reducing your water use has multiple benefits. In addition to helping to conserve and protect your community’s vital water supplies, saving water also helps you save money and energy.

According to the U.S. EPA, if all U.S. households installed water-efficient fixtures and appliances, the country would save more than 3 trillion gallons of water and more than $18 billion dollars per year.

Conserving water also conserves energy, because energy is used to treat, deliver, and heat water. If one out of every 100 American homes were retrofitted with water-efficient fixtures, that would save about 100 million kWh of electricity per year—avoiding 80,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions: equivalent to removing nearly 15,000 automobiles from the road for one year. For additional information on the benefits of saving water, see this EPA webpage.

Low-flow fixtures have been on the market for a while. These days, there are also many ultra-low-flow fixtures that conserve even more water without compromising performance. The EPA’s WaterSense program labels ultra-low-flow, highly water-efficient plumbing fixtures that have been independently tested and certified to meet efficiency and performance standards. In addition to being approximately 20% more water-efficient than average products, WaterSense labeled products have been verified to perform “as well or better than their less efficient counterparts.”

To select the most water-efficient plumbing fixtures, you should look for products with certain flow thresholds. The following sections outline the thresholds to be aware of when selecting ultra-low water-use toilets, showerheads, and faucets:


Toilets are often the source of the most water use (and water wasting) within a home, accounting for nearly 30 percent of an average home’s indoor water consumption. If you have a toilet(s) that uses more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush (gpf)—as do almost all toilets installed before 1994—replace it with one of the following:

If you have a 1.6 gpf (post-1994) toilet, you can make it more water-efficient by putting a small water bottle (filled with water, with the cap on) into the toilet tank for displacement. (It’s not a good idea to put a brick in the tank, as it will erode and the sediment can clog up the works.) Soon, these fake “bricks” should be available.

In California, new legislation has mandated that all new toilets sold or installed in the state after 2014 must be high-efficiency toilets. At some point, federal standards might also be raised to this standard.

For commercial/office-building bathrooms, install ultra-low-flush (ULF) urinals in lieu of regular urinals.


Showering accounts for up to 20 percent of the average household’s indoor water use. You can cut your shower water use by as much as 70 percent by switching to an ultra-low-flow showerhead, which is easy to do. And unlike days of yore, many of today’s models of high-efficiency showerheads will give you a good strong shower stream.

If you have an old or inefficient showerhead (one that uses more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute: gpm), replace it with a high-efficiency / ultra-low-flow showerhead that uses no more than 2 gpm (the current EPA WaterSense standard). Be aware: Those “luxury shower towers” or pie-plate-sized, monsoon-downpour-imitating fixtures are major water-wasters; they can use as much as 20 gallons of water per minute!

Using ultra-low-flow showerheads will also save you money on your energy bills, by reducing the demand on your water heater. According to the WaterSense program, a household could save 300 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, enough to power its television use for about a year.


If you have inefficient faucets (which use more than 2.5 gpm), either replace them with high-efficiency faucets that have a flow rate of no more than 1.5 gpm (the current EPA WaterSense standard) OR add a water-saving aerator or flow restrictor to the existing faucets (an easy and inexpensive modification).

Some utility companies and cities offer rebates or other incentives for buying high-efficiency toilets or plumbing fixtures. Check with your local agencies or take a look at the WaterSense rebate finder.

To see listings of high-efficiency plumbing products, see the GreenSpec product guide at GreenBuildingAdvisor.com. (You can sign up for a 10-day free trial subscription.)

Also, choose high-efficiency appliances, such as Energy Star clothes washers and dishwashers, to save additional energy and water.

For more information on how to conserve water, take a look at our related post:

      Tips for Conserving Water

…and these other online resources:


August 25, 2010

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

seminaire November 17, 2019 at 11:28 pm

Merci pour ces infos. j’apprécie beaucoup votre site

Al July 20, 2015 at 9:23 am

I’ve heard of a few of my friends who’ve had these installed, and they seem to save them money. I’m thinking of switching soon to try to lower my hydro bill

admin June 11, 2015 at 2:19 pm


You could try Ja Plumbing Services in Hayward; this says that greywater recycling is one of their services (as well as other types of green plumbing work):

There’s also Antes Construction and Plumbing in Hayward:

It’s great that you’re making water conservation upgrades to your home! Best of luck! I’d love to hear your thoughts about the various upgrades once the work is finished.

Patrick May 14, 2015 at 7:32 am

I’m looking to do a bathroom remodel and trying to get my home ready for the new California water conservation laws.

I am looking to use my washing machine water for landscape use.
I also heard you can use bath water to flush toilets.

Do you have info on a plumber who does this work in the bay area (Mountain View, CA)?

Anonymous March 16, 2015 at 2:01 am

Appreciating the hard work you put into your website and detailed information you provide.
It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that
isn’t the same unwanted rehashed information. Great read!
I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my
Google account.

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