Water conservation is the key to reducing energy bills. Heating water accounts for nearly 1/5th of energy use in UK homes.
Reducing hot water demand is an effective way to help occupants conserve energy and reduce bills. Some uses are fixed, e.g. the washing machine or dishwasher, here education about full loads and eco settings can have an impact. However, many are not.
Showers account for a quarter of UK domestic water usage. To reduce this hot water usage there are three options:
- Cold showers, not ideal on a cold winter morning
- Shorter showers, using egg timers or a ‘favourite song’ to cut shower time
- Flow reduction, less water is used while the shower is running.
The first two options require active engagement by all members of the household. The last is a fit and forget method of permanently reducing water use.
‘Eco’ or water saving shower heads are designed to restrict the water flow to a single outlet. They are highly effective but retrofits like these come at a price, especially larger properties with multiple bathrooms. They also do nothing for running taps, whether they’re in the bathroom or kitchen.
A second 1/5th of water usage is the taps in the house, e.g. rinsing the coffee cup, or washing hands. Again, flow restrictors can be fitted to each of these outlets.
For households on an increasingly tight budget, or developers trying to minimise costs, multiple fittings for each tap or shower might not be an investment they are able to make.
Household flow restriction for just £20 per property.
The alternative is whole site flow reduction. Fitting a device such as Groundbreaker’s NRv2 LoFlo®, at the meter regulates the level of flow entering customer premises – regardless of network pressure. As the flow of water into the premises is limited, then the amount used in ‘time controlled’ activities is also limited – but without providing a degradation of service. More importantly not requiring any intervention or behavioural change on the part of the customer, so leading to ‘natural’ reduction in consumption.
Our water companies are regulated to provide a minimum level of water supply, but in many areas, due to network structure and gravity fed systems, supply is much greater. Households in high pressure areas could be receiving up to three times the required minimum levels. So, run a hose for five minutes at the bottom of the hill, and your lawn will be greener that the gardener that does the same at the top. ‘Time controlled’ uses could be reduced if all households received the same acceptable, ‘standardised’ supply.
Independent research carried out by WRc, showed a theoretical reduction of 2-4% of typical water usage when devices such as LoFlo® are installed. However, recent field trials by a major UK water company have showing savings of 5%.
As part of UK Net Zero Carbon targets water companies have been targeted to reduce the water householders are using, Per Capita Consumption (PCC). PCC reduction targets average just under 6% in the UK, so utilising property flow restriction could achieve just 1% off the average PPC reduction targets! However, water companies are also tied to customer performance commitment levels (C-Mex), and some seem to be concerned that a reduction in the supply levels to properties will prompt customer complaints, offsetting the financial rewards of achieving PCC targets.
Field trials of devices such as LoFlo®, have shown that most customers are not aware of supply levels in their property, within certain limits. Especially when moving into a new property, customers accept the levels as ‘being what it is’ and fears of an increase in customer complaints impacting C-Mex values are overrated. In recent trials in England, where occupants did notice the change in supply, it was the positive impact of reduced flow that was cited, e.g. reduced splashing at the kitchen sink.
Not a single occupant wanted the LoFLo® to be removed after the trial period.
The NRv2 LoFlo® can be easily and simply retrofitted to any meter installation, or meter exchange when upgrading or remediating underground meter chambers. Thus, allowing Water Companies to manage demand, with little or no impact on consumers, at the minimal cost of approximately £20 per household.
As the LoFlo® is fitted at the water meter, it is the water companies fitting. Therefore, developers must be proactive in challenging water companies to provide a standardised supply to help UK housing stock to achieve water consumption targets.
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