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Conservation + Efficiency …. not either/or …

June 28th, 2009 · 2 Comments

In a recent discussion about showers and water use, someone commented that they take (in essence) Navy showers (wet themselves, turn off water, soap, then rinse) so why would it make sense to have an efficient system.

I don’t have low flow shower heads, but I rinse up, turn off the water, lather up, then rinse quickly. I think this works out well. …

And the response to a recommendation to get a low-flow showerhead:

Do you really think that my method doesn’t save as much as a low flow head running the whole time?

Well, actually, it likely does “save as much” … and perhaps even more. But this is postulating an either / or situation when there is greater power in “and”.

There is greater power in pursuing conservation + efficiency rather than simply one or the other.

  • Efficiency is a powerful tool, which can be set via standards & regulations, providing “same” services at lower energy demand & lower total cost.
  • Conservation is the choice to act differently, in ways to reduce power demand.

Truly, we are far more powerful in impact if we pursue both paths.

Let us take the example of the shower.

Using a 5 gallons per minute (5 gpm) (in the range of a ‘traditional’ shower head), a “Navy shower” might last five minutes and total 25 gallons.   Roughly, per year, 9000 gallons.

At the upper end “low flow” would be a shower that uses 2.5 gallons per minute (consider low-flow, roughly, 1.25 to 2.5 gpm showerheads). Let us assume that both shower head options have the same 2.5 gallons of wasted water in pipes to get hot water from the tank to the shower, this would put the low-flow shower at 15 gallons for that 5 minute shower or in the range of 5000-6000 gallons per year.  (And, a 1.25 gpm shower would cut that to under 10 gallons.)

So, an efficient shower head (under this model) is saving about 40 percent of the water use. Efficiency is buying something serious here.

Now, let’s say that the shower ‘without conservation’ would last 20 minutes. With a high-flow, that would be 100 gallons. Obviously, that conservation choice cuts 75%, 75 gallons, a much greater savings than the 25 gallons to 15 gallons by putting in the low-flow showerhead. But, it is the combination here. “Conservation” (and, let’s be clear, this is somewhat an extreme example) achieves 75%.  Conservation + Efficiency achieves an 85% or even greater savings.

And, the power of efficiency: the next person in the shower, who might not be Navy-like in showering habits, might take that 20 minute shower. Rather than using 100 gallons, they f you took a 20 minute shower at 5 gpm, that would be 100 gallons rather than 25 for 5 minutes (or 20 for 4 or …).  The low-flow cuts that in half. Eg, going toward efficient systems provide a pay off (basically) no matter the user’s behavior.

Of course, this is true across all systems.  A well-insulated building will require less energy to cool or heat.  And, adopting conservation measures (heating less at night or when no one is in the house, wearing sweaters and not heating as high) will mean even less energy demands.

Driving a fuel-efficient vehicle uses less fuel. Driving it well uses even less. And, figuring how to drive it less means even less fuel usage.

Etc …
Thus, a basic principle when it comes to pursuit of efficient systems and conserving behavior. It is not an either / or situation but “and”.

Remember: Conservation + Efficiency.

Your conservation (actually, sensible showering) makes a huge cut. The efficiency of a low-flow helps take that even further

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Tags: energy efficiency

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 kat // Jun 28, 2009 at 9:14 am

    I have a low flow shower head with a filter. I save my water by putting the plug in. Then I use a bucket of shower water to flush my toilet. Instant gray water system!

  • 2 Faucet Aerator Guy // Aug 16, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    If you are going to install low flow shower heads you might as well install low flow faucet aerators as well. Typical faucet aerators like shower heads can start at 5 gallons per minute flow rates. Typical low flow starts at 2.2 gallons per minute and goes all the way down to .5 gallons per minute. You can find these at any local hardware store.

    Agree … note that I am allowing in advertising links. No endorsement of this company implied.